Exercise 7.2. Identifying Effective Strategies for Multicultural TeamsKristin Behfar, Mary Kern, and

Exercise 7.2. Identifying Effective Strategies for Multicultural TeamsKristin Behfar, Mary Kern, and

Exercise 7.2. Identifying Effective Strategies for Multicultural TeamsKristin Behfar, Mary Kern, and Jeanne M. Brett(Reprinted by permission of the authors)Directions: To begin this exercise read “Part 1. Four Types of Strategy for Multicultural Teams.†You may want to print out the definitions of these strategies, because in Part 2 you will need to choose a management strategy to handle each of eighteen real multicultural team challenges. Following the challenges is Part 3, a description of our research methods, which involved an analytical technique called concept mapping. You can read the research methods section before or after completing the problems.Your instructor can give you further information about what the team(s) actually did in the face of these challenges.Part 1. Four Types of Strategy for Multicultural TeamsPlease read the definitions of the strategies for intervention.Structural Intervention. Structural interventions are deliberate reorganizations or reassignments of roles or group members in order to reduce interpersonal friction or remove a source of conflict or of advantage or disadvantage for one or more subgroups. These interventions can be initiated by either team members or managers.Adaptation. Adaptation refers to team member actions that find alternative working arrangements or address challenges without the intervention of a manager. That is, the team finds a way to either change or work with or around the challenge. This can include adapting work practices or attitudes but not making changes to the group membership or role assignments.Managerial Intervention. Managerial intervention refers to arbitration or resolution of a problem by a manager or leader. For example, the leader may break a stalemate, make a final decision, or choose a solution for the team to perform. In essence, the manager creates the solution and the team follows. Managerial interventions are typically one-time interventions and are not negotiated by the team.Exit. Exit means that one or more team members leave the team or organization. This represents a lack of resolution or lack of a strategy to effectively address the challenge.Part 2. The ProblemsFor each problem, study the “Challenge†and consider the pros and cons of each of the four management strategies for intervening in the challenge.Problem Cluster 1: Thought You Had an AgreementProblem 7.1. Communication Gaps.Project. “My job as engineer was to do a checkout of the refinery I was working at in China. And they had a lot of problems and safety hazards. So we would do a punch list to document the problems and then try to get them to fix everything that was a problem.â€Team. “In addition to myself, there were three people who worked around the clock doing shift work and a chief process adviser who was like the head representative at site. We also had some other technical people that came and went over the course of the job. On the Chinese side were lower-level people that operated the plant, and the maintenance people. It was actually very easy to deal with them other than the technical barrier and the language barrier. The upper management was more difficult. I’m not sure if it was a political issue or if they just felt a higher level of arrogance or ego, but they were the ones that gave us the problems.â€Challenge. “So even though we were trying to help them, it turned into a political issue where it was more important for them to save face for their own nationality or their own company rather than actually submit and fix the problems. [It was] a clash of egos, and we were trying to do due diligence, whereas they were more concerned about saving face.â€Your Answer?Problem 7.2. “Meant to Tell You It Can’t Be Done.â€Project. “We were launching a gift card. In order to hit the peak season, we needed to have that product out [by the] end of November.â€Team. “I’m a [bank] product manager and I also manage projects. One [team member was a] gentleman whose dominant culture was Colombian and was one level above me. He was responsible for all of our advertising and marketing design and production. There was a female from Puerto Rico, also a manager, one level above me, working in the balance and control department. The third member of the team was a gentleman who grew up in Puerto Rico. He was my level; we worked in the same department, and he had experience with the issue that was at hand. So our manager brought him onto the project as a guide. [The fourth and last team member] was a gentleman whose dominant culture was Indian. He was a manager one level above me with the technology group. He was a liaison with our outsource vendor. So it was his responsibility to make sure all of the programming was done so that the reporting that we needed was transmitted at the right time. We were all onsite in the U.S.â€Challenge. “If somebody says something is finished, I consider it finished—it doesn’t have to be completely overhauled or have another week or two weeks’ worth of meetings to address some sort of an issue. A lot of times they would test something, it didn’t work, and then they would stop but never let me know.â€Your Answer?Problem Cluster 2: Direct Versus Indirect ConfrontationProblem 7.3. Delivering Bad News.Project. “We had a program going on in the U.S., a new product that we were trying to launch. The project was to interface with the India team and to get a major component actually designed and manufactured in India. Goals were getting a cost reduction for the overall product itself [and] transferring expertise and knowledge to the India team—getting them up to speed on what the whole thing was about.â€Team. “The lead was a U.S. manager in [the] U.S. The interviewee was also in the U.S., of Indian background, and felt the India team treated him as an American. [Team members in India included] four from India and one from France.â€Challenge. “In the U.S., even though it’s bad news, people are more open to saying [something like], ‘This part of the program has a lot of risks, and just today I found a few more issues and that are going to delay the program by so many weeks.’ [In the United States], I think people are a lot more open to saying that [in India].â€Your answer?Problem 7.4. Passive-Aggressive Team Member Behavior.Project. Sales team.Team. Manager and interviewee, Mexican-American; other members South African, Romanian, African American, and Filipino-Thai.Challenge. “One guy who is half Filipino and half Thai, he even said that he tends to be a little more passive-aggressive at times. He equated that to his Filipino culture and his Filipino upbringing that they tend to be a little more passive-aggressive, he kind of expected you to understand that. And a lot of the times we don’t understand how he’s feeling so it gets to almost like a tipping point to where he’s kind of had enough and it’ll escalate almost into an argument at times. He has a hard time verbalizing.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 3: Norms for Problem Solving and Decision MakingProblem 7.5. Explicit Directions.Project. “I had to make sure that we had technical infrastructure (servers, software, interfacing to other systems, and so on) in place for the project that we worked on. Onshore resources in Japan were responsible for all of the master data that needed to be loaded into the system for, say, customer ship-tos and bill-tos and anything [involved in] the order-to-cash process.â€Team. “Myself [U.S. female] and three Japanese members [male] [with whom I worked]. I know there were more people on this project, but they don’t let you have access to people directly. They’ll interface for you.â€Challenge. “The need to follow the direction from the top is explicit in Japan. If the president or leader of the company mandates an action, process, procedure, or policy, it is considered ‘law.’ The protocol is strict. Hierarchical structure shall not be deviated from. Whatever way the leader says, goes. No one bucks the system, even if it causes hardship. If hardship occurs, employees are expected to endure the hardship.â€Your answer?Problem 7.6. No Initial Agreement.Project. “It was Bosnia 1996. A peacekeeping effort to do the first mass grave exhumation in Bosnia.â€Team. “Really a challenge because none of the four countries had really worked closely together in peacekeeping operations. And the first time that four large countries like that had taken a step together in Bosnia to put a team together and do something jointly as opposed to the U.S. doing something or the Russians doing something. I think the U.S. had been there at that point probably about four months, and we were forming a team with the U.S., Germany, Turkey, and Russia.â€Challenge. “We didn’t initially have agreement on where we were going. We would sit down and kind of talk about the pros and cons of the situations. There were some heated moments.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 4: Time, Urgency, and PaceProblem 7.7. Timeline.Project. “The project was relatively high-dollar, lots of people, lots of visibility. We were looking for commonalities of process; for opportunities for us to consolidate things that happen to be done differently in different places.â€Team. “The team was three people: one from the U.S., one from Germany, one from India. People lived in their respective countries and were flown in to work on the project.â€Challenge. “We did not come up with a timeline. . . . [Higher-ups] would say for us to accomplish fourteen to fifteen [units], and we figured a year and a half. The U.S. guy would say, ‘Well, it’s probably four to five months. It’s not a big deal. It’ll be simple.’ There was never really an agreement on that.â€Your answer?Problem 7.8. Pressure to Make Something Happen.Project. “As an international marketing manager I cover the Asia Pacific region from North America. One of my recent jobs was to negotiate a custom software feature package for our customer in Japan.â€Team. “Members of the team were myself and a salesman who was part of my company, but located in Tokyo, and the customer, our contact at the customer’s end, whom I also consider part of the team. And we also had executives who were pretty much riding each of us. So we had three workers and three executives. One executive was in Japan, one was in Singapore, and one was in [the] U.S. We were trying to negotiate price and contents of the custom work for this customer.â€Challenge. “My boss was just frustrated. He didn’t understand the situation, didn’t have patience for it. So he put a lot of pressure on me to make something materialize that couldn’t possibly materialize. We had an ongoing relationship [with the Japanese]. You can’t just pressure somebody, no matter who they are, into doing something before they are ready. It’s like a marriage, and he [the boss] was pretty short term. I think basically Japan, all of Asia really, has a long-term view of things, and the U.S. is very quarterly–based, especially in the last couple of years.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 5: Differences in Work Norms and BehaviorsProblem 7.9. Outlining a Business Concept.Project. “The team was to outline what the business concept would be to take our existing business to Japan. And that involved an eight-month-long project. Four months living in Japan and using experts and associates and senior consultants from this consulting firm based in Tokyo and then also some of their retail experts throughout the world. And we would do everything from consumer research to competitive analysis to considering mergers and acquisitions.â€Team. “The team consisted of myself, a female and one of the youngest members on the team, by twenty years. Three older gentlemen from my company and then our counterparts on the consulting side consisted of an engagement manager who was from Germany, but fluent in English and had been living in the United States for three years, a Canadian consultant who was based out of Ontario, then two Japanese consultants, as well as all the experts in Japan that we would interact with.â€Challenge. “Japanese associates would definitely not participate when the group got bigger than a few. [They] would not speak on topics that weren’t their responsibility.â€Your answer?Problem 7.10. Attention to the Process.Project. “It was a consulting project supporting our client, which was a French-Dutch merger. We were supporting both sides.â€Team. “The team was working a few days a week in the Netherlands and a few days in France with a French leader and another French consultant, and myself (Dutch).â€Challenge. “What I saw in France was that the people were really paying a lot of attention to the process. I think the way we work with clients in Holland is more direct. We really believe that [we wouldn’t do] something if it would not make sense to do it. We couldn’t go that route. I saw in France that the way they work with their clients is much more like doing whatever they say for the sake of process and making sure that they comfort the client in any case.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 6: Violations of Respect and HierarchyProblem 7.11. Low Level Over High Level.Project. An audit project in Panama.Team. Asian, Latin American, and U.S. nationals.Challenge. “Because it was an American project, there were times when Latin American people who were higher in the hierarchy in their office would be working for people who were lower in the hierarchy in the American company. For people of American culture, this was not so bad because they said, ‘Well we’re in a different country.’ I think for Latin American people it was sort of a double-edged sword.â€Your answer?Problem 7.12. Contacting Top Management.Project. “Due diligence for the acquisition of a Korean company by an American company.â€Team. “Korean investment bankers (interviewee was Korean), representing the Korean seller. Also on the team were Americans from a U.S. bank representing the U.S. buyer.â€Challenge. “U.S. people tried to contact the top management [of the Korean firm] directly. That really didn’t turn out well. The top management in the Korean firm, they’re really high-level managers, and there is a certain amount of respect, certain processes that they expect people to go through before they actually get contacted and work on the issue. But the U.S. company circumvented the bankers and the working-level people on the due diligence team. The high-level Korean management was pissed because they’d got a call (from the Americans) saying this is not working out, what’s happening. And that was somewhat of an affront to them. The working-level people (at the Korean bank) were also very concerned because they were in a very hierarchical structure. Just the fact that something like that (this is not working out) was communicated to higher management of the client firm was a blow to their (the Korean bankers) credibility.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 7: Intergroup PrejudicesProblem 7.13. Peacekeeping Operations.Project. “It was Bosnia 1996. A peacekeeping effort to do the first mass grave exhumation in Bosnia.â€Team. “Really a challenge because none of the four countries had really worked closely together in peacekeeping operations. And the first time that four large countries like that had taken a step together in Bosnia to put a team together and do something jointly as opposed to the U.S. doing something or the Russians doing something. I think the U.S. had been there at that point probably about four months, and we were forming a team with the U.S., Germany, Turkey, and Russia.â€Challenge. “Everyone kind of viewed the Turks as a second-class military. The Germans and the Russians didn’t really hit it off too well. And we [Americans] were viewed with kind of different levels of trust or skepticism by everybody else.â€Your answer?Problem 7.14. Too Many Contracts?Project. An investment banking team representing a Korean seller to a Chinese buyer.Team. “[The] interviewee was Korean, working for a Korean bank representing the Korean seller. Also on the team were Chinese from a Chinese bank representing the Chinese buyer.â€Challenge. “There was an incredible amount of distress between [the two companies]. Even though they wanted the deal, and it should happen for the good of both, they had a hard time. There were lots of contracts, and the Chinese company was like, ‘If you had trust in us, you would not ask us for these kind of contracts or these continuous contracts to be signed or certain deposits to be made. If you want this deal to go through and you don’t trust us, how can we work with you?’ The Korean company is, ‘Well, we had a bad experience before and this is just so that you guarantee that you go through with your agreement. I don’t understand why you won’t be able to do this.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 8: Lack of Common GroundProblem 7.15. Crude Language.Project. To develop and implement systems for customers in the field.Team. Software engineers from Ireland, India, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and the United States. All were hired for their technical competency, not their English-language skills.Challenge. “[One] person’s language was crude and direct and at times offended other people in the team, making inappropriate jokes [about cultural differences].â€Your answer?Problem 7.16. Dealing with Perception.Project. “The team was to outline what the business concept would be to take our existing business to Japan. And that involved an eight-month-long project. Four months living in Japan and using experts and associates and senior consultants from this consulting firm based in Tokyo and then also some of their retail experts throughout the world. And we would do everything from consumer research to competitive analysis to considering mergers and acquisitions.â€Team. “The team consisted of myself, a female and one of the youngest members on the team, by twenty years. Three older gentlemen from my company and then our counterparts on the consulting side consisted of an engagement manager who was from Germany, but fluent in English and had been living in the United States for three years, a Canadian consultant who was based out of Ontario, then two Japanese consultants, as well as all the experts in Japan that we would interact with.â€Challenge. “So it was a struggle. Because you are dealing with subtlety. You are dealing with perception. You know there’s knowledge that she (the Japanese consultant) has, but because she’s in the culture, she has preconceived ideas of what she should find. And because we’re coming from another culture, we have preconceived ideas of what we should find. And so sometimes it was difficult when interpreting the data about what it (the data) really meant or what was the most important issue.â€Your answer?Problem Cluster 9: Fluency, Accents, and VocabularyProblem 7.17. Outsourced Calling.Project. “The team was making phone calls to customers to collect delinquent bills.â€Team. “I was the accounts receivable manager for my business. I had twenty-six people in India working for me. I never met them. They actually didn’t work for my company but for an outsourcing company.â€Challenge. “We certainly had issues with having them call our customers. I don’t care if you say you’re Sue from Indiana, they know you’re not. And our customers are—I’m in the rail business and our customers are very old boy. I got a lot of negative feedback. Most of it was, ‘we don’t understand what they’re saying’ because of the accent, especially over the phone. If you’re with someone, you can see them and you can understand better what they’re saying. But over the phone, especially over the phone lines to India, you’ve got an accent, you’ve got static, you’ve got ten thousand miles of fiberoptics.â€Your answer?Problem 7.18. I Know I Have an Accent.Project. To develop systems to sell and implement for customers in the field.Team. Software engineers from Ireland, India, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and the United States, all hired for their technical competency, not their English-language skills.Challenge. “There were people on the team who were not as used to dealing with foreigners, complaining about language issues, and saying that it is difficult.â€Your answer?Part 3. Research MethodsThe preceding challenge statements were drawn from a set of data that was gathered, analyzed, and finally clustered, using a method of qualitative data analysis known as concept mapping. Following an explanation of this process, we also describe how we arrived at the four types of strategy.Samples and ParticipantsWe conducted and recorded telephone interviews in English with forty members or managers of multicultural teams. We asked each interviewee to describe one or more challenging multicultural team experiences, saying that team members could be citizens of different countries (for example, the United States, India, or Japan) or citizens of the same country (for example, the United Kingdom) but with very different cultural backgrounds (for example, U.K.-Indian, U.K.-Russian, U.K.-American, and so on). We looked for teams that did at least part of their work face-to-face and did not interact exclusively via technology. The interviewer probed for details about the challenge, who was involved, what the cultural issues were, and what the team or team members did about the challenge.Interviewees came from multicultural teams in military, legal, high-tech, and business settings. They described challenges within their teams, challenges stemming from the need to coordinate between the team and other parts of the organization, and challenges stemming from the need to interact with clients, customers, or counterparts from other cultures.Most of the forty interviewees were employed full time; all were completing their M.B.A. degrees. The average age was twenty-nine; the average work experience was seven years. They had worked in a variety of countries on all continents except Antarctica. Culturally, 47 percent were American or Canadian, 15 percent were Latin American, 15 percent were Asian (including Indian and Turkish), and 23 percent were European.In selecting participants, we were not interested in how their culture of origin shaped their perceptions of challenges, but rather in the fact that they perceived there to be a challenge. Other than having participants from a variety of cultures, we were not concerned with participants’ cultures as an explanation for why they perceived a challenge. Our focus was on the challenges participants experienced and the strategies used to manage the challenges.We recruited participants through their association with international business coursework during their M.B.A. program. We used an online survey to prescreen participants for experience in multicultural teams. The team tasks that participants reported on included corporate (such as banking-finance or marketing, 44 percent); special projects (20 percent); technical (15 percent); consulting (13 percent); and military (8 percent).Prior to the interview, participants received an overview of the study, the interview protocol, and a consent form. The interviewer asked for verbal consent to participate and reminded the participants that the interview would be recorded and that no names should be used. All participants were entered into a lottery for one of four $150 prizes. Each author conducted about one-third of the interviews. All interviews were transcribed.Data AnalysisThere were three stages of data analysis: (1) identifying responses on the transcripts that represented specific challenges; (2) creating units of analysis; and (3) analyzing the data with the concept mapping method (Jackson and Trochim, 2002).Identifying Challenges and Creating Units of Analysis. Each researcher independently reviewed each transcript, marking passages that described a challenge and any corresponding passage about the management of that challenge. The rate of consistency between the three researchers in identifying the same passages was 77 percent. Passages were excluded from further analysis for one or the other of the following reasons—either the passage represented the same idea as another unanimously identified passage (repeated again in the transcript) or it did not really describe a challenge (it was more of a description of the team). This culling resulted in 160 passages.Next, two of the researchers read all the passages independently, looking for redundancy. Working together they deleted or merged twenty-two passages. They merged passages when there was complete redundancy with another passage from the same interview, and they deleted passages that did not describe a challenge (for example, when the interviewee talked about culture in general). These two researchers then lightly edited passages for clarity and simplicity (spelling was corrected, extraneous words were deleted, dropped words were put in brackets, and so on). The result was 138 statements about challenges faced by multicultural teams, an average of three to four statements per interview. These statements became our units of analysis.Statements were typically one to four sentences long and represented one idea about a challenge experienced by a multicultural team. For example, “In South America . . . when we go into a meeting, we don’t eat and drink. . . . here is different ([people from the] U.S. eat and drink during brainstorming meetings). . . . I think that at some point maybe the internationals look at each other like, ‘Hey these guys are not taking this as seriously as I am . . . or what’s wrong with this guy coming here with a sandwich and eating over the computer and having a conversation at the [same] time he eats?’â€Here is another statement example: “The level of commitment and your word meaning something was different. So in the U.S. I don’t think our words are a promise. When I say ‘Yeah, I’ll get it to you on Friday,’ and perhaps it’s a week late, there is no penalty. However in Japan, if they say, ‘Yes, I will place the P.O. in six months,’ they mean it. You can take it to the bank. It’s going to be there, and if it wasn’t they would lose face. Every time I would go back, or our president would go back, and ask for the P.O., they would say, ‘We told you it would be six months, don’t you believe us?’ In effect, we were being rude to them by continuing to ask.â€Concept Mapping and Clustering Challenges. The next step in the analysis was concept mapping or “participatory content analysis†(Jackson and Trochim, 2002). It is a hybrid of traditional content analysis and semantic mapping analysis. We chose this method because our research objective was to identify the different types of challenges faced by multicultural teams and then associate those challenges with the strategies used to address them. We judged that forcing responses to fit an a priori category scheme (such as with traditional content analysis) would introduce an unacceptable level of researcher bias.Concept mapping as applied to qualitative data analysis (Jackson and Trochim, 2002) combines exploratory statistical analysis (multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis) with the judgments of those doing the concept mapping to produce clusters of similar thematic categories. The analysis is a five-step process: (1) determining units of analysis, (2) sorting units, (3) multidimensional scaling analysis, (4) cluster analysis, and (5) cluster labeling.1. Determining Units of Analysis. We described this step earlier. Each unit (each statement of a challenge) was given a random number and placed on an index card.2. Sorting Units. To avoid introducing researcher bias into the analysis, we did not do this sorting ourselves. Instead, we used twenty M.B.A. students as sorters—excluding any who had been interview participants, in order to protect their privacy (Jackson and Trochim, 2002)—because they were reasonable proxies for the original participants in terms of their work experience and coursework. We chose M.B.A. students who had completed coursework related to understanding cultural issues.We instructed them to sort the 138 index cards into piles based on their judgment of the similarity between statements. We did not limit the number of piles sorters could create (they created piles ranging in number from five to thirty-one). The only limitation was that they could not create a miscellaneous pile. If a statement did not fit with any other, sorters were instructed to leave the statement in its own pile. We also asked sorters to name each pile.3. Multidimensional Scaling Analysis. Next we ran a multidimensional scaling analysis (MDS) on the sorted data to create a visual display or map of conceptual similarity among the statements based on the aggregated similarity judgments of the sorters. We constructed a 138 x 138 binary square matrix (rows and columns represent statements) for each sorter. Cell values represented whether the sorter placed a pair of statements into the same pile (1) or not (0). The sorters’ twenty individual matrices were aggregated to serve as the matrix input into MDS. The MDS solution generated coordinate estimates for each statement and a two-dimensional map of distances between the statements. The final stress value was .33 after nine iterations, indicating a reasonable fit of the map to the similarity matrix that came directly from the sorters for a two-dimensional solution (Davidson, 1982). We chose a two-dimensional solution because it provides the most useful foundation for the next step in this type of tex

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