Solutions for International Teams

Although we know that multicultural teams have additional problems in comparison to the general problems of a team. Members out of various cultures could be a great benefit for the team performance. However team cohesion, motivation and efficiency are important factors, which build the foundation for successful teamwork. In chapter 3. 1 we discussed possible problems and challenges when working in a team of people with different cultural backgrounds. It was mentioned that there are far more potential reasons why international teams fail.

This implies almost the same amount of strategies of how to solve these issues. We want to concentrate on general requirements and strategies, which the team should use as well as specified strategies of a team leaders or team managers to guide and govern an international team. First of all a basic requirement like in every team is that everyone exactly knows the goal/s and the purpose of the team. Like in every team there has to be only one direction where all team members should go and everyone has to know why they go this way. (Early Gardner, p. 5, 2005)

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In the article „International teams: beyond cultural differences“ the purpose of a team’s existence is explicitly highlighted beneath the factor of a shared aim. (Keogh, p. 2, 2006) For us it seems to be plausible that people, who come together from different parts of the world, must know what they fight for and why they do this. In this connection a common goal could be seen as a common value. Another important part of the strategy answers the question: How could each member use his awareness of culture diversity for contributing to the team’s success?

Often people know that different religions, languages or behaviours could lead to certain kinds of problems. However they do not exactly know how to fix such a problem effectively. If we want to answer this question we first have to understand our own culture by analysing our own values and beliefs. After teammates have got an idea of their own personality, convergences and divergences between other members should be worked out as a way to respect the different culture types (Keogh, p. 3, 2006) In the article „Managing multicultural teams“ this task is called ‘Adaption‘.

It is seen as essential to „adapt practices or attitudes without making changes to the group’s membership or assignments. In addition the support the theory of Keogh that team members have to acknowledge their differences so that the team could develop strategies of how to live with them (Brett et al. , p. 5, 2006). It has to be said that this requires two important soft skills of each member: ‘emotional intelligence as well as ‘social competence‘. Emotional Intelligence means: „to be aware of, understand, and manage both your own as well as other people’s emotion in order to adapt to life’s demand and pressures (Stein, p.44, 2009).

In the article „International Teams: Beyond Cultural Differences“ emotional intelligence is seen as one ‘emerging factor‘ because people can work more effectively together. It is easier for them to understand and respect their counterpart, which is especially important if people with different values and beliefs come together (Keogh, p. 3, 2006). Concerning social competence Douglas Gresham could be quoted who said: “social competence represents an evaluative term based on judgements (given certain criteria) that a person has performed a task adequately“ (Gresham, p. 146, 1986)

Because this definition appears a little bit abstract we claim that social competence is the ability to associate individual aims and mindsets with the goals and culture of the group. A third important requirement for good teamwork is a functioning team culture. Although we know that every team needs a clear structure, rules and common values, we want to highlight this requirement as explicit important for international teams. In the article International teams- beyond cultural differences the team culture is called ‘support system. This system should set the guidelines for all members.

It has to do with how to convey disagreement, the communication style and furthermore the planning of the project (Keogh, p. 3, 2006). The authors Early and Gardner support the thesis of Keogh and highlight in their book „Managing multinational teams: global perspectives“ the ‘rule clarity for social interaction‘ as explicit important. There are big differences between cultures whether personal feelings are strongly expressed or controlled. As a reason of that teams should set rules of how to communicate to each other so that an agreeable working environment for all members is guaranteed (Early, Gardner, p.8-9, 2005).

Now we have to ask how could this agreeable working environment or the before mentioned ‘support system‘ be monitored and who intervenes if something goes wrong? In this case the team leader plays an important role. In our opinion a leader should guide and govern all the aforementioned activities. According to Hofelein and Broom a leadership team should be set up. Especially in international teams it is important that these leadership team contains more leaders out of various cultures because one person probably would be biased in his/her own cultural ways.

On this leadership team it should be adamant that ground rules in a team are agreed upon from the beginning. At the very beginning of their collaboration, teams often underestimate possible future problems. They communicate very carefully and politely with each other (Hofelein et al. , p. 2, 2000). In stressful situations they might not keep their emotions under control and destroy a good relationship with the counterpart through their reaction.

In the article „managing multicultural teams“ a good example concerning setting norms is noted: a multicultural software development team’s lingua franca was English, but some members, though they spoke grammatically correct English, had a very pronounced accent. In setting the ground rules for the team, the manager addressed the challenge directly, telling the members that they had been chosen for their task expertise, not their fluency in English, and that the team was going to have to work around language problems. (Brett, Behfar and Kern, p. 6 , 2006) It should show that a team leader should clarify certain ground rules as soon as possible.

Otherwise this could lead to an inefficient method of work. An interesting idea is stated by the author Dipak Kumar Bhattacharyya, who thinks that it is difficult to train people how they should cooperate because in the ‘heat of events‘ people move back to their basic behavioural modes (Bhattacharyya, p. 295, 2010). From that point of view we can say that the team as well as the team leader both have to do their best because both parts are needed to set and preserve ground rules and team culture. This implies that a leader or a leadership team should not act like a dictator.

It is essential to guide the team members in decision making but however managerial intervention should be used effectively to sort out problems (Brett et al. , p. 6 , 2006). Now to sum up we can say that in an international team the most important aims are: the development of common values, the respect of personal and cultural differences as well as dealing with this differences and finding a team culture that implies clear rules of how to interact. The team leader should control these processes but only in cooperation with his teammates.

International Environment In chapter 3. 2 we talked about international teams and their complexity. In times of globalization we do not only have to handle dynamics inside teams but also the dynamics of the working environment, which also influences the process of work together. In this chapter we want to show that external dynamics are part of the challenges of international teams. The reader should gain an overview of the complexity of an international or global environment. Many companies choose the way of ‘going global‘ to increase their shares of the market.

To achieve that goal all kinds of teams like departments, affiliated companies or other business teams have to handle various challenges to reach the required success. An international working environment consists of insecurity and changes in short frequencies (Coade, p. 1, 1997). They are caused by the external influences of stakeholders like local government, suppliers, customers, etc.. However external insecurities could be reduced by gaining information about the values and aims of the stakeholders as well as local laws and the ethics of the country in which the team is acting (Coade, p.1, 1997).

So we could say that a ground rule for teams acting in an international environment is to fully understand the environment in which they are acting. The use of this knowledge is very important for the integration of the underlying environment. It might sound somewhat exaggerated but internationally acting teams have a chance to create a ‘shared value‘ through collaborating with the environment. The understanding of an international or foreign environment could be used to integrate this environment.

In a way this has something to do with the shared value approach. But what exactly is shared value? „The concept of shared value can be defined as policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates. “ (Kramer and Porter, P. 6, 2009) If we adopt this approach to a team then we could say the aim is to increase your team success through optimizing the environment.

The understanding of the environment, especially if is not well known (like in a foreign country), is an important requirement for creating this general benefit. Now that we know what shared value is and that it could be beneficial for an internationally acting team, we have to find out how this approach could be implemented by such a team. Implementing Shared Value in general business means to build ‘supportive industry clusters‘ at the location‘ of a company (Kramer et al., p. 7, 2009).

For an internationally acting project team this could mean to inform the local government about the aim of a project and cooperate with local companies, which could support the project. Although there would be some more examples, we can conclude this chapter by saying that an internationally acting team has to understand the setting in which it performs and as a further consequence use the gained information to integrate this setting for a general benefit.


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