Constructive Criticism Across Borders: A Study of an Evaluation Process in a Distributed Team

Christine Damsgård Robertsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In today’s globalized world one of the topics, which is currently debated within global organizations, is related to distributed teams and their challenges. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how geographical distance challenges such teams and in particular the evaluations of their tasks. The case study is based on ITSS, a department in Novo Nordisk, which is divided between Denmark and India with a mix of employees and management team on both locations. ITSS is facing many challenges which distributed teams all over the world deal with on a daily basis; these challenges include communication and cultural differences. Even though this thesis focuses solely on ITSS, the results can be broadened to become useful in other studies of distributed teams, and perhaps other organisations can learn from the findings.
The Danish manager in ITSS noticed that there was a significant difference between the written evaluations that the team received and the opinions that he was able to gather from the task requesters. Therefore the management team decided to implement evaluation meetings in an effort to increase the validation of the evaluations. Due to the problems with the differences between the written evaluations and the statements from the task requesters I became curios as to why. Put together with the fact that this is a distributed team constituted to the research question; does the geographical distance challenge the evaluations in ITSS?
Throughout the data collection process for this thesis, three main types of empirical data were collected. The data consists of a semi-structured interview, observations including casual conversations, and documents. The data was validated through the process of data triangulation. The empirical data was analysed through the use of the hermeneutical approach as a theory of science method. The analysis section is divided into two parts, where the first part examines the technical part of communication and the medias used during the evaluation process. These medias are rated according to the media richness theory in an effort to figure out, if the medias used were rich enough for the intended use. The analysis showed that the written evaluations were not rich enough to stand alone in the evaluation process. The evaluation meetings did improve the problems, however it did not solve it completely. The second part of the analysis examines the motivation behind the interactions and communication. In this section the mutual positive distinctiveness model was used to determine the motivation towards cross-national learning within the team. This part of the analysis showed that several factors influence the motivation, and there were some of these where ITSS could up their efforts. Overall it showed that ITSS could benefit from a better understand of each other’s culture, norms, values, and ways of working. This would increase motivation to engage across their differences and in the end it would lead to improved cross-national learning.
The conclusion to the research question is that the geographical distance does not challenge the specific evaluation process, however the distance challenges the communication during the evaluation process, the outcome of the evaluations, and what is expected from the evaluations. I therefore recommend that ITSS should invest more time and effort their cross-national learning and therefore reap the benefits from their differences. Additionally ITSS should modify the written evaluation to include a clearer definition of the factors that determines the score. This would create a stronger basis for the evaluation meetings, which would lead to a more constructive use of the meetings and thereby give ITSS a fairer image of the actual service satisfaction.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Information Systems, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages76