International Teams

by NEAL R. GOODMAN, Ph.D., President

The Challenge

Has your organization launched global product teams? Are you developing a shared vision to span the globe?
Do you have international project teams? Is your company initiating international policies, standards and practices?

Are your international teams dealing with issues of trust, respect and competency?
Are key executives and managers working around the globe?
Are your team members from many different countries and cultures?

When International teams are formed, team members don’t necessarily recognize the impact that their different attitudes, perceptions and assumptions may have on their teamwork. Invisible cultural forces profoundly affect the team’s goals as well as day-to-day functioning. Each team member’s style of thinking and communicating is significantly affected by their cultural upbringing. Issues of leadership, power and control, decision-making, trust and respect take on different meanings and significance in international teams.

Most International Teams Work Well Below Their Peak Efficiency – Why?
The primary cause of failure in international teams is not a lack of intelligence or technical skills. Misunderstandings and differences in perceptions and expectations create a lack of trust and mutual respect which reduce productivity and effectiveness. For these reasons many organizations are providing international team building programs to those working on international teams.

Int’l Teambuilding Programs (ITP)
An organization’s international team members are the key players who determine the success or failure of the organizations’ global strategies. An ITP teaches team members to expand their thinking and communication patterns, providing them with the skills to build strong, productive, stable international teams. Effective ITPs uncover the invisible cultural domain that underpins team interactions and transactions. There must be a focus on the cross-cultural problem-solving skills that are essential in fast-paced, rapidly changing international markets.

Special emphasis should be given to the skills needed to work and communicate effectively in international teams. With more geographically dispersed teams becoming the norm, attention must be given to culturally appropriate e-mail protocols, the timing of conference calls and teleconferences, and the need for face-to-face interaction. In a successful ITP, participants should learn about themselves and their own cultural attitudes and values. They also should learn to constructively adapt to their team members’ cultural expectations and needs.

Neal R. Goodman, Ph.D. is President of Randolph, New Jersey based Global Dynamics Inc., an international consulting firm that provides training and organization development solutions to global companies working across cultures. CRN is proud to present this first of a series of articles and information on this timely and important topic.