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Identifying and Managing Coordination Complexity in Global Product Development
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Identifying and Managing Coordination Complexity in Global Product Development
Globalization has vastly contributed to the emergence of global product development
(GPD), where businesses operating across the world can communicate and coordinate their
operations effectively. GPD refers to how businesses distribute activities and processes involved
in developing their products across different parts of the world. The paper will discuss various
strengths and weaknesses associated with the use of GPD. Some of the coordination drivers
include communication frequency and strength. The coordination barriers comprise geographic
dispersions that entail cultural, work, spatial and temporal dispersions. The paper will evaluate
the strengths and weaknesses of GPD and provide some recommendations for future work.
Lastly, the paper will discuss ways, such as using the DSM model, through which issues
associated with the GPD can be solved.
Keywords: Global product development (GPD), barriers, strengths, communication.
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Globalization refers to the process through which business expand their operations in
different parts across the globe. Expansion is interpreted as a successful strategy in a business
context. However, globalization has problems, including communication and coordination with
people operating across different geographic locations (Yang et al., 2015). These issues have
contributed significantly to the establishment of global product development (GPD). GPD refers
to the process through which businesses distribute activities and processes involved in
developing their products across different parts of the world, such as outsourcing or offshoring.
They rely on the technology means to create and share product information with all involved in
the process. As communication and coordination tend to be complex in such contexts, various
drivers and barriers may be encountered in GPD projects. There are various ways to solve the
issues that arise from these coordination and communication barriers in the GPD projects.
Structural methods such as the DSM model are used in such cases. DSM model is used to show
the strength of the dependency of communication between the virtual teams. The model uses a
clustering approach that employs the random walk theory to derive the similarities between the
virtual teams to eliminate the unstructured communication that contributes to unnecessary
communications. The paper will provide a brief discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of
the GPD projects and provide ways through which issues associated with the project can be
In GPD projects, coordination drivers are defined as those factors that positively impact
the coordinative dependency between the virtual teams involved in a product development
project. Communication is the key factor that facilitates the exchange and transfer of information
from one person to another. In virtual teams, technical communication is crucial as information
must be re-laid among the individuals for the whole process to be effectively conducted (Yang et
al., 2015). According to research, technical communication transfers information in a
coordinative and innovative manner among GPD teams. The existence of technical
communication enhances coordination of the system integration and provides solutions to the
ever-present problems in product development. Additionally, technical communication is
significant in that it minimizes or rather eradicates inadequacy in information. Thus, this type of
communication decreases any ambiguity and uncertainty that may arise in such situations.
Research shows that various factors impact technical communication. One of the factors entails
communication frequency interconnected with coupled operations (Yang et al., 2015). Another
factor is the communication strength that is correlated with the technical characteristics of the
product being developed.
Frequency entails the rate at which the GPD teams communicate to conduct activities
related to each other. Such means that for an activity to be completed, other activities influence
the activity, thus requiring alignment with the activity to be effectively completed. The product
characteristics are shown by research to determine the strength of communication between the
teams (Yang et al., 2015). Thus, they determine the type of relationship that will exist between
the components of the product. Examples include information, space, energy, and materials.
According to research, the established relationship within the components influences another
type of relationship between the input and output of the information and those units responsible
for the components in the organization. The product development process entails a web of
interactions that are deemed significantly complex. The complexity entails design activities
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constantly overlapping each other, where the teams encounter severe issues. The overlap of the
design activities positively impacts the strength of communication between GPD teams (Yang et
al., 2015). These quality issues require the teams to communicate more effectively to innovate
better solutions to handle the issues at hand.
Coordination barriers refer to those factors that negatively impact GPD projects. An
example is a geography, which is deemed as the primary source of coordination and
communication barriers. Organizations have working teams that are widely dispersed. Some of
the geography barriers include temporal, cultural, organizational, and work dispersions. Virtual
teams encounter issues with face-to-face communication as they use digital gadgets to
communicate, such as through video conferencing. Spatial distance negatively influences
communication, complicating teams' chances of communicating effectively and efficiently (Yang
et al., 2015). The geographic dispersion enhances issues of cultural distance as there is a
difference between how teams working in a physical context communicate with each other,
which is shaped by the organizational culture. Teams can barely effectively communicate due to
differences in languages and business culture as countries differ in business.
Time differences disrupt business operations as countries have different time zones.
Teams can face the problem of deciding the appropriate time for communication, such as holding
video conferencing, as members may differ in the time that favors everyone. Coordination and
communication face the obstacle of the temporal distance that contributes to the daily
overlapping of the working time (Yang et al., 2015). The management face issues to do with
work and organizational dispersions. The management is responsible for the division and
distribution of tasks among the GPD teams. Thus, work dispersions occur when the management
encounters coordination issues that arise due to the increased complexity of activities. High cost
is influenced by increased complexity, making it significantly difficult for them to divide work
operations. Thus, work dispersions negatively impact the quality and frequency of site-across
communication. The organizational dispersion entails the management misinterpreting work
activities and various set goals to be achieved. Misinterpretation results in dire confusion
between different teams working on the GPD project, which prevents the team and management
from having satisfying coordination and site-across communication (Yang et al., 2015).
Ways of addressing the weaknesses of the Global Product Development
Elements in the GDP tend to have a dependency relationship with each other, contributing
to various coordination and communication issues. However, various methods are used to
demonstrate this relationship between elements. Also, the structural methods are used as valuable
tools that solve issues to do with management complexity in the GPD projects, where they aim to
reduce them as eliminating them is considered a tricky task. An example of these structural
methods is the Design Structure Matrix (DSM). The DSM is a tool used to show the strength of
communication dependency between virtual teams (Kherbachi, Yang & Khan, 2020). Various
studies define it as a square matrix that is comprised of off-diagonal and diagonal entries. The
off-diagonal entries entail a directional relationship that exists from an element upstream to
another element downstream. Diagonal entries, on the other hand, entail the elements in the
complex system. Research shows that DSM is the most appropriate method organizations use
when mapping and decomposing big complex systems into small systems, commonly referred to
as sub-systems. The mapping is done through various interactions of parameters to make the
systems less complex for simpler management. The optimization process of the DSM is required
to be simplified for managers to decompose the large complex systems into sub-systems
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(Kherbachi, Yang & Khan, 2020). Thus, they need first to weigh the dependency strengths
between the elements in an equal manner. However, the weighing aspect is dependent on what
managers prefer since the weighing, commonly referred to as the binary method, is usually
According to research, there is another way that managers can get quantitative results
from the binary method. There is another form of DSM referred to as the numerical DSM that is
greatly significant in helping managers make decisions regarding the organization’s operations.
The numerical DSM uses absolute and relative numbers inserted in the matrix (Kherbachi, Yang
& Khan, 2020). As more changes in the technology sector continue to occur, more innovative
methods are established to help in gaining better and more accurate results for those managers
using the DSM structural method. Research shows that the newly introduced rating scale by
Pimmler and Eppinger gave more consistent and accurate results in DSM models. The rating
scale involved using four different dependency types, which included energy, materials, space,
and information. The new method requires managers to measure the importance of each
dependency type. Then, based on their significance in gaining functionality of the GPD projects,
the managers are required to rate them on the scale to determine their interactions. As change is
inevitable in the contemporary business world, research shows that another innovation was made
regarding the rating scale introduced by Pimmler and Eppinger (Kherbachi, Yang & Khan,
2020). The new method involved the clustering analysis of the DSM models. Various studies
show that the major decisive factor in clustering analysis is the measurement of the dependencies
existing between the various elements used in the DSM models.
The cluster analysis involves the organization of the elements used in the DSM model
into clusters or groups. The research defines clustering as a method through which the
relationships of the elements within a group are made much stronger compared to ones across the
groups. The cluster analysis's major issue is that it deals with direct relationships among the
virtual teams, where it does not address any existing similarity in the teams (Kherbachi, Yang &
Khan, 2020). Managers try to address the issue of similarity among the team members by
assigning risks, decisions, deliverables, and collaborative business environments into groups.
Research demonstrates the innovation of another improved DSM model that uses a clustering
approach based on a spectral clustering algorithm. According to the studies, the main role of this
clustering algorithm is for the derivation of any existing similarities among the teams. One of the
methods used through this approach includes the random walk method. Its role entails counting
any type of relationship between the elements, whether direct or indirect. The similarity matrix is
considered the major input in the spectral clustering algorithm, where managers are required to
convert the initial DSM into a similarity matrix. Some managers use the behaviors of the virtual
team, such as their activities on the social media networks, to gauge any similarities between
them (Kherbachi, Yang & Khan, 2020). The issue arises when these managers fail to notice any
reflection of these teams’ behaviors on the teams’ indirect dependency on the relationship of
their activities on social networks.
The random walk theory first derives the similarity among the teams and then assigns
them into clusters based on their level of similarity. That is, the ones with the highest similarity
are grouped. Research shows that grouping them according to their levels of similarities enables
managers to reduce the GPD projects' complexity by reducing it (Kherbachi, Yang & Khan,
2020). Additionally, the main reason for using the random walk method is to eliminate all weak
similarities as such similarities contribute to too much communication that is commonly referred
to as unstructured communication. Direct dependency relationships between the teams are
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demonstrated through the initial DSM. On the other hand, indirect dependency relationships
between the teams are shown by the process organization network. Research provides the
procedure through which managers follow when they use the random walk theory. The first step
comprises choosing a team that is supposed to start the journey of the GPD project on the
organization’s network. The managers determine their probability and indicate them for
documentation. The second step involves another team being selected to begin another activity
with a different probability. In the third step, the selected team has options they can choose. One,
they can either move on to the activity from the team layer or choose to move from the activity
layer to the team layer (Kherbachi, Yang & Khan, 2020). Two, they can choose to wander in
either the team layer or activity layer with a given probability. If the team chooses to wander,
they can move to their neighbors. The research defines the neighbors in such a case as the teams
with whom they frequently communicate compared to the other teams. As each team has a
convergent probability associated with their choice of staying in the organization’s network,
managers use that probability to derive any existing similarities between the virtual teams.
Evaluation and Future Work
Communication and coordination are two major aspects that contribute to many of the
issues encountered in business operations by both teams and the management. As GDP involves
dispersion of business processes that lead to product development, virtual teams need to address
any concerns about communication for the effective administration of work. Geographical
dispersions affect the spontaneity of communication between team members, which entails time,
culture, and work and organizational differences. As communication strength and frequency are
detrimental in facilitating effective and efficient communication, various practices can address
the challenges encountered. As teams working in different countries have different cultures,
organizations can use the cultural differences to unleash diverse talents. That can be done
through the team and management embracing and respecting the cultural differences and not
pushing everyone to work under one uniform culture.
Time differences can be solved by establishing convenient meeting schedules for all
involved. Such can be done through democratic means such as voting on various time options to
arrive at a fairly established meeting time. Knowledge sharing is detrimental in upholding
effective communication within teams. One way that can be done is through documentation of
production processes. Simple interfaces such as XLS can be used for easier and faster knowledge
sharing. Additionally, developing a network-actor framework is of the essence, where it can
show who shares knowledge with whom. In case of any changes in the production process, the
GPD team may not encounter big issues as such may be addressed easily using the network-actor
framework. These methods can effectively enhance communication and coordination.
Communication is the most significant factor for any effective conduction of business
operations. GPD projects heavily rely on technology, where they may encounter various
coordination drivers and barriers. Some of the drivers include technical communication, which
entails communication frequency and strength. The barriers negatively affect GPD projects and
include geographic dispersion, which entails cultural, work, spatial and temporal dispersions.
These challenges can be addressed by embracing cultural differences and enhancing knowledge
sharing, such as documentation of production processes. The DSM model is shown by research
to be an effective tool used to measure the dependency strength of communication between
teams. The random walk method facilitates the derivation of the similarities between teams, thus
elimination unnecessary communication between the teams.
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Kherbachi, Yang, Q., & Khan, S. Z. (2020). A structured approach to measuring and optimizing
the organizational architecture in global product development projects. Concurrent
Engineering, Research and Applications, 28(3), 161174.
Yang, Q., Kherbachi, S., Hong, Y. S., & Shan, C. (2015). Identifying and managing coordination
complexity in a global product development project. International Journal of Project
Management, 33(7), 1464-1475.

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