Intercultural team management key factors

What are the key factors an organization must take into account when assembling an intercultural team?

Creating an intercultural team can give an organization tremendous insight but can cause major frustration if not carefully thought out. The key factors that need to be taken into account when assembling an intercultural team are time management approaches, definition of identity, communication patterns, and modes of thinking differ between cultures.

Every culture views time differently. The German culture believes time is very scarce while the Spanish culture believes time is plentiful. This means the German people need deadlines and strict schedules while the Spanish would prefer a more relaxed time schedule. In order to work together on a team the Germans should allow more time to get know their co-workers and business partners. While the Spaniards should understand that they will have to reach deadlines in order to run a successful business. Another aspect of time management is living in the past, present, or future. The American culture spends most of its time living in the future, trying to achieve some goal. The Mexican culture spends most of their time in the present trying to absorb the moment. This could become a problem on an intercultural team if they don’t understand each other. They will have to achieve a balance of “living in the moment” while concentrating on future goals.

The definition of identity is whether a culture is individualistic of collectivistic. American culture is very individualistic. It can make it difficult for them to work on a team, especially with a collectivistic culture like China. Americans could find is difficult to always have to reach consensus with the group of Chinese individuals. To fix this problem they need to consider, from both sides, the importance of a consensus on the decision.

Communication patterns are extremely important when assembling an intercultural team. Some cultures prefer direct or indirect communication. Americans are very direct and can sometimes hurt other’s feelings. While Asian cultures are indirect and will often not say what they want leading to miscommunication. One way to help communicate what we need is to use non-violent communication. There are four steps to non-violent communication. The first is state your observation. Then say how you feel without any judgment. Step three is connect that feeling with a universal human need. Then state a request of what you want that person to do. For example, today I saw you on my computer. I am confused. I need to trust you. Can you please be honest with me and ask next time? Communication is key among teams, as a team you need to consider the goal of the team the top priority even if this means stepping outside your comfort zone and asking for what you need.

Modes of thinking differ from culture to culture and from person to person. Some people are inductive and need to start with experiences before creating theories. While deductive people start with theories rather than use experiences to see if they work. European culture is very deductive while South American cultures are very inductive. This can cause a problem when a team is trying to solve a problem together but can be very stimulating if you can get many different approaches. There is no way to change the way we think but we need to consider that not every culture holds the same value to time or identity. Nor do they communicate or think in the same manner as you or your culture. This is the most important thing to consider when assembling an intercultural team.

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