The Shipping Industry Accounting Team Case Study
THE SHIPPING INDUSTRY ACCOUNTING TEAM Summary: Sarah (the name given by us) has been working in McKay, Sanderson, and Smith Associates a mid-sized accounting team located in Boston that is specialized in commercial accounting and audits for past five years. Her specialty is accounting practices for shipping companies, ranging from small to certain big fleets along east coast. About two months ago her company merged with another two other accounting firms which has offices in Miami, Seattle, Baton Rouge, and Los Angeles. They avoided centralizing their business around one office in Los Angeles.
Instead they formed a new firm called Goldberg, Choo, and McKay Associates in order to leverage the synergies of their collective knowledge. This merges affected Sarah when she was told that she would be working with the other three members from the other two firms to become the firm’s new shipping industry accounting team, by her boss. The other members were Elias in Miami, Susan in Seattle, Brad in Los Angeles. She had earlier met Elias at a meeting in New York but not the other two. This shipping team activity involved e-mailing each other about new contracts and prospective clients.
They were asked to submit the joint monthly statement reports and issues. Sarah submitted her own monthly reports which summarized the activities of her own clients. This coordination of monthly reports took much more time since different accounting documentation procedures across the three firms were resolved. This took numerous e-mails and phone calls to work it out. During this process, it took lot of Sarah’s time than it was worth doing it. Moreover Brad’s communication was not that effective. He rarely replies the e-mails.
He often used telephone voice mail system which resulted in lots of telephone tag. Brad comes to work at 9:30 a. m. in Los Angeles which is early afternoon in Boston while Sarah has a flexible work schedule from 7:30 a. m. to 3:30 p. m. Because of this Sarah and Brad had merely less than three hour to share information. The biggest nuisance started when all four of them were asked to develop a new strategy to attract more shipping firm business which was a messy one. They have to share their thoughts on various approaches, agree on a new plan, and write a unified submission to the managing partner.
Already this project was taking most of her time writing and responding to e-mails and talking in conference calls which none of them did before the team was formed. Susan and Brad had already faced two or three misunderstandings via e-mail about their different perspective on this strategic plan. A conference call was required to resolve the disagreements. Except for the basic matters, they don’t understand each other. She came to a conclusion that she never wants Brad to work with her in Boston office. Sarah and Elias agreed on most points. But overall team can’t form a common vision or strategy.
She doesn’t know how the other three felt but she preferred to work somewhere, where these long-distance headaches are not required. Question 1 WHAT TYPE OF TEAM WAS FORMED HERE? WAS IT NECESSARY, IN YOUR OPINION? Virtual team because the three firms when they merge they agree not to centralize their office, therefore it must be a long distance relationship for the teams. Another thing is that Susan, Brad n Elias with the character lives apart from each other but they are a team. Another proof is that in the case study, it is mentioned that they used emails a lot so it is definitely virtual.
So as a virtual team, what is necessary here is of course a good communication. This is a long-distance relationship so good commitment is needed here when it comes to meetings and communicating as there is not much of chance to communicate anyway. Question 2 USE THE TEAM EFFECTIVENESS MODEL AND RELATED INFORMATION IN THIS CHAPTER TO IDENTIFY THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESES OF THIS TEAM’S ENVIRONMENT, DESIGN AND PROCESSES. Virtual team effectiveness depends on the environment; design and processes. There are many aspects under each factor that we will discuss here. For Strength:
In terms of environment, the aspect involved here is the organizational structure. Given that the team is a virtual team, therefore it provides lots of freedom in how they do their tasks giving a great amount of autonomy. They are free to put in any ideas into their work and not bounded to a particular place like in office. They can do their job at home which can provide a sense of comfort and freedom to go to places for search of information and ideas on how to complete like the monthly report. They can also do their work anywhere, anytime making it convenient for them.
In aspect of team size, the team consists of four members, so it is small. The smaller a team is the better, less conflicts and less issues. Also it will be easier to manage. On the other hand, in aspect of team diversity, the members are of different genders and from different places. They can put across and exchange ideas from their own personal experience based on their places on solving problems. This expands the horizon of their work strategy and processes, thus enhancing their effectiveness. There is no particular strength in term of their work process as most of it displays plenty of weaknesses.
For Weaknesses: In the aspect of environment, there are lots of weaknesses. First is in their communication system. There is poor design due to long-distance communication and no special system that reduces this problem. It is a virtual team and their company thus not introduces any kind of useful communication system for them. They use mainly emails, or voice calls. They are accountants; emails are not enough to discuss the wide range of aspects in accounting. The second problem is the organizational leadership.
There is no leader in the group, therefore the aspect of controlling and delegating tasks in managing the team become ambiguous and difficult. This has lead to arguments and misunderstanding in the clarity of each of the members’ roles. The Team design has problems regarding the tasks. The Task were not clearly defined especially the strategic plan they had make. They can’t even communicate properly let alone handle complicated and ambiguous task. Another matter is that their task is highly interdependence due to a reciprocal relationship in carrying out their tasks.
For example Sarah and each of them, submit to each other their monthly financial report of their respective clients, then they coordinate among themselves and combine they reports into one to submit to their HQ. In the aspect of the team processes, first weaknesses can be seen in the early development of the team. There was no face-face contact initially; therefore the forming process was not properly done. The next level that is norming becomes even difficult eventually causing problem s among them. No norms are established, and Sarah had problems with Brad with their work times. Sarah start work at . 30am while Brad at 9. 30am, this conflicting norms that they even cause greater problem for the Norming process. The team cohesiveness from the start is not good. As they didn’t meet each other face-face so it is difficult to form the bond and proper relationship with each other. The importance of face-face contact, and working in “one room” concept is shown in the case of Toyota. They came up with the concept of Obeya. It is a U-shaped room where all experts from different departments will discuss in the one room face to face on how to develop strategic plans and solve problem.
They work productivity after extensive research showed an increase of 30%. In this case, Sarah and Brad always argue till the level that she hates him. Question 3: ASSUMING THAT THESE FOUR PEOPLE MUST CONTINUE TO WORK AS A TEAM, RECOMMEND WAYS TO IMPROVE THE TEAM’S EFFECTIVENESS? One way is to get the virtual meeting times fixed. They should discuss on how to solve the problem and carefully on which day or time to be held a meeting. This is very important as the meetings will be key factor to influencing their communication efficiency.
Also this will decrease frustration and de-motivation during meetings such as absenteeism during meeting due to other works. Perhaps they should even once in a while meet each other to establish some norms and just get to know each other. The Social factor and bonding is key factor to team chemistry and fostering better cooperation and tolerance. Furthermore, meeting times can be divided for different purposes to not mixed up and in the end create more confusion. If there is too much items on the table, it will be difficult and time-consuming to organize and analyze each item.
Same thing goes for their tasks. An example is that on certain day and time they can discussed on new inputs for their problems or tasks such as new procedures to solve monthly financial reports. The other meeting purpose would be for discussing issues only. Here they can argue all they want and clear things up regarding their task issues. The third type of meeting can be about the monthly reports & Strategic plan they are working on. This makes thing more systematic and easier to be focused on step by step.
An Example: For the strategic planning, each of them will be given clear and detailed roles of each other. On to top that, One must be appointed as a leader so the controlling process would be clear. The leader can also act as the devil advocate in their discussions asking question, challenging the new inputs or solutions they discuss. It solves the problem of ambiguity and delegation of tasks will be easier which will lead to higher clarity of roles. Moreover, disagreements can be properly solved if there is a leader to take the initiative to clear things up.