Greg James, a global manager at Sun Microsystems, Inc (Sun), earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from Stanford University. He then got a chance to work at Sun, where he could look into technological innovations as Sun represented a combination of opportunities. Sun also had the stability of a well established technology company which would nurture James’ professional growth and development. He started as an individual contributor of development projects and within four years, he was a team manager in the Data Protection and Recovery department, where he succeeded in his duties as a manager. After receiving the coveted Sun Outstanding Manager award alongside other 49 managers, he was given a high-profile global team management position geared at implementing the firm's latest enterprise-wide solutions for large Fortune 100 companies. Later, James was elated to be part of Sun's global expansion.
Sun Microsystems, Inc. is a company that provides complete Information Technology (IT) solutions ranging from hardware, software, storage, to services.
Analysis of Strength and Weakness
James’ Computer Science profession gave him the best background in solving complex technical problems. He was regarded as a star engineer among the technical elites. This was the greatest source of his strength as he believed that every problem or obstacle, when solved, results into great achievements. He says "I strongly believe that my job is about clearing any and every obstacle that my guys face. If I do that, they will be unstoppable." Because of this, he was very outstanding in discharging his duties. As a team manager, he was good at planning and organizing his work. He had a team of individuals with diverse specialties, and James had the responsibility of assigning the best-suited tasks to each team based on their talents, locations, and workload. This, he did perfectly. His ability and experience in the Open Work program, which combined technologies, tools, and support processes that enabled employees to work from anywhere, anytime, using any technology, was a key success factor in his position as a global manager. In terms of communication, he kept his team updated through the weekly conference calls. His objectives were well stated and every member of his team knew exactly the expected outcomes. This was a great achievement.
However, James had limited experience with international business. In dealing with the teams, James was quite partial. First, the schedule for the conference calls was not favorable to the Indian Technical Team, who felt that they were the second class citizens. Their concerns were always reviewed last; they had few agenda items, were constantly interrupted, and had excessively long days. James was not quick at solving the problems that faced his teams; probably due to lack of face-to face interactions. Some teams felt neglected as James made very minimal contacts with them. As a result, the UAE team felt disconnected from the entire company and from James, who could not understand the uniqueness of the culture and business challenges of the Middle Eastern market. There was compensation mismatch. The American team was favored in terms of payments. This caused a great tension between the French team and the American team. James could not manage to convince his American team to understand the concept of country-based benefits differences, as this increased the tension between the aforementioned teams. USA team was always James’ favorite as he spent much time with it and always considered its interests. This led to the perception that “with Greg, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
Analysis of Threats and Opportunities
The company’s competitive strategy of acquiring IT companies from around the world gave it an access to new technology and provided a hedge against instability in individual markets. By spreading out across the globe, Sun had the opportunity to be closer to its customers, have access to a larger pool of talent, and provide services to its customers at any hour of the day. Based on the acquisition strategy, the employees were chosen to support the product based on talent or leadership rather than on location. Also, professionals were used to lead and conduct the project from diverse countries. This eased the development and implementation of new products. The introduction of the Open Work program enabled the employees to work from anywhere, anytime, using any technology. This program afforded the employees a choice of having flexible work arrangements as the company dramatically reduced the operating costs. The employee satisfaction rose, as the productivity improved.
In spite of the great opportunities, the company also had threats towards achieving the set goals. The greatest threat was posed by the tremendous pressure from Sun’s competitors. This could make the company risk losing customers. Labor regulations in different countries also posed another great threat to the company as it resulted into tension between different groups. The French law made the French team to take several weeks of vacation, which the USA team considered as unfair load distribution. Cultural difference was another threat. In the Middle Eastern market, the culture required extensive and time consuming relationships before contracts and commitments could be finalized. Being a global firm, time zones posed another threat. The most appropriate time which favored all the teams could not be found.
Analysis of Industry Demands
Considering the global nature of this corporation, the strategies, and the threats, the industry demanded a face-to-face interaction of Joseph as the global manager with his teams, especially the French, the Indian, and the UAE. There was the demand for constant and up-to-date communications across cultural and national boundaries. This necessitated multiple and frequent all-team meetings to improve the communication. The larger market demanded that the teams were to have a larger structure. However, as we have seen, this was the source of the problems. With smaller structures, such problems could not have risen. The customer demands and the stiff competition from similar companies called for the Open Work environment. It was also a necessity that the workers were to have the ability to work anywhere at anytime.
As a technical company, innovation was the key to success as it contributes towards market expansion. For innovation to be realized, the company must have a team of competent managers and workers. The workforce had to be varied and to be professionally fit. Therefore, the company had the challenge of supporting and managing a workforce that varied in terms of function, location, resource needs, culture, language, and work design. The varied nature of the work at Sun necessitated different levels of interactions, starting from self to global. Sun's employees had expressed a need for more flexible work schedules and a better structure for balancing professional and private choices. This dictated the choice of the Open Work program.
In order to manage the company properly, the global manager was expected to be a professional, with excellent managerial skills and the ability to solve complex problems, focused, hardworking, and always ready to steer the company forward.
Analysis of Industry Completions
According to the stated industry demands above, we can say that Sun strived towards realizing the demands. Greg James, the global manager, was competent and had all the required qualities considering his education and the past achievements. Other managers were equally competent.
The industry required constant communications and interactions; however, the achievement was not great. The manager had weekly conference meetings with the teams globally, though some teams felt neglected. Due to the global market demand, the company had a larger structure and a varied workforce which was just fit for the achievement for the set goals. Although the different labor laws in different countries caused tension within the company, the manager managed to tackle the issue by ensuring that workload was distributed equally.
The acquisition strategy made the company to acquire IT companies from around the world thereby lowering the chances of competition. The spreading out made the company to be as close to customers as possible and provide the services to the customers as need be.
The choice of the Open Work program was a great achievement as it considered the varied nature of workforce and provided a more flexible work schedule. This was facilitated by setting up of work areas, technology, and organization systems to support the company’s global teams. There was the construction of physical locations like town squares, team room, coffee bar, the Open Work Cafe, individual workspaces, and a network of locations. Also accomplished were the wireless Internet connections, multi-media equipment, conference call service, and the computing model for the individual needs.
Identification of Problem or Opportunity
The greatest problem that the company had was the lack of team morale, as the team members had the feeling that their importance or value was overlooked. There was lack of face-to-face interaction between the manager and the teams, especially the French, the Indian, and the UAE. There was also the problem of poor communication as the conference calls were also not effective. As earlier stated, the team structure was another source of problems.
Development of Alternatives
In solving the problem of lack of face-to-face interactions, the manager had two alternatives. He was to increase the face-to-face interactions in the affected regions by travelling to all the sites twice a month. Alternatively; for the purposes of equality and impartiality, he had an option of reducing the face-to-face interaction with everyone, including the USA team.
In an attempt to solve the communication problem, James considered conducting multiple all-team meetings throughout the week to increase communication across cultural and national boundaries.
Concerning the team structure, James had two options: either to reduce the size of the team so that he could deal with few people since with few people, few problems arise; or maintain the large structure and put more efforts in managing the teams. However, he wondered whether the company really needed to have teams in four different countries. Perhaps, teams in two countries could do.
Evaluation of Alternatives
Increasing the face to face interactions in France, India, and the UAE would improve the touch between the manager and his teams. This would make every team feel as part of the company as cases of neglect would be completely eliminated. By travelling and visiting these countries, James would exactly know the ground situations and the necessary changes required. This would definitely improve the morale of the workers as their requests would be considered. At the same time, there would be effective communication even without the conference calls and the weekly meetings. At the same time, all the teams would feel that there is impartiality and lack of favoritism to a given specific group.
The second alternative is was to reduce the face to face interactions with every team including the USA. This alternative brings about the concept of equality and impartiality; however, there are much more negative consequences. Every team would feel neglected. There would be lack of effective communication between the manager and the teams, and the manager would lack the vital information necessary for the success of the company. The manager would also lack the touch with the customers as he won’t know exactly what the customers are up for. As a result, the manager would certainly fail in his duties. The first alternative is better.
Reducing the team structure as an alternative in solving the problems would work; however, the team members would be overworked. This would lower their efficiency. The second option would me most appropriate.
Selection and Implementation
In order to enhance the performance of every group and achieve the company’s goals, James should consider travelling to all the countries, meeting the teams, and discussing the possible ways forward, in case of any problem. Visiting the groups twice a month is just appropriate; however, he should consider increasing and improving the touch with the teams. With the improved touch, the company must certainly thrive.
The success of every company depends on the competence of the manager. The manager, as the overall coordinator of the company’s resources, must have the necessary qualifications so as to discharge the duties as required. Also, the manager should have a team of competent workers who always aim at making the company meet its goals; both long term and short tem. For the efficiency of the workers, there should be an impartial treatment in terms of the benefits, the payments, or other favors, as this adversely affects the morale of the workers. The manager should ensure constant and healthy communications with all the departments in order to be updated on every ground situation, and the expectations. This can greatly help a company to improver its services to the clients.
Tsedal Beyene, Thomas J. Delong, Alison Comings “Greg James at Sun Microsystems, Inc: Managing a Global Team”, Harvard Business School Review October 14, 2008.