Organizational Behavior – Why is this group a team
Organizational Behavior – Why is this group a team
Case 3 A VIRTUAL TEAM AT NANAWATI ASSOCIATES
Nanawati Associates (NA) is a national tax-accounting firm whose main business is tax-preparation services for individuals. NA’s superior reputation is based on the high quality of its advice and the excellence of its service. Key to the achievement of its reputation is the state-of-the-art computer databases and analysis tools that its people use when counseling clients. These programs were developed by highly trained individuals.
The programs that these individuals produce are highly technical, both in terms of the tax laws they cover and the code in which they are written. Perfecting them requires high levels of programming skill as well as the ability to understand the law. New laws and interpretations of existing laws have to be integrated quickly and flawlessly into the existing regulations and analysis tools.
These programs are created in a virtual environment by four programmers in the Greater Mumbai area. The four programmers work from home and are connected to each other and to the company by e-mail, telephone, and conference software. Formal, onsite meetings among all the programmers are held only a new times a year, although the workers sometimes meet informally outside of these scheduled occasions. Here’s some background on the four programmers.
Ravi Tendulkar is a tax lawyer, a graduate of the University of Mumbai and a former hockey player
there. At 35, Ravi has worked on the programs for 6 years and is the longest-standing member of the team. Along with his design responsibilities, Ravi is the primary liaison with NA. He is also responsible for training new team members. Single, Ravi works out of his farm in Lonawala.
Aditya, a tax accountant and computer science graduate from the University of Pune, is 32 years old, married, with two children aged 4 and 6. His wife works full time in a law firm in downtown Thane. In his spare time, Aditya enjoys tennis and swimming.
Nitya, a tax lawyer, graduated from the National Institute of Law, Bangalore. She is 28 years old, married, with two children aged 4 and 6. Her husband works full time as an electrical engineer at a local defense contractor. Nitya’s hobbies include golf and skiing.
Susan, a tax accountant and graduate of Delhi University, is 26 years old and single. She recently relocated and works out of her apartment in Pune.
These four people exchange e-mail message many times every day. In fact, it’s not unusual for them to step away from guests or family to log on and check in with the others. Often, their e-mail is amusing as well as work related. Sometimes, for instance, when they are facing a deadline and one of Nitya’s kids is home sick, they help each other with the work. Ravi has occasionally invited the others to visit his farm; and Nitya and Aditya have gotten their families together several times for dinner. About once a month, the whole group gets together for lunch.
All four of these NA’s employees are on salary, which, consistent with company custom, is negotiated separately and secretly with the management. Although each is required to check in regularly during every work wherever they wanted. Clearly, flexibility is one or the pluses of these jobs. When the four get together, they often joke about the managers and workers who are tied to the office, referring to them as “face timers” and to themselves as “free agents.”
When the programmers were asked to make a major program change, they often developed programming tools called macros that would help them to do their work more efficiently. These macros greatly enhanced the speed at which a change could be written into the programs. Aditya, in particular, really enjoyed hacking around with macros. On one recent project, for instance, he became obsessed with the prospect of creating a shortcut that could save him a huge amount of time. One week after he turned in his code and his release notes to the company, Aditya bragged to Ravi that he had created a new macro that saved him 8 hours of work that week. Ravi was skeptical of the shortcut, but after trying it out, he found that it actually saved him many hours too.
NA has an employee-suggestion program that rewards employees for innovations that save the company’s money. The program gives an employee 5 percent of the saving generated by their innovation over a period of 3 months. The company also has a profit-sharing plan. Ravi and Aditya felt that the small amount of money that would be generated by a company reward would not offset the free time that they gained using their new macro. They wanted the time for leisure of consulting work. They also feared their group might suffer if management learned about the innovation. It would allow three people to do the work of four, which could mean one might lose their job. So they didn’t share their innovative macro with management.
Although Ravi and Aditya wouldn’t share the innovation with management, they were concerned that they were entering their busy season and knew everyone on the team would be stressed by the heavy workload. They decided to distributed the macro to the other members of their team and swore them to secrecy.
Over lunch one day, the team set for itself a level of production that it felt would not arouse management’s suspicion. Several months passed and they used some of their extra time to push the quality of their work even higher. But they also now had more time to pursue their own personal interests.
Karan Kohli, the in-house manager of the work team, picked up on the innovation several weeks after it was first implemented. He had wondered why production time had gone down a bit, while quality had shot up, and he got his first inkling of an answer when he saw an e-mail from Nitya to Aditya thanking him for saving her so much time with his “brilliant mind.” Not wanting to embarrass his group of employees, the manager hinted to Ravi that he wanted to know what was happening, but he got nowhere. He did not tell his own manager about his suspicions, reasoning that since both quality and productivity were up, he did not really need to pursue the matter further.
Karan has just learned that Aditya has boasted about his trick to a member of another virtual work team in the company. Suddenly, the situation seems to have gotten out of control. Karan decided to take Aditya to lunch. During the meal, karan asked Aditya to explain what was happening. Aditya told him about the innovation, but he insisted the team’s action had been justified to protect itself.
Aditya knew that his own boss would soon hear of the situation and that he would be looking for answers from him.
1) Why is this group a team?
2) Has anyone in this case acted unethically?
3) What, if any, characteristics of groupthink are manifested in the work team?
4) Has Karan been an effective team leader? Explain your position.
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