Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the number of companies that are present in more than a country has increased exponentially. With that change, new strategies were and are being developed to meet the needs of these multinational companies. One of the need that arose is the collaboration. Collaboration is the act of working with someone to achieve the same or a common goal (Cambridge, 2020).
Multinational corporations are companies that operate in more than one country. They have assets and facilities in different locations (Chen, 2019). Collaboration strategies within and between multinational companies are a requirement to be able to stay competitive on the international market. What are the collaboration strategies in multinational corporations? First, what does it mean to collaborate. Second, what are the collaboration strategies in multinationals companies? Finally, what are the new form of global collaboration?
Companies to be able to adapt being on the international market, had to change their organizational structure. Most multinational firms are based on a matrix structure. A matrix structure is when the employees have to report to more than one person. The companies that uses a matrix organization usually offer a variety of products and services (Bugajenko, 2020). With the implementation of a matrix organizational structure, the lines between departments and projects are not as clear anymore. To be able to achieve company goals, the employees must collaborate with employees from other departments, services, regions…
To encourage and promote effective collaboration, companies are using different techniques and strategies. There is a slight difference between cooperation and collaboration that needs to be addressed. Cooperation is when employees work along side one another on a ultimate goal whereas, a collaboration is when employees work together to achieve a shared goal (Eaton-Cardone, 2020). Two of the most used strategies in multinational companies are the RACI and TACK strategies. Before going over these two strategies, what are the base for cooperation in a multinational.
A company needs to implement a collaborative culture to encourage communication and problem solving (between other benefits). Collaboration is based on higher interactions intensity and personal risk investment (L. Maznevski, et al., 2017). The interaction intensity and investment level form four groups: high intensity, low investment; low intensity, low investment; low intensity, high investment and high intensity, high investment. High intensity, low investment translates to working together to create reports and consolidate recommendations. Whereas low intensity, low investment is sending an email with information about a project or service. Moreover, low intensity, high investment means a personal request to ask for advice with a boss or colleague. It does not require many interactions, but the employee’s reputation is at stake.
Furthermore, high intensity, high investment, translates to employees working together to create a new service or product for customers and investing significant resources in the process (L. Maznevski, et al., 2017). In other words, when collaborating, employees need to ask themselves How much are they willing to risk and invest for the success of the project? Pushing for collaborations could translate to better average unit performance through an exchange of knowledge, increase of the internal alignment for more efficiency through mutual adjustment and finally with joint initiatives, that increase the value-creating innovations (L. Maznevski, et al., 2017). Most companies start to allow spaces for knowledge exchange as it is the one that requires the least commitment. One such spaces is the RACI strategy.
The RACI translates to Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Also known as the Responsible Assignment Matrix (or RAM). These four pillars are used to create a stakeholder map. The map basically informs who does what. The knowledge of knowing who does what can help identify processes that are not working or are to slow and need to be fixed and confirm who is doing what in the project (testing, budget…).
Responsible is the group of people who have the responsibility for the work done. Accountable is the group of people or person that are responsible to oversee that the work is being done (for example the manager). Consulted are the people who are consulted in case something does not go according to plan or the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Informed are the group of people who are impacted by the performed task (Juneja, 2015). For a successful use of the stakeholder, some rules should be followed. Assign only one person to be the Responsible and Accountable person. If there is more than one person assigned for the role of Responsible or Accountable, it can create some ambiguity, duplication of work and the waste of efforts and resources.
Another possibility to not only assign one person is to create a hierarchy of Responsible and Accountability so that the hierarchy can verify that the others (in their line of hierarchy) are competent. Moreover, the position of Responsible and Accountable are mandatory for every project whereas Consulted and Informed are not always required (for example for an automated task, someone is still responsible for it but there is no need for a Consulted or an Informed person). Furthermore, there should be a two-way channel between the Consulted and the person who is doing the task. The channel should be adequate and minimize time lag. Further, each person who has a role in the stakeholder map must be informed about its role (Juneja, 2015). Another strategy for collaboration is the TACK tool.
Trust, Ambition, Cohesion and shared Knowledge or TACK are the four elements of a diagnostic tool to help promote and improve the collaboration culture in a company (L. Maznevski, et al., 2017). TACK is based on two elements: do the employee feel that the other team members will support and protect them, and mutual reliance. The goal of TACK is a long term one. To build collaborative behaviors, the teams and employees need time to gradually trust each other. To help gradually build a cohesive and collaborative team, managers can help by answering these questions.
All the pillars can be defined by two questions each. For the Trust pillar, the questions are: Do you think that the other team members are fully committed to the team and the organization? Do you think that the other team members are acting in the best interest of the team and company even when there is no real and clear guidance? As for the Ambition pillar, the questions are: Are our goals ambitious enough? Are each individual member and the team as whole committed to be more ambitious, raising the bar higher and achieving new goals for the stakeholders? Concerning the Cohesion pillar, the questions are: do the members of the team enjoy and appreciate working together? Are they willing to help each other and believe that “my success is your success”?
With respect to the shared Knowledge pillar, the questions are: Is there a common knowledge of what are the tasks and why are they important? Does the member of the team know and understand what are the other doing and how does it correlate with the collective goal? Managers should start with what they think is their teams strongest pillar. The second step should be about promoting their weakest pillar to encourage team’s confidence (L. Maznevski, et al., 2017). The results of collaborative strategies are rarely seen quickly, they need time for the strategies to build a good base. However, they are some techniques that allows to accelerate the process.
To facilitate and stimulate collaboration in an international setting, managers need to reduce the us and them thinking (K.Gardner & Mortensen, 2015). A problem that arose with the rise of outsourcing and offices in different locations. However, with the rise of new technologies which allowed the creation of e-collaborations and e-spaces which in return helped reduce the us/them ideology (K.Gardner & Mortensen, 2015) and facilitate the sharing of knowledge. These technologies did not only help reduce the us/them thinking but it also helped reduce the cultural differences in teams and between teams by implementing new program such as video conference (Joschi, 2017).
To conclude, multinational corporations are using different types of strategies to promote collaboration. For them, collaboration does not only make work more enjoyable, but it also improves the general performance. The main strategies are the RACI and TACK strategies. With the fast pace of the world market, new technologies and applications have been created to support a global collaboration. These applications are making communication flow easier and faster between different parties. Moreover, the applications help the teams to organize and work on the common goals.
Furthermore, culture differences are also reduced with the help of technology which allows employees to communicate without having a language barrier, power distance… However, for a global collaboration to work in a multinational corporation, it needs to have a standard system or application to be used in all the locations.