DETROIT—How do global companies manage work between multiple cultures and across time zones? General Motors Corp. is collaborating with Stanford University (Stanford, CA) to identify engineering work processes and technology that will enable the company to promote cooperation between global teams, helping them to respond quickly in the global marketplace.

"To win today, companies have to be able to effectively deploy their global resources, predict and respond quickly to emerging trends, and take full advantage of growth opportunities," says Alan Taub, GM's executive director of global research and development. "Our collaborative lab with Stanford, a recognized leader in work systems' research, will help us to take full advantage of our size and capabilities around the world."

GM initially established a $3 million collaborative research lab with Stanford's Engineering School in 2001 to study and make recommendations on GM's work systems. Recently, GM awarded an additional $2.5 million to continue the collaborative research program to focus on how engineers use technology to do their work and what skills they are likely to require in the years ahead.

Another area of focus for the Stanford team will be to study engineering projects on global vehicle programs to develop methods and tools for improving the work practices of the global teams and understanding how changes in technology will impact long-distance team interactions.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is also pitching in with a $1.3 million grant for a study on "digitization and the global distribution of engineering work."

Stephen Barley and Diane Bailey, professors in Stanford's Department of Management Science and Engineering, and members of the Center for Work, Technology and Organizations, will serve as the study's principle investigators. "The collaborative research lab and the NSF grant will make it possible for us to do serious research on how new tools are changing engineering practices," says Barley. "We are pleased to be doing this research study with GM."