And Sports, One-On-One
On The High Seas
Develop Formula For Multinational Teamwork
Statistics For Full-Time Results
Wanted: Must Be Team Player, Success Minded
by Peter Block
Change Key To Org. Change
by Cathy Kramer
Business News Briefs
for a Change
Scientist Develop Formula For Multinational Teamwork
most people have a question for a teammate, they probably shout down
the hall, page the next office - or if it's not that urgent, a quick
email may suffice. But what if that person's office isn't down the hall,
but across the globe? You could still pick up the phone - if only you
Developing a sense of teamwork can be a difficult challenge among today's
multinational corporations. In addition to the geographic distance and language
barriers, there are many cultural influences and stereotypes that affect
the way we perceive others and work together. What are the elements that
go into the development of a successful multi-national team? One company
developed an internal case study to find out.
The company, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, designed a two-year study to discover
the elements that create a sense of "esprit de corps" among its
operations in different countries. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland,
with operations in the United States, France and Japan, Sandoz believed
its separate, autonomous laboratory operations in each of the countries
was causing the company to lose their competitive advantage.
In order to achieve efficiencies and eliminate redundancies in their operations,
management wanted to transform the company into a truly "global operation"
and create a sense of teamwork among the company's 10,000 worldwide employees.
Sandoz wanted to replace the long-standing internal competitive atmosphere
that existed between operations in each country with a concentration on
competing with their external competitors.
Steven Smith, an associate director at Sandoz, along with a team of consultants
developed a model program to be tested in the company's Drug Safety Department.
The program would study how three different multinational teams would handle
a common project. The hope was that by studying the team processes in successful
and not so successful efforts Smith could provide guidelines for any multinational
Thirty senior level scientists drawn from all sites within the company were
chosen for participation in the program. The scientists were asked to update
the Drug Safety Development Manual into a document that could be used at
all corporate sites. The Manual contains the standard operating procedures
for the Drug Safety Department, which tests the safety of chemical compounds
prior to their use in drug tests.
At that first session the group was broken into three sub-teams containing
a mix of nationalities and technical specialties. The three work teams were
monitored, but top management gave them no directives.
Not only did the group have to deal with language and cultural differences;
there were technical differences as well. The group consisted of toxicologists,
chemists, physicians, pathologists, biologists and statisticians. Individuals
with these kinds of backgrounds often differ in their approach to scientific
research, decision making and problem solving.
Shortly after the project was initiated, Sandoz merged with Ciba-Geigy to
create Novartis. The merger created the world's leading life sciences company
with divisions in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and agribusiness. Now,
the project took on new importance. Not only did management want to create
a team atmosphere among the four laboratory operations; eventually they
would want to create a team atmosphere among Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy employees.
The project was continued and the findings were used to develop an action
plan for the integration of the two companies.
The teams only met face-to-face every six months. At the third group session,
some initial results in the development of cross-cultural teams emerged.
One of the three teams was doing extremely well in completing the assigned
task. Evidence of their success was that their results were published in
a refereed scientific journal. Another team completed the work with good,
but not outstanding results. The third team, according to management "spun
around in circles, never finding a common goal or purpose." Smith found
that factors other than the expected cultural differences were affecting
the development of a team atmosphere and hence the success of the teams.
The Right Stuff
One of the characteristics of the most successful team was the development
of a mutually agreed upon, clearly defined agenda. "The team was able,
at that first meeting, to achieve buy-in from all members on what the work
entailed and who would complete what tasks," says Smith.
In addition, regular communications between the face-to-face sessions was
a crucial factor in the success of the team. The most successful team also
had the most videoconferences, audio conferences and emails. "Technology
makes distant teams possible, but it is not sufficient alone for successful
team development," comments John Bing of ITAP, one of external consultants
working with Smith. "The successful team used all the communications
tools at their disposal to get the work done. Regular email, telephone conferences
and video conferences facilitated good communication within the team and
kept them on the path towards completing the project."
The other important element to emerge as an indicator of team success was
the existence of a strong leader on the most successful team. Smith describes
this as a key to success in that "the strong leader was able to keep
the team moving forward throughout the two year project."
All of these factors were crucial in the development of a team atmosphere
that crossed the geographic and cultural boundaries. Smith said "The
strong leader, clear agenda and good communication helped to build a sense
of trust and camaraderie among the team members even though they met face-to-face
only every six months and faced strong cultural differences in the way they
typically approach project work."
Novartis feels the project was successful because they now have tremendous
insights into the ingredients that go into the development of a team atmosphere.
Smith also reports that he received positive feedback from all the team
participants. "They understood the meaning and importance of teamwork
to the organization. Even those members on the least successful team learned
how to begin to overcome the cultural differences for the good of the team
and the company."
Novartis discovered that with the right elements, the company could successfully
develop a formula for fostering teamwork among multi-national operations.