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Diversity in team members – part 1

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Team diversity refers to the differences between individual members of a team that can exist on various dimensions like age, nationality, religious background, functional background or task skills, sexual orientation, and political preferences, among others.[1] Different types of diversity include demographic, personality and functional diversity (see Team composition), and can have positive as well as negative effects on team outcomes. Diversity can impact performance, team member satisfaction or the innovative capacity of a team. According to the Input-Process-Output Model, team diversity is considered an input factor that has effects on the processes as well as on the team outputs of team work.

Diversity’s recognition that people are all unique with their own frames of reference molded by both internal and external factors. In addition to DNA – an internal factor that can’t be controlled – each person’s particular frame of reference is also shaped by many external factors, including where a person lives, how he is raised, what educational opportunities are available, etc. The study of diversity in the workplace has taken on new importance as changing economics prompt many companies to downsize and restructure themselves into flatter, more decentralized entities. The result is that today’s corporations are built around groups that must find answers to novel and complicated business issues. These teams bring together diverse groups of people who incorporate a variety of backgrounds, ideas, and personalities. To learn more about them, Margaret Neale, who is the John G. McCoy-Banc One Corporation Professor of Organizations and Dispute Resolution at Stanford GSB, and her colleagues have developed a rich body of research on diversity. People tend to think of diversity as simply demographic, a matter of color, gender, or age. However, groups can be disparate in many ways. Diversity is also based on informational differences, reflecting a person’s education and experience, as well as on values or goals that can influence what one perceives to be the mission of something as small as a single meeting or as large as a whole company. Diversity among employees can create better performance when it comes to out-of-the-ordinary creative tasks such as product development or cracking new markets, and managers have been trying to increase diversity to achieve the benefits of innovation and fresh ideas. Recently, Neale, with Gregory Northcraft of the University of Illinois and Karen Jehn of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, studied the effects of each kind of diversity on group performance. It turns out that different types of diversity generate various sorts of conflict, which affects how a team performs. She explains that the kind of group conflict that exists and how the team handles the conflict will determine whether this diversity is effective in increasing or reducing performance.

All project managers works in teams in different environment and industries. Following that variety, it is crucial to understand and build relationships within diverse teams. Better understanding of working environment creates healthy environment. Trust, as important competence of project managers relations has different impacts on them. Developing environment of trust represents key factor in developing future relations. Implementation of project management standards could be first step in building trust in organization –  IPMA ICB4 standards  have a lot to offer on that point!

- Author of this post

Sandra is Assistant to the IPMA President and Executive Director. Since joining IPMA in 2012, Sandra worked in FMCG sector as Customer Business Development Assistant for Procter&Gamble. She holds Master in Economisc from Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb. After graduation she continued at the same University the doctoral programme in Business Economics. Her particular interest in project management is related to megaproject management, PM schools of thoughts and cultural diversity.

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