Jenny was a middle manager in a large insurance company. She was very interested in the fact that electronic forms of communication meant that organizations could move information based administrative work round different locations. Her company was scanning paper applications for insurance policies onto their computer system and delivering these into a central electronic bank of work.

The company had employees in three different locations in the UK, and work was drawn from the bank on the basis of workload existing in each particular location. Recently senior management had been considering developing work locations in South Asian cities, where it felt the standard of English meant that such functions could be fulfilled effectively.

Jenny anticipated that this would pose certain logistical problems, for example staff training and communications. Knowledge of these problems would give her a clear picture of the limit of complexity of the work that could be done. This was particularly important since the complexity range went from the simple to the technically complex. Research into the literature on cross-cultural training justified Jenny’s concern.

As a consequence of her thought and reading she developed her research question as: ‘What cross-cultural problems may be posed by international electronic work transfer in the insurance industry, and how may these problems limit the complexity of the work that may be transferred?’ Through her reading of the practitioner journals Jenny was aware that some other financial services organizations had been sending their work to Asia for some time.

She decided that approaching these companies and interviewing their key personnel would be a fruitful approach. The main problem that Jenny would have with this research would be the time that the interview work would take, given that such companies were located all over the UK and North America. She was unsure how many interviews would be necessary.

This would become clearer as she progressed in the research. However, it was unlikely that fewer than 10 companies would yield sufficient valuable data. She thought that she could collect the necessary data in a four-month period, which fitted in with her university deadline. There were no specific resources that Jenny needed other than finance and time. Since her research would be of immediate benefit to her employer she thought that neither would pose a problem.

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