A diverse organization avoids homogony among individual team members. This means that the individuals that make up the organization have different perspectives, experiences, talents and ideas. A diverse organization is thus able to approach situations with the breadth of perspective and expertise that is the sum total of all its members, and therefore has access to more solutions and is less susceptible to groupthink.
One challenge a manager might face in creating cohesion within a diverse team is superficial bias among groups. One tactic to guard against this is present at the hiring stage. Between two similarly qualified applicants, it is advisable to hire the one with experience working on diverse teams to try to minimize risk of tension before it even emerges. Once on the job, research indicates that superficial biases are reduced the more time team members spend interacting with each other (Harrison 98). Thus, encouraging the team to interact meaningfully both on and off the job can be helpful in creating cohesion.
Another obstacle to creating cohesion when managing diversity is economic variance among members—both in compensation on the job, and pre-existing differences in economic resources. To deal with this, a manager can align goals and metrics, making everyone equally invested in a shared outcome, though each individual’s role in achieving this outcome may be different. In a similar vein, involving all team members in decision-making fosters a sense of shared leadership, which creates a more cohesive environment.
Finally, ensuring effective communication on a diverse team can be challenging. The tactics above create an improved foundation for communication. If team members move beyond superficial bias and begin sharing goals, accountability and leadership, everyone is both incentivized and equipped to communicate effectively.
Disagree and commit contracts are an effective tool for balancing the competing considerations of comparative advantage, local knowledge, team member satisfaction and optimal information sharing on a team. In particular, these contracts are useful for taking into account the collective intelligence of team members. Disagree and Commit contracts optimize meaningful information sharing on a team. Because such contracts presuppose a consultative or deliberative consultative model (Muzio), they ensure that all team members are sharing information with one another (or at least with the decider).
Disagree and commit contracts also optimize cross-functional teamwork performance in the event of an unpopular decision. At the outset of the decision making process, team members have already accepted the idea that they will fully commit to the resulting decision, even if they do not agree with it. Managing team member expectations thusly helps to guard against emotional, irrational behaviors that can sometimes result if someone advocates for a certain course of action, and the decider rejects their suggested course.
A potential challenge for the practical implementation of a disagree and commit contract is the ability of each individual team member to truly take emotion out of the equation. True, disagree and commit contracts force an agreement at the outset that each team member’s commitment to the decision will be complete. But this might be an easier proposition for some team members to swallow early on, when they very likely believe that the decision they prefer will be the ultimate decision of the group. It might be difficult for some team members to seek contrary evidence without retaining a bit of personal pride—an “I told you so” sort of mentality—when it comes to the course of action they recommended.
Harrison, David, Kenneth Price, and Myrtle Bell. "Beyond Relational
Demography: Time and the Effects of Surface- and Deep-Level Diversity on Work Group Cohesion." Academy of Management Journal, vol. 41, 1998, pp. 96-107. Print.
Muzio, Ed. "Group Decision Making That Works |At the Whiteboard." CBSNews. CBS
Interactive, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/group-decision-making-that-works-at-the-whiteboard/.