“Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results,
provided they are well led. The ability to bring together people from different
backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and generations and leverage all they have
to offer, therefore, is a must-have for leaders (Ibarra and Hansen 2011: 71)”.
The increasing level of globalization has led to a continuous increase in team diversity. Therefore, managing in today’s environment provides great challenges for the manager (Friday and Friday). While William and O’Reilly (1997) considers diversity as attributes that are salient to an individual which makes him or her to perceive that he or she is different from other individuals, Mullins (2010) considers it as the multiplicity of differences among people. Cox et al (1991), Nafulkho et al (2011) identify such diversity to include racial, cultural, ethnic, gender, as well as ideas and experiences. Such diversity is very beneficial to an organization when properly managed (Cox et al 1991) but in the event of diversity not properly managed, the team becomes less productive. This blog shall therefore explore the advantages and disadvantages of team diversity, consider how the leader can best manage such diverse teams and achieve their goals, carry out a critical analysis on the relevance of team diversity in the oil and gas industry and from there, draw conclusions.
As mentioned above, Cox and Blake (1991) believes that when diverse teams are well managed, they lead to greater creativity, innovation, and improve decision making because diverse ideas and experiences are combined before a decision is taken. Friday and Friday (2003) affirms this and consider that diversity will help bring learning and growth in the team as members tend to learn from the diverse skills and experiences of every member of the team.
However, Cox et al (1991), Murray (1989) and Simons et al (1999) points to potential disadvantages of team diversity to include; breakdown in team communication when members of the team do not share a common goal and the team leader lacks the ability t properly communicate that goal; interpersonal conflicts come up as a result of ego as a result of differences in educational and cultural backgrounds. Michel and Hambrick (1992) and West and Schwenk (1996) believe that diverse teams do not enable every individual in the team to put in his very best as some team members become demoralized in the team resulting from complex or hatred from or of other team members.
Wide research has been carried out and many theories have been put forward as to how leaders can achieve their goals in a diverse team. Friday and Friday (2003) propose that leaders should develop a “Planned Change Corporate Diversity Strategy” that aligns with the team’s goals and enables long term effectiveness of a diverse team. While Mullins (2010) states that what makes a perfect team no matter its diverse nature is its share common purpose, Belbin (2000) rather considers skills to be vital in a perfect team. Gathering from the two of them, one would say it is vital to merge such skills and ensure that they both share the same purpose inorder to be a perfect team as a perfect team does not come about by accident but the skills of the manager are very important. The great question here now is whether skills and common purpose are enough for a diverse team to succed? Buckingham (2005) points to another core ingredient in achieving team goals by a manager; He believes that you need to know what actually motivates each particular team member to be productive. However, motivating all individuals in a team is very tough as every individual is likely to be motivated by something different (Mullins 2010). Besides these, effective communication within the team as mentioned above that communication breakdown in a team is a disadvantage of team diversity; support and corporation of team members need to be enabled to ensure that every team member can rely on the other.
Tuckman and Jensen (1997) hypothesizes a “storming” stage in a team formation which is vital if a team is to progress to performing effectively and efficiently. Managers therefore need to identify the team members who are a stumbling block to the progress of the team and eliminate them before proceeding with the mission of the team.
Mullins (2010:166-167) cites the case off B&A, a UK based company that is highly diverse. The management indicates that they believe diverse workforce creates a mix talent that makes their business successful. As such, they employ an Engagement and Diversity advisor to lead the diversity program for the company. This has made the company to be very successful in home improvement chain of stores in the UK.
The FireArts case study (Wetlaufer 1994) is a glaring a example of the team that could not work because there was lack of commitment among the team members, no let of ground rules laid down from the beginning, misleading previous skills and the team spending more of their time on feelings and past experiences than the task at hand. This goes to confirm what has already been illustrated above on teams having leaders who lack the necessary soft skills.
Managing diversity well is vital for the oil and gas industry. Wide skills are relevant and required for an integrated oil and gas company. Most oil and gas companies are multinational and often required good team diversity in terms of skills, experiences as well as culture. Chevron Corporation is a multinational oil corporation which is highly integrated and operates in over 100 countries. The company has a culture that embraces diversity in terms of skills and cultural background. With over 50 000 employees, such are sub categorized into engineers, managers, economist, Asians, Africans, Europeans and Americans. Its management has been able to manage such a diverse team which has given it the status of one of the leading oil companies in the world know for its people and culture (Smith 1997)
Belbin, M. (2010) Management teams [online] 3rd edition. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/ Butterworth- Heinemann. Available from <http://lib.myilibrary.com/Open.aspx?id=254144&src=0 > [22 June 2013]
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