From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search
Road Works.svg Work in progress, expect frequent changes. Help and feedback is welcome. See discussion page. Road Works.svg

Welcome to the Organization Management and Development Page

Featuring Useful OD Resources, Readings & Strategies


Handbook for Working with Culturally-Diverse, Geographically Dispersed Teams

(Team consisting of Jenny,Randy Fisher, Delores Mason, Greg Woo)

Team Transition / Evolution

“Trust and role expectations of others provide an impetus for interacting with another in good faith…

….If we respect and trust another, we are more likely to persevere in the face of adversity; such difficulties are likely to arise when people from many different cultural backgrounds come together on a common team.” (Earley, 2002. p. 115)

As a socially-interdependent, small project team (two men, two women) called in Fielding’s OMD program, Team Green’s initial composition was predetermined, and we lost one member within the first week of creation. Divine intervention interceded, and team member “Jenny” was delivered to us ¬– complete and perfect. Thence, our work of creation began in earnest. 

We did not have a pre-existing group identity (save for prior Fielding coursework and lessons-learned. For example, one lesson the author of this section learned was that without frequent and regular contact, team charters don’t mean that much).

With a flat decision-making structure, we quickly decided (unanimously) that regular and frequent contact among our team was a critical success factor for task/assignment completion, individual motivation and team performance.

We decided we would post our communications using a web discussion board, and meet on a weekly basis by teleconference bridge (Sundays @ 5 pm Pacific Time), to discuss relevant issues, explore our individual and team cultural identity; and develop a framework for how to achieve our shared goal (this Culture Handbook). Our weekly meetings focused attention and energy on structure, process, content and communications.

As we evolved, we actively listened to each other, and identified specific roles of interest to each person – in line with individual interests and team requirements. These role expectations created certainty: they helped create a workable plan for how we were going to research sections of the Handbook, and complete it on time, with everyone’s input, feedback and style.

Throughout the duration of the Handbook creation, we experienced little, if any, conflict (that was visible, anyways). Our ‘process’ helped us to develop greater trust in each other – even though we had never met – and focus our energies on task completion and overall learning. By Week 6 (when we began work on the Handbook), our team had evolved from a group of individuals who didn’t know each other, to a team with a strategy, a plan, and an interest in using a relatively new technology (a ‘wiki”).

In a relatively short time, we were able to develop a shared culture, with enough room for accommodating unpredictability, and leverage the ‘experience of complexity’ to inform our own team development, growth and learning. Clearly put, we felt good about what we were creating, how were doing it, and what we were learning from it.

When it came time to trying out our individual wiki skills to actually create content for our Handbook, team members adjusted rather easily to the initial skills learning curve. This helped individuals to develop a sense of personal mastery and comfort, with reinforced the team bond and our feelings of shared goals and common priorities. This also enhanced our motivation and contributed to the overall satisfaction in the ‘process’ for completing the task / assignment. “Joint efforts to achieve mutual goals promote higher self-esteem, self-efficacy, personal control and confidence in one’s core competencies.” (Johnson & Johnson, 2006)

For MNTs in particular, “the act of creating shared goals is itself motivating and it enhances individual team member attachment to the team and its objectives (Earley quoting Bandura, 1997 p. 115).

Our high functioning team culture also created an environment rich with opportunities for regular encouragement and support – even if a team member provided a dissenting view. This was more than being ‘heard’ – it was also about creating a space in the discussion and also on the wiki where a team member could be assured that his/her perspectives and worldviews could be included within the overall content of the Handbook itself.


• David W. Johnson and Frank P. Johnson (2006). Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills, 9th edition, Pearson Education, Inc.

• Earley, P. C. & Gibson, C. B. (2002). Multinational work teams: A new perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Social Support

Our culturally diverse, gender-balanced and continentally-distributed team (US and Canada) has developed a internal social support mechanism, without explicitly stating it. We have developed content individually and as a group; and facilitated mutual dialogue and insight through a mix of communication channels: threaded email discussions; weekly telephone calls; and wiki-work. As social support, we have made ourselves available to each other via private email and telephone conversations. We have also followed up with each other through discussion and feedback on:

  • the evolution of our Handbook content itself (i.e., initial postings, individual reflections, other team member’s feedback, relevant cultural content and supplemental images and multimedia);
  • our work process;
  • working with a new technology (a “wiki”) – and the attendant thoughts, feelings and cultural implications that go with it;

& working in a distributed environment with a diverse group of individuals (who have never met face-to-face (note: the lack of an in-person component could be quite a challenge for folks from a high context culture);

  • our responsibility as a group (through individual contributions) for completing a task assignment: the Culture Handbook;
  • designing and implementing a formalized ‘closure’ session.

Each of these mechanisms has helped our team members to ‘feel heard’ and to raise issues of importance, running the gamut – team development process; learning about each other’s experiences; querying each for a cultural information; sharing something personal; or even complaining about project timelines, requirements or the challenges of studying in a Masters program.

These ‘mechanisms’ or channels of communication have created rich opportunities for dialogue and support, reflection, learning and development – particularly in a continental, distributed environment.

Recognizing A Different Worldview

This process is not dissimilar for the kinds of interpersonal dynamics and intra-project challenges faced by a globally-distributed team. Individual members and the team itself requires important social supports to mitigate uncertainty, conflict, motivational challenges, culture shock and the more-encompassing ecoshock (Fontaine, 2005) – that comes from facing head-on the unfamiliar and diverse situations consistent with a different cultural context.

Today’s globally-distributed organizations are populated with people who have (experienced) a different “worldview”. Worldview is a looking glass through which [people] see the world (Dodd, 1995. p. 105), as quoted by Bob Shebib (Shebib, 2003. p. 296): "[It is] is a belief system about the nature of the universe, its perceived effect on human behaviour, and one's place in the universe. Worldview is a fundamental core set of assumptions explaining cultural forces, the nature of humankind, the nature of good and evil, luck, fate, spirits, the power of significant others, the role of time, and the nature of our physical and natural resources."

Social Support Grounded in Counselling

The counseling environment offers significant insights into what people in organizations (i.e., managers, employees) might be facing, and what sorts of multicultural triggers might be evident. “A multicultural orientation to counselling begins with a quest to understand our own worldview, then continues with curiosity and willingness to discover the unique and personal worldview of the client. Although different priorities may emerge for each client, the following broad areas should be considered:” (Shebib, 2003. p. 300)

  • Individual identity and role within family and community
  • Verbal and emotional expressiveness
  • Relationship expectations
  • Style of communication
  • Language
  • Personal priorities, values and beliefs
  • Time Orientation

Our team recognizes that many of the above ‘broad areas’ overlap with Trompenaar’s adaptation of Parson’s Five Dimensions model (referred to in other sections of this Handbook).


Developing a strategy for social support (including implementation) requires individual awareness of one’s situation. Margaret Wheatley refers to this as “self-referencing” and developing the ‘observer-self’.

“We possess consciousness and are capable of reflection. We are able to think about a past and a future…Meaning is created by the process of self-reference. We change only if we decide that the change is meaningful to who we are.”

“But as we engaging in this process of exploring diverse interpretations and learning to observe our patterns, often-time we discover a unifying energy that makes the work of change possible. If we discover and issue whose significance we share with others, those others are transformed into colleagues. If we recognize a shared sense of injustice or a common dream, magical things are possible."

Change becomes much easier when we focus first on creating a meaning for the work that can embrace us all."

A second strategic focus revolves around developing cultural awareness of another person’s influences and environment, as described by Shebib, enabling one to realize the existence and meaning of specific cultural references – for both parties (i.e., manager and employee; host-culture and expat alike).

Thoughtful and reflective comparisons with the ‘other person’ is possible — through a variety of means including training, mentoring, guided dialogue (through presentations and follow-up Q&A sessions) and even simply ‘discovering’ the other person through friendly conversation and the opportunity for knowledge exchange.

Empathy is also a key consideration in providing social support too. Says Shebib from the counseling world ¬— “Basic empathy contributes to the development of trust. It signals to clients that counselors are willing and able to deal with feelings.” (p. 176).

In terms of the organizational world, when managers and employees are empathetic with each other, greater trust and confidence is possible, and it indicates a general receptiveness, sensitivity and understanding of the other person and his/her worldview. By creating a space (and permission) for active listening and reflection throughout the engagement process and the production / performance of the actual task/assignment, team members can increase their awareness and skills, meet their own needs and support their colleagues too.


  • Dodd, C.H. (1995). Dynamics of Intercultural Communication, 4th ed., Duguque, 1A, Brown and Benchmark.
  • Shebib (2003). Bob. Choices: Interviewing and Counselling Skills for Canadians, 2nd edition, Pearson Education Canada Inc.
  • Trompenaars, F. & Hampden-Turner, C. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Global Business. Irwin.
  • Wheatley, M. (2006). Leadership and the New Science: Discovering order in a chaotic world. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler

Knowledge Exchange

As our culturally diverse, gender-balanced and continentally-distributed team (US and Canada) has gone through its stages of development, each member has contributed knowledge pertaining to his/her professional and personal experiences. This has helped us to reflect on each other’s experiences, input and feedback. We have discussed and debriefed our team development process, pertinent professional experiences and the content we are including in the Handbook generation, to take our knowledge and learning to greater and deeper levels. In the process, we have developed greater group cohesion and confidence for the next stages of our work together. In creating our Culture Handbook, our regular “Knowledge Exchange” weekly teleconference meetings and web postings have created rich opportunities for dialogue, reflection and learning and development. We anticipate debriefing the overall experience through a formalized ‘closure’ session and posting relevant details in this Handbook.


Our team experience is a window into the activities, situations and interactions faced by other globally-distributed and culturally-diverse teams such as research and development (R&D) teams. A significant challenge is that we have never met each other in person, nor benefited from a formal ‘kick-off’ meeting which tends to save time and money throughout a project’s duration ~ because people DO get an opportunity to meet face-to-face; discover their respective cultural identities; observe critical verbal and non-verbal cues: establishing a safer climate and communication channels to share personal information and exchange professional knowledge; and build trust for stronger relationships among both team members and management). Going out for a beer with one’s compatriots is a much richer, dynamic and memorable experience than hanging out at the StRanGE LaNdS RoAdSiDE Inn. (sorry Gary!)

R&D teams have significantly diverse and distributed teams (i.e., different ethnic cultures, genders, age, and functional capabilities) often working on multiple projects spanning multiple time zones, geography and history. Simply put their ecologies are far more complex than anything we face – and depending on the organizational structure, technologies, cultural expectations and communication channels – effective ‘knowledge exchange’ may be evident or less so.

If, for example, a US manager is sent to India to manage an R&D team or a joint-venture, s/he is likely to have to “[cope] with ecoshock or the physiological, psychological, and social reaction to a new assignment ecology”. (Fontaine, 2000, 2005). Hanging one’s shingle in a fluid and culturally-diverse organization and work culture; new working relationships and hidden challenges has significant implications for effective knowledge exchange – for the manager and his/her colleagues at home and in the host country. In most situations there is simply NO substitute for having a well-placed person from the host culture to guide the Newbie through the cultural nuances of getting things done. In fact, if this 'intervention' isn't present, it is likely to affect the person's motivation or desire to continue trying to break through the cultural (and other) barriers. Indeed, "optimal effectiveness in such situations requires learning or developing third cultures or international microcultures, shared perceptions among the culturally diverse task participants on how to get things done." (Casmir, 1999; Fontaine, 2000; et al).

Getting things done also requires knowing who to trust so that one can share information and knowledge without being undermined or sabotaged in tricky organizational politics. Factoring in Parson's Five (Cultural) Relational Orientations (as referenced in Trompenaars' book (p. 8), the dynamics become even more complex.

  • Universalism versus Particularism (rules versus relationships)
  • Communitarianism versus Individualism (the group versus the individual)
  • Neutral versus Emotional (the range of feelings expressed)
  • Diffuse versus Specific (the range of involvement)
  • Achievement versus Ascription (how status is accorded)

An example from the above list, is when a manager from an achievement-oriented oriented culture is sent to work in an Ascriptive culture, s/he is going to have specific challenges in actually receiving the appropriate information, because the Ascriptive work culture (as antithesis to the Achievement culture) is likely not to trust the incoming individual (even if everyone works for the same company!), nor operate by rules familiar to the Achievement-oriented manager. (Still, such an assignment posting may be really exciting (over the long-term) for expats who are genuinely into the "flow" of the culture and have a high level of motivation (Fontaine, 2005). In addition, such assignments may also generate unanticipated (and unpredictable) consequences which can rally folks within a team or organization to communicate at a deeper level or not. (Thanks to Al DaCosta Sochin for this insight). Indeed, when we change our world view (or facilitate someone else to do so) through knowledge-sharing or direct experience, many things are possible. Clearly, culture and complexity are intertwined.


There are a variety of strategies for dealing with cultural impacts on knowledge exchange, but we believe the most important is cultivating close personal bonds with one's hosts, so that they provide the insight and information as to what's really going on. Whether in high-context or low-context, polychronic or monochronic cultures (Hall, 1959), this can be accomplished by engaging in side conversations with one's peers, colleagues and managers.

There is considerable merit in establishing mentoring relationships by professionals within a given company, across a sector, or even within a similar industry. Resources for developing and managing these relationships can be found through an industry association, country-to-country business / trade councils. It also makes sense to add a cross-cultural sensitivity and awareness component to a corporate university or leadership program.

Technology can play a role here as well - through various aspects of data capture, search and knowledge management. A company may add a reporting requirement for managers to provide insights about "cross-cultural challenges & strategies" to inform their peers and organizational masters. This can facilitate intra-corporate awareness; give the company a heads-up on potential difficulties; and and contribute to greater employee engagement throughout the organization. Moreover, an open environment will generate more opportunities for knowledge sharing, learning and development, and a potential shift in the organization's own culture.

Another strategy is to brief and debrief employees (pre- and post-assignment), possibly taking the form of entry and exit interviews, and some protocol for capturing the informational essence (not word-for-word transcribing). Trip reports (as above) are useful, and so are presentations for other staff with Q&A sessions. This can be enhanced electronically with confidential discussion boards, blogs or wikis, so that colleagues can learn from each other before travelling, in situ, or even managing from a distance, developing greater means of social support too.

Reading is an important means of understanding another person's culture and setting the stage for informed knowledge exchange - whether it is stems from The Economist's Country Profiles (http://www.economist.com/countries/); Berlitz series for managers; Robert Young Pelton's tongue-in-cheekly-readable but dangerously-serious The World's Most Dangerous Places (http://comebackalive.com). Pelton's links are useful: http://comebackalive.com/site3.php?section_id=666&sub_section_id=wiki_resources)

Getting to know the leading authors of a given country or regions is worthwhile too. In fact, the latter will go along way to helping transplanted managers understand what the issues are in a given locale, and 'what's really going on'. Asking one's in-country colleagues for the names of leading authors, goes a long way towards showing respect - there could be a debrief with the recommending individual at a later date - and this could also be an invaluable source of knowledge exchange (i.e,, from the debrief, and the book / literature itself).


  • Fontaine, Gary (2005). Motivations for Going International: Profiles of Asian and American Foreign Study Students, Cross-Cultural Management Students and Global Managers, International Journal of Management.
  • Edward T. Hall (orginally published 1959; 1973). The Silent Language. Anchor.
  • Pelton, Robert Young (2003). The World's Most Dangerous Places, Collins; 5th Rev edition.
  • Trompenaars, Fons & Hampden-Turner, Charles. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill

Facilitating Technologies

Spread across significant geographic distances and several time zones in the US and Canada, our group is making use of several facilitating technologies (FTs) to enhance our ability to communicate (asynchronously and synchronously); increase our communications and learning effectiveness; and collaborating with a sequence of practices that best suits our particular situation.

To create our Handbook, we have chosen a modality called a “wiki” (i.e., http://omd.wikispaces.com ) – a free, open and collaborative workspace which (over the proprietary Felix SiteScape technology licensed to Fielding) which features greater ease of editing; the ability to highlight author revisions (and notify others), and significant opportunity for near-real-time collaboration. (Note: WikiSpaces was initially chosen over WikiEducator due to Simple GUI (graphical user interface); however, upon reflection, WikiEducator would have been a wiser choice because folks caught on quickly, there is no time lag in saving, and there is higer security on WikiEd.)

In support of our wiki collaboration, we are using a conference call bridge to connect and reconnect our group members (on a weekly basis, Sundays @ 5 pm. PST); to provide mutual feedback and input, and develop our strategy and direction for various aspects of our Handbook. After each weekly meeting, Meeting Minutes are posted in our Team folder as a historical record, and further discussion can take place either by Threaded Discussion on Felix (within the team folder) and/or by telephone. A group debrief follows on the next week’s meeting. We are using the following FTs to assist in building a cohesive team while achieving our task objectives.

Advantages & Disadvantages


A major issue pertaining to FTs was about our choice of which to use, when and by whom? Another consideration was how best the group would function using more of the conference bridge over the traditional threaded discussion. A prevailing concern was how we as individuals and group members make the most of the best attributes of each, while minimizing potential downsides such as poor communication, noise and loss of content.


A key part of our strategy was to define initial milestone-based work processes to leverage a hybrid of traditional and new technologies to aid effective communication. We are a gender-balanced team (two women, two men), from diverse backgrounds with varying degrees of ease regarding technology use. Our weekly ‘check-in’ has allowed us to regularly connect with each other and address individual fears or apprehension with wiki technology. During the week, the threaded discussion format has proven to be invaluable for ‘checking in’ with each other, explaining assumptions, exploring cultural meanings ~ even if by only thinking critically about posted thought-provoking questions ­— that help each individual member evolve in his/her relationship with the range of tools processes and cultural perspectives used in developing the Handbook content.

Each team member took responsibility for ¼ of the content required for the Handbook. By Week 7 (March 23), substantive content was added to the wiki. Interestingly, our weekly check-in revolved around what was missing from the content ~ related to cultural perspectives, and how the FTs were provoking considerable thoughts about control, fear and resistance to technology. For example, our team was considerably open to exploring usingWeb 2.0 technologies; however, how often are we asked in our organizations to implement a technology solution in the fervent hope that it will address a communication issue, or improve collaborative behavior among silos?

Experiencing Complexity at the Crossroads of Culture

As we engaged in a substantive debrief, we began to reflect from our own organizational tableaus, the reality that “intrinsic properties of connection, interaction and relationship between people would be the cause of emergent coherence and that emergent coherence would be unpredictable.” (Stacey, 2002, p. 8). Indeed, we experienced a tangible sense of the rich, deep and oft-hidden cultural perspectives that imprint communication and the complex range of cultural nuances, myths, and behavioral patterns that impact our understanding (at any given point in time) and mire us in unpredictability and a real sense that we’ve lost control. (Paradoxically, in self organizing systems when someone gives up control, s/he can assert greater control in other ways ~ I’ve called this “The Control Paradox in Fieldng’s 641 course).

In the future, we would like to explore how Instant Messaging and VOIP (i.e., Yahoo and Skype), or full-featured meeting clients such as Webex, Elluminate or GoTo Meeting (with audio, video, white-boarding and even application-sharing features) can enhance communications and productivity, and foster a greater sense of cultural sensitivity and understanding. For example, it would be useful to gain answers in real-time, by identifying who’s online and available ~ and then debrief the interaction. We are also interested in learning more about how traditional and Internet communications and productivity tools and methods can support each other and the cultural implications of choosing one tool vs. another. However, these will require greater emphasis on exploration and debrief of cultural perspectives, and further skills development in the use of these tools.

References for this Section

  • Stacey, Ralph D., Douglas Griffin and Patricia Shaw (2000) Complexity and Management : Fad or Radical Challenge to Systems Thinking? New York : Routledge.

Jenny's Contributions

What interests me most…introductory comments: Cultural and experiential differences influence how we view the world around us, what we believe, value and perceive, how we define experience, understand, react and behave. Each grouping of individuals adds its own unique culture to the overall group. The overall group culture is first made up of the culture of each individual and then the culture that is generated as the group relationships form. The eventual result is that the group influences society in some way. In each interaction we have with the world, from individual, person to person, or person to group these differences and commonalities influence the relationship, personal choices and resulting behavior or outcome. Interestingly each of these relations generates an experience that further influences our perceptions, beliefs and values.

The discussion in this course has reminded me that the theories regarded to best inform on leadership, group dynamics, organizational structure, or other, are only valuable when considered in the context of the specific individual, group culture, and environment. Bottom line: there are no “cookie cutter” approaches to organizational development. You can start with relevant theory, but each successful approach or strategy requires a thorough understanding of the organization's culture (from the world around, to the world within). A strong understanding of these cultures, when combined with sound leadership, group dynamics, or other theory; can provide guidance in leveraging the individual diversity and generating creative tension.

[From Delores: Jenny, you can actually start your section from here. What you have above is really an introduction for the entire handbook, and if you don't mind, I'd like to incorporate some of it there. I'll post the draft intro in Felix and you can all let me know what you think.] To D: Absolutely, you are right!

As I scoped how to best present the concepts of team selection and team building in the lens of cultural variance and influence, I found my self comparing the more broadly held theories of group dynamics and considering the application in a variety of group or organizational settings. As I reflected I was reminded how uniquely different each scenario was. It was clear to me that the dynamic of the group, at it’s foundation, is influenced strongly by the values, perceptions and beliefs of the members.

How culture and individual difference influence the organization In Team Selection In consideration of this section I reflected on the number of teams I had been part of over the years. As it related to the diversity and culture of the individuals, the group, and the organization, I was drawn to two very distinct phenomena: groups that are formed, and groups that form themselves. Groups exist in organizations for many different purposes, some are formed as departments or divisions, some are groups of like or associated colleagues, some are for projects or committees, some are formed to execute a task, generate a product or improve processes.

I personally am participating in at least 30 different groups related to my organization. I also found that some of these groups were just groups but others could be better defined as a team (insert approp. Team theory/definition) [COMMENT: not necessary to add a Team theory here] For the purpose of these sections we’ll define team as a group of individuals that form, or are formed, to collectively produce a result that positively impacts an organization’s purpose.

That being said I found it interesting that as it relates to theory on team selection and practical experience, I was initially drawn to a very traditional “top down” approach of selecting members for participation or a role in a team. In this approach, it was clean and easy to consider the purpose for a team's formation, the selection of appropriate talents, and the constructs of group dynamics in forming the team. Still as logical as all the steps were there were always challenges and benefits related to the cultural diversity of the members. In these cases I had considered it leadership’s attempt to influence the culture of the organization.

Where the comparison got really interesting was in consideration of teams that formed themselves. There are groups that emerge or form for a purpose not “sanctioned by management” but to produce a result that impacts the organization. In contrast these could be considered as the organization’s attempt to influence itself (and leadership).

The theoretical constructs of team selection, are (insert traditional group formation theory)

How is team selection impacted when a team naturally emergences, vs. the selction of a team formed by management?

So as a leader or consultant in an organization, do you focus on structuring strategies of creating teams for purposes, or allow the emergence of teams and support them? Well I suppose the answer to this question, no surprise here, is unique to the organization. Two examples for consideration:

Able Manufacturing (inserting case study of 30 year old paper manufacturing company, where the organizations desired state is a mechanistic structure with high specialization) Key points in this scenario will be in leadership capacity building regarding team formation and selection methods in consideration of the company’s vision and team member roles.

Sure Staffing, Inc. (Inserting case study of 8 year old fast growing personnel/staffing company, where the desired state is to generate an customer focused empowered culture) This example with address how to generate systemic approaches to encourage allow and support team development to generate change for the organization.

Some additional questions to consider in allowing for natural team emergence: Which is more successful in influencing culture? Which teams are more efficient and impactful?

In Team Building Once a team selection occurs, how do you consider the building or the strengthening of the team?

Again here the consideration of top down team building or the natural team building that can occur when an experience generates a stronger team. [FROM GREG: I'm not clear on the intended message here so I did not make edits. Can you clarify this sentence?]

   * Individual reflection in relationship to team purpose
   * Introduction between members
   * Considerations of Norms and Roles (formal or informal)
   * Initial Interactions or experiences (formed or self forming)
   * Trust
   * Cross cultural communication
   * Accomplishment

(The theory I researched – insert related) indicates a key consideration in team building is trust among the team members. Unfortunately if a team is formed from an outside source or sponsor in an organizational setting the time constraints don’t always allow for extended time to get to know each other and build trust. [From GREG: Did you mean: Unfortunately, if a team is formed with individuals who don't already know each other, and the sponsor or situation imposes aggressive time constraints on the team's work, there may not be enough time for the group to get to know each other and build trust.] To G: Yes better stated...I'll incorporate your idea

The scenarios below give some helpful examples that can be used as a means to generate trust in a newly formed team:

(insert examples of scenarios and exercises from reference citations)

Culture is often at the root of communication challenges. Exploring historical experiences and the ways in which various cultural groups have related to each other is key to opening channels for cross-cultural communication. Becoming more aware of cultural differences -- including one's own cultural beliefs, values and experiences -- as well as exploring cultural similarities, can help you communicate with others more effectively. Next time you find yourself in a confusing situation, ask yourself how culture may be shaping your own reactions, and try to see the world from the other's point of view.

In contrast, when you consider teams that naturally emerge or form themselves there is often a high level of trust already in place by the members.

(insert some personal examples of teams that I have been part of that formed naturally)

New addition 3.29.08 Hi All,

Here are some of my reference citations that I will be building in to my sections on team selection and team building. Considering team selection in the context of the organization and the global market place, how do cultural differences detract and strengthen the business ? Developing the Global Organization: Strategies for Human Resource Professionals, Chapter 3 Cross Cultural Team Development. By Robert T. Moran, Philip R. Harris, William G. Stripp Published 1993; Gulf Professional Publishing

Provides several examples of 2-5 weeks education and development sessions that include experiences, simulations and exercises designed to demonstrate cooperation and provide a common base of experience quickly.

“One of the principle reasons for this team emphasis is the shift in the new work culture to network organizations. Raymond E. Miles et al. (9) describe why and how large scale organizations are transitioning from hierarchical command structures to smaller, more focused corporations guided by market forces. They point to such causes as global competition, rapid technological change, deregulation and demographic shifts. To survive and be competitive, multi-level, vertically organized bureaucracies are forced to transform to clusters of downsized, focused, enterprising business units attuned to the custom (IS THERE SOMETHING MISSING HERE?) [From GREG: custom what?] customer...typo. Thus Miles and his colleagues at the Haas School of Business in Berkley developed conferences that enabled managers to reshape their strategic roles and redeploy resources. In the emerging network organizations, boundaries and memberships are flexible, work units are fluid and easily reassembled and resources both human and material are deployed readily across organizational and national boundaries to meet product or service life-cycle demands. These new ad hoc networks require team management and development.”

“Organizational culture contributes powerfully to the quality of relationships that people develop in a work team. The more people have in common, the easier it is to develop a “Team. {<-- From GREG: is this punctuated correctly or is something missing?] When crossing [From GREG: did you mean crossing - like conflict or betraying? or did you mean integrating or mixing?] To G: Mixing cultures, team development becomes complicated, even when the team members are employed by the same global organization. By understanding something about the organizational and group dynamics, leaders are enabled to synthesize differences and create consensus among divergent persons. Increases in productivity may more than compensate for the difficulties that are experienced. Diverse teams often have more, creative and better ideas.

(on team selection) When selecting team members for a specific task choose members for abilities they provide for the project at hand, keep ability levels homogeneous and attitude heterogeneous. Criterion for team selection is competence.

Some groups form naturally out of common interest, cause or concern. Others come into being because of a common task or assignment. For collections of people to become a team they develop the following characteristics; 1. Group Background 2. Group Participation and Patterns 3. Group Communication Patterns 4. Group Cohesion 5. Group Atmosphere 6. Group Standards 7. Group Procedures 8. Group Goals 9. Group Leadership 10. Group Alignments

Team Building (diversity, trust, leveraging strengths) Respecting Differences and Working Together Anthropologists discovered that, when faced by interaction that we do not understand, people tend to interpret the others involved as "abnormal", "weird" or "wrong"5. Awareness of cultural differences and recognizing where cultural differences are at work is the first step toward understanding each other and establishing a positive working environment. Use these differences to challenge your own assumptions about the "right" way of doing things and as a chance to learn new ways to solve problems.

Building Trust Across Cultural Boundaries Research indicates4 that there is a strong correlation between components of trust (such as communication effectiveness, conflict management, and rapport) and productivity. Cultural differences play a key role in the creation of trust, since trust is built in different ways, and means different things in different cultures. For instance, in the U.S., trust is "demonstrated performance over time". Here you can gain the trust of your colleagues by "coming through" and delivering on time on your commitments. In many other parts of the world, including many Arab, Asian and Latin American countries, building relationships is a pre-requisite for professional interactions. Building trust in these countries often involves lengthy discussions on non-professional topics and shared meals in restaurants. Work-related discussions start only once your counterpart has become comfortable with you as a person. Cultural differences in multicultural teams can create misunderstandings between team members before they have had a chance to establish any credibility with each other. Thus, building trust is a critical step in creation and development of such teams. As a manager of a multicultural team, you need to recognize that building trust between different people is a complex process, since each culture has its own way of building trust and its own interpretation of what trust is. Harnessing the Power of Diversity Diversity is a specialized term describing a workplace that includes people from various backgrounds and cultures, and/or diverse businesses. You can find a strategic competitive advantage in an organizational and cultural context by seeking to leverage, rather than diminish, opposite forces. "An important but widely overlooked principle of business success is that integrating opposites, as opposed to identifying them as inconsistencies and driving them out, unleashes power. This is true on both a personal level (the balanced manager is more effective than his or her peer at one end of the control spectrum) and on organizational level as well. Cross-Cultural Communication: Hopes and Fears2 Hopes: · the possibility of dialogue · learning something new · developing friendships · understanding different points of view Fears: · being judged · miscommunication · patronizing or hurting others intentionally

Guidelines for Multicultural Collaboration1 · Learn from generalizations about other cultures, but don't use those generalizations to stereotype. Use them rather to understand better and appreciate other multifaceted human beings. · Practice, practice, practice. · Don't assume that yours is the only right way to communicate. Keep questioning your assumptions about the "right way" to communicate. Communicate trust and build rapport by talking in your client's preferred mode. · Search for ways to make the communication work, rather than searching for who should receive the blame for the breakdown · Listen actively and empathetically. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. · Honor others' opinions about what is going on. · Suspend judgment, and try to look at the situation as an outsider. · Honest acknowledgment of the mistreatment that has taken place on the basis of cultural difference is vital for effective communication. Use this as an opportunity to develop trust. · Awareness of current power imbalances is necessary for understanding each other and working together. · Remember that cultural norms may not apply to the behavior of any particular individual. We are all more complicated than any cultural norm could suggest.

Leveraging Diversity: a Managerial Approach Unleashing the Power of Integrated Opposites · developing innovative services and products for diverse customer groups by sharing of diverse experiences and cultural insights of workers · creative problem solving by looking at "the same landscape with different eyes" and cross-pollination of ideas · achieving synergy by leveraging the power of critical opposites

Bibliography: 1. "Working on Common Cross-Cultural Communication Challenges", Marcelle E.DuPraw and Marya Axner 2. "Waging Peace in Our Schools", Linda Lantieri and Janet Patti 3. "Breaking Through Culture Shock", Elisabeth Marx 4. "Building Trust Across Cultural Boundaries", Ira Asherman, John W. Bing, Ed.D., and Lionel Laroche 5. "Conflict Resolution in Intercultural Settings: Problems and Prospects", Kevin Avruch and Peter Black 6. "Developing a Culture for Diversity", Chris Speechley and Ruth Wheatley 7. "Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind", Geert Hofstede 8. "Language Is More than Just Words", Alix Henley & Judith Schott

Building Trust: Behavioral Attributes4 · sharing important information, especially about oneself · willingness to be influenced · avoiding the abuse of team-members' vulnerability (because of their inadequate access to information or lack of positional power, and so on) · being fair · fulfilling promises "The Leadership Crash Course", Paul Taffinder

Trust-based working relationships are an important source of your sustainable competitive advantage because trust is valuable, rare, imperfectly imitable, and often nonsubstitutable. The level of trust a leader is able to garner from his/her employees is contingent upon the employee's perceptions of the leader's ability, benevolence, and integrity. A study that was conducted to determine whether trust could be a source of competitive advantage2 showed that trust is significantly related to sales, profits, and turnover. More broadly, the study concluded that "the ability of a general manager to earn higher trust from her or his employees likely creates a competitive advantage for a firm over its rivals."1 1. "Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalization", Edition 4, Thomson Learning 2. "The Trusted General Manager and Business Unit Performance: Empirical Evidence of a Competitive Advantage", J.H.Davis, F.D.Schoorman, & H.H.Tan

The Rise of the IT Architect (this relates so highly to the role of our organizations newly formed position of Business Information Systems Analyst – could insert a personal example here) IT architects are in growing demand. They are cross-functionally excellent people who can "tie several silos of expertise together," relate to business problems as well as technology, and then sell their ideas upward and downward in the corporate hierarchy. The position of IT architect has become increasingly important to the ever-changing IT industry, and is one that established corporations and start-ups are seeking. "As IT positions become more specialized and include increasingly detailed responsibilities, there's a need for someone who can tie several silos of expertise together," says Al Volvano, a product manager for Microsoft's Learning Group. "Enterprise architects aren't just technology experts; they are leaders with broad IT knowledge, the savvy to apply it to business problems and the communication skills necessary to coordinate the people who will put their plans into action," says Bill Liguori, senior vice president and co-founder of the placement firm Leadership Capital Group.7 1. "Extreme Management," Mark Stevens, 2001 2. "Relentless Growth," Christopher Meyer, 1998 3. "Radical Innovation," Harvard Business School, 2000 4. "Lateral Thinking Skills," Paul Sloane, 2003 5. "The Coming of the New Organization," Peter Drucker, 1988 6. "ASIT Technique – Creativity and Inventive Thinking," Roni Horowitz 7. "The Rise of the IT Architect," Ryan DeBeasi, Network World, Sept. 2005

Hi Randy, Greg and Delores, Hope everyone's week went well. I am finally over my eye infection and will be on and off the site/internet today and tomorrow. I am also continuing a lit review of some articles and recommended readings for the topics below. I am reviewing references from 604 as well as reflecting 602 as they relate to my sections below. I have also found some others that I have included below. f you have any you would like me to consider don't hesitate to share. Finalizing the first draft, for me, emerges first as a series of related themes. I work to identify the themes that I would like to select and relate relevant theory and real life examples. When I feel I have a rich enough concept, I then outline my approach. The approach includes determining my strategy for conveying the message/information and then I fill in with more substance. I usually write far more than is needed and then reorganize and refine as I go. I try and let it "marinate" so to speak over time to and ask for feedback for improvement. Below I am including some information that shows what my considerations are for possible themes and the best framework for illustrating the concept and related theory(ies). The short length of each section (approx 800 words) is moving me to select one or possibly 2 main issues per section and focus on exploring the issue and considerations for possible strategies. If you look at my topic areas you will see a mix of naturally emerging / organic considerations vs. a more traditionally accepted or structured approaches. I would like to know your preferences for these sections. I like the concept of comparing them, but I think that may be difficult to do in such short sections. I could do a case study for one and a dialogue among characters for the other. (Just trying to be creative.) - randy - use this for your personal account, too...

[COMMENT (RANDY): I think it's important to examine the following in the context of a geographically distributed team, with diverse individuals. My recommendation is to consider what really speaks to you, in this particular context, and then do the needful. Team selection does sound interesting to me - who does it; what are the driving factors, and how does the team self-select roles and resources in pursuit of its mission. I do think it's OK to actually raise additional questions, or point to resources that explore additional areas...in other words, the answers are just as important as asking good questions....which naturally lead to examination of various options over time. FROM GREG: I agree with Randy. Go with whatever you feel the most passionate about because that will evoke the deepest thinking and it will be the most engaging for you!] Thank you for the comments both...I have taken your advice and think you will be really pleased...I have a little too much content but will be posting tomorrow for your review. I found myself really drawn to this emergence vs. top down formed team issue, and think I have a good story to tell. Most of the initial lit. I found regards the leadership role in a formed team or the natural emergence in a social setting. I have not found much on natural emergence and success in a business setting. So if you have any recommendations please don't hesitate! Thanks, Jenny

Framework Considerations Team selection Team formation, a natural reaction to a need or a management directed next step Purpose and environment To volunteer or to be volun-told Making sure the stakeholders are present (Knowing who the stakeholders are) Providing a point of reference and moving to self selection Securing leadership support Beyond I am not sure why I am here but they told me to show up Considerations for educating of needed resources for the team Characteristics, strengths and support Selecting a blend of needed talents Team building Leveraging Talents The concepts of forming, norming, storming, performing and reforming Allowing for variance Providing structure or intention Making personal connection to intention and to each other Decision making power to the team empowerment Emerging roles or assigning them? Facilitation or Not? The team identity v. mgt. Communicating and supporting the role of the leader Transitioning the role of the leader from doer to support References In Review Andrews, C. (1998). Factors that impact multi-cultural team performance. Center for the Study of Work Teams (CSWT), University of North Texas, Denton, TX. www.workteams.unt.edu/reports/andrews.html. Accessed May 2, 2001. Knoll, K. & Jarvenpaa, S.L. (1998). Learning to work in distributed global teams. Global Virtual Team Exercise. www.bus.utexas.edu/jarvenpaa/gvt98/hicss.html. Accessed April 20, 2001. Peg C. Neuhauser , Ray Bender , Kirk L. Stromberg, Culture.com: Building Corporate Culture in the Connected Workplace, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY, 2000 O'Hara-Devereaux, M. & Johansen, R. (1994). Global work: Bridging distance, culture & time. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Saphiere, D. & Hofner, M. (1996). Productive behaviors of global business teams. Nipporica Associates. www.nipporica.com/IJIR.htm. Accessed May 2, 2001. Stewart, G. L., Manz, C.C., & Sims, H.P. (1999). Team work and group dynamics. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Trompenars, F. & Hampden-Turner, C. (1998). Riding the waves of culture. New York: McGraw Hill. Wagner-Johnson, D. (1999). Managing work team conflict: Assessment and preventative strategies. Center for the Study of Work Teams (CSWT), University of North Texas, Denton, TX. www.workteams.unt.edu/reports/wagner.html. Accessed April 15, 2001. Wederspahn, G. M. & Solow, L. A. (2000) - Multicultural Teams: From Chaos to Synergy, Intercultural Businesses Solutions Reading. Retrieved on March 15, 2001 from: www.omn.com/Wederspahn/readings.htm. As well as a few references from Drucker and Some of Gallup's research on Strenghts based management.

Greg's Contributions

Conflict Resolution

Resolving conflict is an exercise in understanding needs, perceptions, and the meanings associated with specific outcomes. This applies to all of the parties involved. It can be a complex and demanding effort to embrace a conflict from all of these perspectives, especially where strong cultures built on years of experiential learning, [history] and social reinforcement contribute to the conflict, though often it simply takes flexibility. Jeffrey Kottler says “the key to planning strategy in any human struggle … is to plan an overall set of tactics for the engagement and then be prepared to improvise as the situation changes.” (Kottler, 1994, p.217)

Fortunately or unfortunately, the Green Team didn't seem to encounter any substantial conflict in our work as a team. It is likely that the types of considerations described here helped us avoid any serious conflict. We made an effort to utilize many of the concepts we're describing here and we seem to have had good results by following our own guide

Understanding yourself in conflict Before planning an engagement strategy however, we have to define what outcome goals of that strategy are. In order to gain a clear understanding of the needs, perceptions, and meaning associated with the variety of outcome possibilities held by all of the parties involved, it is important to first understand one's own needs, perceptions, and meanings. Moreover, one’s own cultural influences filter and determine what an individual perceives as the critical issues and acceptable alternatives. In my view, these influences are unconscious and can limit one’s ability to recognize a range of acceptable alternatives (i.e., in various degrees, particularly if considered from different perspectives). Indeed, these influences are subtle and can sometimes make it difficult to specifically articulate the root cause issues driving or impacting the conflict(s).

Kottler suggests reflecting on what sets you off and why certain conflicts are getting to you. He recommends asking yourself the following questions: (Kottler, 1994, p.41-55))

  1. “What are the original triggers for the relationship turning sour?”
  2. “What are your strongest emotional reactions and fears sparked by these conflicts?”
  3. “What expectations do you hold that may be escalating the conflict?”

Exploring these questions brings a variety of emotions, insights, and fears to the surface ~ particularly if one is truly honest and open. Indeed, while the exploration is unsettling and difficult, it can also be liberating and enlightening.

Recognizing stress and needs When you understand the driving forces behind your own reactions and behaviors in conflict situations, you have more options and more control regarding resolution opportunities. Therefore, an important additional reaction to consider is the defensive reaction since it too is often blinding and distracting in terms of diverting energy away from the resolution of conflict. Defensive behaviors can also appear to be irrational and bewildering, especially if the defensive root cause is not recognized.

A List of Defensive Behaviors - for Aviation Instructors

Interestingly, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) publishes a handbook for aviation instructors that calls out eight (8) common defensive behaviors. These are:

1. Compensation – emphasizing one’s strengths and avoiding one’s weaknesses 2. Projection – finding fault or weakness with some other person, factor, or entity 3. Rationalization – reassigning blame or explaining why this isn’t one’s own fault 4. Denial of Reality – refusing to see or acknowledge the conflict, issue, or problem 5. Reaction Formation – formulation of a defensive posture such as “so why would I care?” 6. Flight – fleeing the situation or running away from the issue to avoid confrontation 7. Aggression – striking out at others using offensive posturing to mitigate personal blame 8. Resignation – giving up since nothing can be done about the issue anyway (FAA-H-8083-9, 1999)

Resolving the conflict While the recognition of these behaviors can be important in recognizing stress and defensive needs, resolution is about creating a path in which the conflict can be eliminated or mitigated: by finding acceptable common ground for the parties involved. These defensive behaviors are markers which indicate the need for moving beyond seemingly irrational behavior, and a demarcation point for working to find mutually acceptable and common ground.

Since cultural influences shape the meaning each of us assigns to specific actions, objects, and ideas, finding this acceptable common ground can seem elusive. The key concept offered by Kottler for resolving conflict is that one needs to take responsibility for the conflict without blaming others or one’s self. This “involves understanding the reciprocal nature of interpersonal conflicts.” (Kottler, 1994, p.79) In other words, one needs to take responsibility and initiative in understanding the multiple facets of the conflict and then find ways to identify common ground so the conflict can be resolved.

A variety of strategies are offered by Kottler to accomplish this. They include ideas such as: (Kottler, 1994)

  1. Develop clarity regarding each party’s critical objectives and stay focused on them. Work to avoid being distracted by arbitrary or specific implementation plans that stray from addressing the objectives.
  2. Explore as many options as possible to find common ground. Make an effort to consider the options from the perspective of how they address each party’s objectives and use what you learn about the meanings each party (including your own) associates with the different alternatives.
  3. Be flexible in terms of what acceptable options look like. Remember that cultural differences may connect different meanings to specific conflict resolution implementation ideas so the acceptable outcome may have a different form from your initial expectations.
  4. Be realistic in terms of what can be accomplished.
  5. Get clarity about the emotions, feelings, and meanings you experience or associate with the various components of the conflict. Then, armed with that clarity, find ways to act differently and to communicate your critical objectives while retaining enough control of your emotions thus avoiding the introduction of confusion about your true objectives.
  6. Don’t argue superficially with people who are looking for a fight as a form of entertainment or empowerment. The same goes for those who aren’t willing to work on the conflict in good faith. Instead, explore alternatives ways of working with them. Arguing is unlikely to be productive. Third party intervention is one such alternative.
  7. Take responsibility for engaging the conflict resolution process without assigning or accepting blame. The quest to place blame is both destructive and elusive since the concept of blame assumes the situation can be explained by a single cause. In actuality, since the meanings of the events and actions that define the blame vary from party to party and are the result of past culture-defining experiences as well as the interactions between the parties, blame becomes a moving, evolving target that often cannot be nailed down. Too often, it will appear very different to the individual parties and no progress toward finding common ground will be made.

One final thought to consider is that conflict can sometimes be productive and beneficial. It can create an opportunity for one to pause and reflect on needs and issues requiring attention. It can also be a terrific learning opportunity if one truly reflects on the experience itself, and the lessons learned from the conflict. Also, it is important to remember that in some ethnic-centered cultures and in some team cultures, what appears to be intense conflict may simply be passionate discussion highlighting normal and healthy organizational tensions. The construction site environment is home to one such culturally accepted norm in which one sometimes encounters heated shouting and profanity in the discussion of work events or approaches to work. Minutes after the discussion ends, it isn't uncommon to see the participants truly relaxed and enjoying each others' company over lunch, coffee, or a simple break. In other work environments, such an intense exchange of emotionally-charged words would leave lasting and perhaps devastating damage to the relationship - but this does not always seem to be the case in all cultures and it is something we should all be aware of. Working with a local YMCA during the management of a major construction project opened my eyes (Greg) to this very different world. Since then, I've seen it repeatedly at work in the biotechnology engineering world where such conflict seemed very foreign. It involved Greek and Italian team members who were and are very close and supportive team mates as well as social friends. When queried, they genuinely believe this form of discussion is the best way to uncover and select the best possible decisions in the shortest amount of time.

It underscores the need to be open to learning about different cultural perspectives and to experience them as a participant in order to truly appreciate and understand the dynamics and behaviors that stem from the culture-driven norms.

References: FAA. (1999). Aviation Instructor’s Handbook (FAA-8083-9). Washington D.C.: US Government Printing Office

Kottler, Jeffrey A. (1994). Beyond Blame: A new way of resolving conflicts in relationships. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Fox, William M. (1987). Effective Group Problem Solving: How to broaden participation, improve decision making, and increase commitment to action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Decision Making

Group decision making is a topic with many facets. It can be a complex and frustrating experience when the group is composed of people with differing opinions on how to arrive at a decision. It can be more challenging when the group is composed of people with differing cultural perspectives that define their specific and sometimes conflicting meanings to the various elements of a decision-making process.

Creating Outcome Clarity To help the group find a common approach to making a binding decision, it is important for the group to have a common and clear understanding of the outcome requirements, including:

   * What constitutes an acceptable, quality decision for this particular effort?
   * What perspectives and considerations must the decision take into account?
   * How will the group determine if a proposed decision is a good decision or not?
   * How will the decision be implemented, by whom, with what resources and over what time frame?

Answering these questions will provide a basis for selecting the balance of the group decision-making process. It will also provide an early indication of the types of group dynamics issues that are likely to surface. If there are fundamental differences in the underlying values that individual group members have, these differences will likely begin to appear during this initial task.

Groups need to start with an effort to find common goals, boundaries, and context for decision making. When groups fail to get to a point where they can articulate a common sense of clarity around the requirements for good decision making within the context of their norms, the decision making process will often be more complicated and will take longer because of the varied target objectives that the individual group members are likely to envision.

Decision-making dynamics The natural manner in which a group chooses to process and make its decision will be heavily influenced by the perceived composition of the group. If there is a strong sense of hierarchy, then the group leader must ensure that clarity has been established as described above. If there is no clear group leader, then the group runs the risk of being disoriented and unproductive as it struggles towards defining its own structure and direction. In our efforts to produce this handbook, our group overcame the lack of a formally designated leader by engaging the emotional maturity and wisdom possessed by each of the individuals in the group. This enabled us to focus on collaborative and exploratory learning opportunities which in turn helped us to be more flexible in terms of our perceptions regarding what "the right answer" looked like.

We could have realized a more simplistic and defined structure by designating a group leader early in our team formation process. This may have enabled us to make faster progress earlier in the term. Clear roles and responsibilities is a common and important component for effective team dynamics. One drawback of designating a leader early on, however, is that it can allow a team's members to defer accountability and responsibility for success to the team leader. The manner in which the role and the responsibilities of the leader and the other group members must be carefully specified to avoid this. For this specific handbook assignment, our approach for shared accountability and collaborative learning enabled us to explore our differing opinions and perspectives productively. It enabled us to bridge the gaps that are often created by the following dimensions of culture.

Parson's five orientations of how humans deal with each other, as described by Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, are:

  1. Universalism versus Particularism (rules versus relationships)
  2. Communitarianism versus Individualism (the group versus the individual)
  3. Neutral versus Emotional (the range of feelings expressed)
  4. Diffuse versus Specific (the range of involvement)
  5. Achievement versus Ascription (how status is accorded)

These dimensions of culture can help shape the group’s preference for its decision-making protocol or guidelines, or the method chosen. Given this group-specific independent variable, here are some examples of possible group decision making strategies:

  1. Voting
     Voting can be a fast and easy way to decide on a course of action or final decision if the group is well informed and is given an opportunity before the vote to discuss and explore the merits of the various options. Voting is a way of engaging all of the group members in the decision-making process. Multiple levels of voting (much like the presidential primaries followed by the popular vote followed by the electoral college vote) can be useful as a means of helping the group select a final decision. However, voting can produce poor results when other supplemental opportunities for discussion, exchange of ideas, and good data are not made available prior to the vote.
  2. Consensus development
     Facilitated discussion focused around developing and exploring common ground can engage the group in a consensus-building decision process that identifies alternative approaches and selects a common preference (that the group can agree on for a longer- or shorter-duration (i.e., I'll go along with this decision because it supports team development and cohesion). This provides an excellent means of developing common understanding and a more complete depth of buy-in throughout the group. It often requires more time to achieve – especially if there are strong differences in values, meaning, identity or cultural preferences.
  3. Hierarchical authority
     In this decision-making model, the group debates the merits of alternative decision scenarios along with their drawbacks. After the key issues have been discussed and explored, a selected member or members of the group will use his/her positional authority, expertise and knowledge to select the right decision for the group. While this can be efficient from a time perspective, and while is may assure the decision is made from a position of expertise and complete information (in theory) it can be disenfranchising and subject to error if the authoritative decision-makers haven’t comprehended the nuances of the debate.It can also have serious consequences for successful implementation of a given decision, if people don't think or feel that they've been appropriately informed or consulted.
  4. Delphi
     A technique in which the group assembles a panel of experts and defers the decision to the experts. This can work well in situations where the decision demands specialized knowledge not otherwise available to the group however it exposes the decision to risk from lack of context (if the Delphi panel doesn’t have all of the circumstantial data) and from lack of buy-in by the group.
  5. Analytical evaluation
     The group collects data and tallies an overall score based on how each alternative solution scores against a predefined set of criteria. This method is objective and straightforward to execute. Its mechanical nature may appeal to group members oriented toward universalism and neutral emotions. It is exposed to risk in terms of buy-in however, because it may suppress discussion-oriented debate and exchange of ideas regarding the merits of the right overall solution. Additionally, the criteria and the weighting method for the scoring process must have been appropriately determined in order for the decision to be a good decision for the specific situation.

All of these methods have merits and drawbacks that will resonate with different people at different times depending on their orientation to the cultural dimensions listed above along with their cultural preferences regarding time, the environment, and their values. It is therefore important to engage the group using methods that are meaningful and acceptable to the group members given their cultural perspectives. That may require engaging the group in discussion and a mapping exercise that explores these perspectives up front while creating clarity around the decision-making outcome objectives.

Randy proposed a simple mapping exercise for our team to consider that asked our team members to self-rate themselves on a small set of culture-specific characteristics and preferences. Then the team would have a dialog regarding the ratings and the associated dimensions of culture while observing the interactions. The hope is that the exercise would develop stronger bonds between the members, facilitate understanding, and strengthen our relationships and our sense of being part of a great team. The resulting feelings and understanding would then make it easier to reach decisions the whole team could go along with and support.

Some Final Decision-making Considerations

  1. The complexity of decision making can increase geometrically with the size of the group simply due to the number of interpersonal relationships and connections that may be needed. One consideration to make is that the number of these connections is defined by the formula C = (N x (N-1)) / 2. A group of 3 has 3 connections between the members. A group of 5 has 10 connections between members. A group of 10 has 45 connections between its members.
     The number of connections adds to the complexity of building inter-team-member relationships and resolving inter-team-member conflicts. As our group noted during our discussions, however, significant increases in this complexity arise when the number of cultural differences increase since this generates many differences in the meanings we assign to our words, actions, and observations. The challenging aspect of these cultural differences is that these differences in meaning may not always be visible due to the culturally-biased filters that subconsciously filter what we observe.
     While it is often easier for smaller groups to make group decisions, the following caution is in order. A small group of decision makers acting on behalf of a much larger group of constituents is NOT what we were referring to here. The practice of designating a small group of individuals to make decisions on behalf of a larger group is not always an effective, straightforward strategy for making good group decisions. An engagement or alignment strategy is needed to ensure the larger group will buy into the decision. The point of this idea is that larger numbers of group members and larger numbers of cultural differences add to the complexity of decision making substantially.
  2. The decision-making process should consider the downstream consequences of the selected decision. This will make sense for those whose cultural preferences look at larger blocks of time with natural consideration of future consequences.
     As a result of this decision, how are people and the organization likely to respond and what will be the consequences of that response? Ideally, this trail of consideration should be thought out as far as possible in the evaluation process. It is an exercise that not everyone will engage in naturally however.
  3. Consideration should also be given to the need for organizational acceptance and buy-in regarding the decision. Is it necessary for the decision-making process to be sensitive to the cultural needs of the organization? How will the decision be implemented and what pre-implementation action steps are needed to help the organization embrace and execute the decision?
  4. Conflict and challenge during the decision-making process is not necessarily a bad thing. As the course reading points out, groups that have a low degree of consensus have been found to perform better in the decision-making task than groups with a high degree of consensus because high consensus groups tend to suffer from groupthink. (Earley & Gibson, 2002, p.178)

In summary, good decision making involves many of the same cultural and preparatory considerations found in other facets of group dynamics. Clarity and buy-in around goals, boundaries, roles, and expectations plays an important role in attaining a good result. In order to achieve that clarity and buy-in, consideration must be given to the specific varieties of cultural norms and preferences held by the members composing the group, as well as the organizational and societal environment and framework in which they are operating.

References: Earley, P. Christopher & Gibson, Christina B. (2002). Multinational Work Teams. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Fox, William M. (1987). Effective Group Problem Solving: How to broaden participation, improve decision making, and increase commitment to action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Lipnack, Jessica & Stamps, Jeffrey. (2000). Virtual Teams. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Trompenaars, Fons & Hampden-Turner, Charles. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill

Delores' Contributions

Leadership and Management

Ask ten people what is a leader and you’re likely to get ten different answers. We define a leader as someone who can inspire and motivate others to more fully realize their potential and to contribute more value to the group effort - something the leaders are able to do for themselves. This means genuine curiosity about and self-awareness of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, values and goals. By extension, it also means genuine curiosity about others’ strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, values and goals. When leaders are able to see their own career as an important and exciting journey, they are able to help others see their careers in the same way.

Leading across cultures

As organizations continue to blur international borders, it becomes critical that our leaders develop the skills necessary to guide others on a path that is personally fulfilling and serves the organization as a whole. “Culture is a shared system of meanings. It dictates what we pay attention to, how we act and what we value.” (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, Riding the Waves of Culture, 1997, p. 13) Our organization houses multiple cultures within our larger culture to deliver quality products to customers in a timely, friendly and professional manner.

Leading across cultures requires the ability to communicate on multiple levels and to turn vision into action. Every sub-culture within our larger, organizational culture is equally valuable and valid. Understanding others – their point of view, their values, and what motivates them is critical to being effective at managing others at work.

To gain deeper understanding of your role as a leader in this organization, let us first take a brief look at the many theories on leadership and management over the last few decades.

Leadership theories

According to the myriad theories on leadership and management, Leadership is… GRAPHIC GOES HERE

Elements of each theory are valid in our organization. As a leader, your task is to know when and how to pull from the various theories to ensure that your team/division is it’s most effective and efficient in pursuit of organizational goals.

Leadership styles

To be an effective leader, you need to use a range of styles depending on the situation you’re facing. As a leader, you have a direct impact on work performance and the ability to guide those around you on their journey of self-directed change and development.


Leadership Behaviors that succeed across cultures

It’s important to understand that effective leadership styles and practices in one culture are not necessarily effective in others. In our increasingly global climate a leader’s actions tend to be very situation-specific. However, leadership styles and practices can transcend international boundaries. In 2004, Robert J. House of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania published his findings from a decade-long research project that involved 170 investigators based in 62 countries world-wide called the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) project. This study identified six dimensions of effective leadership that cut across cultures.

“These dimensions are summary indices of the characteristics, skills, and abilities culturally perceived to contribute to, or inhibit, outstanding leadership. They can be thought of as being somewhat similar to what laypersons refer to as leadership styles…” [p. 675 of the study]

[COMMENT: I like this as a way of identifying cultural issues / meanings, related to leadership]

Leadership dimension Definition CHARISMATIC / VALUE-BASED reflects the ability to inspire, to motivate, and to expect high performance outcomes from others on the basis of firmly held core values TEAM ORIENTED effective team building and implementation of a common purpose or goal among team members PARTICIPATIVE reflects the degree to which managers involve others in making and implementing decisions HUMANE ORIENTED reflects supportive and considerate leadership, but also includes compassion and generosity SELF-PROTECTIVE focuses on ensuring the safety and security of individual group members; protects self from acts of criticism and corruption Robert J. House et al., Culture, Leadership, and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies, Sage Publications, 2004.

The lowest scoring attribute – meaning all of the cultures studied found this one attribute to inhibit effective leadership – is Autonomy: independent and individualistic leadership.

This study firmly supports our ideals of inspiration, empathy and inclusion. When leaders “walk to walk” and demonstrate resonance in their leadership ability, our entire organization prospers.

“To be resonant with others, you have to be in tune with them. This requires something deeper than having a mental model or an intellectual insight about another person. Being in tune with others involves caring about them—and that is what invokes compassion. You feel curiosity, respect, and real empathy.” (Boyatzis & McKee, Resonant Leadership, 2005, p. 178)

Case Study:

The 400 staff people involved in the UNICEF immunization project in India were too far removed from the energizing fieldwork to feel personally inspired. Chief of Health Monica Sharma, with the avid support of top leadership, devised a plan in which all office staff members—clerks, accountants, and administrators—could spend several days, regularly, in a district where the “real work” of immunizing children was going on. To sustain these inspiring moments—and the passionate performances they elicited from people—Sharma created open forums for employees to come together and share their experiences. She used a coaching leadership style to answer questions and concerns—a style that employees began to emulate with each other. Her confidence in her people and her support and availability during this learning process inspired many to perform beyond their own expectations of themselves as they worked together to make the company’s vision—and their own—a reality.

Source: Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence; Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press; 2002

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is a fundamental skill that leaders must develop in order to navigate the obstacles that arise as a matter of daily business. From mediating employee disputes to balancing the stressful demands of leadership to anticipating global market trends, the ability to identify, analyze and manage roadblocks to the organization’s success will strengthen one’s leadership skills and bolster the ability to influence people and situations.

(I have a couple of comic strips I'd like to add that are appropriate for this section, but I'm not sure how to do that. [COMMENT: WE CAN DISCUSS) [c[c[

(Is this Leading, Managing, or Leading and Managing?) Managing across cultures introduces a complex range of behaviors, expectations and implications that require even more demands on one's expertise and breadth of knowledge about people, markets and global relations. Today’s leader must be a diplomat with the skills of a tactician, soothsayer and artist combined.

Problem-solving is the work of seeing issues that require attention, setting goals, finding or designing suitable courses of action, and evaluating and choosing among alternative actions. This work often involves engaging a group of people to collaboratively execute the problem solving process since groups of people can bring more information, perspective, and creativity to the process. When the group is composed of people with widely varying cultural perspectives, the dynamics can provide both more insights and more conflict simultaneously.

Over the last century, a number of theories on problem-solving arose. Allen Newell & Herbert Simon’s work focused on a mathematical approach: “means-ends-analysis”. Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer stressed the importance of understanding the relationship among parts of the problem. Edward DeBono’s work featured using creativity and a fresh perspective to tackle problem-solving. For this handbook, we’re focusing on the latter two methodologies, which engage cognitive, analytic skills and creativity.

So what is effective problem solving?

  1. Identifying potential problems and working to prevent their formation.
  2. Managing existing obstacles in a way that limits damage within the organization or leads to a pre-planned, desired outcome.

“Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.” -- Albert Einstein

This quote shows that simple knowledge is not enough for today’s problem-solvers; leaders must look beyond the mere mechanics of problem-solving and seek to develop self-awareness, empathy and communication skills to tackle the complex dilemmas in a globally expanding and resource-shrinking world in order to anticipate problems before they become situations that zap precious organization resources.

A real experience here? Something to humanize the concepts?

A good problem-solving model includes a systematic approach that reviews the benefits and the down-side of the problem. Every situation benefits someone and causes difficulty to others. Making a list of these will help the problem-solving team and its leader fully understand what the problem is and be able to clearly define the problem for others.

Once the problem has been identified and communicated, the team can collect data to find the cause (or likely causes) of the problem. This step may feel like an unhealthy “blame game”, and it is the leader’s responsibility to keep the team focused on its true purpose: invaluable learning and practice that will hone individual ability to analyze data and establish a basis for anticipating future problems.

There are a number of ways to generate alternative solutions to the problem: brainstorming, cross-fertilization, visioning, etc. Regardless of the method, the goal is to see as many possible solutions then look at all the pros and cons of each to determine their “fit” for the organization. This will lend itself to deciding on which action to take.

Taking action and evaluating the outcome are full motivation to take risks and pursue the solution to its fullest. If problem-solving interventions are not successful, the cycle of selecting intervention strategies and collecting data is repeated with the help of a problem-solving team.

Barriers to Problem-Solving

Procrastination: “The biggest problem in the world could have been solved when it was small.” -- Witter Bynner

Tackle the problem as soon as it’s detected. Given time, the smallest of dilemmas can become a disaster that costs the organization time, money, resources, and customer satisfaction. Over-thinking or over-complicating a problem amounts to procrastination. Keep the process as simple as possible, focused and fun.


Fear is the usual suspect when it comes to denying that a problem exists. “I could be wrong.” “They’ll think I’m crazy.” “I can’t deal with this.” If these are the scripts that little voice in the back of your head is murmuring, then they are fear-based and clear indicators to pay attention. A little self-awareness goes a long way. An exceptional leader understands that he/she views every situation through some lens of bias and perception. Spend some time reflecting on your role as a problem-solver. Ask yourself: Am I procrastinating? Am I avoiding the problem? Am I in denial? Am I shutting down or blocking my creativity on this problem? Am I ignoring it, hoping it will go away? Answer these questions then take action.

Too much or too little emotion:

Interpersonal problems and those stemming from cultural differences are emotional issues. Denying the emotional root of a problem is as problematic as tackling it from an emotional basis. The key is to seek balance between what’s best for the individuals involved and what is best for the organization.

A negative approach:

A problem is not a punishment. Viewing the problem from a positive perspective will generate energy and spark creativity for finding solutions. Today’s leader views every problem as an opportunity to increase profitability, strengthen skills, promote relationship-building, satisfy the customer, and build support for the organization’s goals