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Benefits of Global Teams

Discuss about the Collaboration Challenges For Global Organization.

Currently, there is a growing use of global teams as a form of strategic human resource framework among multinational corporations (Cordery et al. 2009). These teams are often formed across several temporal, cultural and geographical confines for the purpose of accessing human resource pools that are strewn around the world, with the sole purpose of improving organizational performance, and enabling quick revolution. Similarly, global teams are formed with the aim of targeting specific expertise without being confined to location, and accessing the pools of knowledge in other parts of the organization that would lead to greater efficiency, even in different time zones (Briscoe, Schuler & Tarique 2011). Despite the fact that global teams present greater promise in harmonizing work across international platforms, they are also often derailed with the challenges of collaborating with one another in form of communication, and the transfer of knowledge. Previous research materials indicate that there are quite a number of difficulties when it comes to managing global teams, and several other interpersonal instruments that could be employed in overcoming them, thus ensuring the proper functioning of global teams (Caligiuri & Bonache 2010). The purpose of this research is therefore to build a team with individuals from a diverse culture so as to improve business efficiency, and develop effective processes.

Global teams are a rich resource for viewpoints in organizations. This is due to the fact that members belonging to global teams come from different cultures, and each of them brings with them a unique approach and perspective to dealing with challenges. According to Hoffman (1961), a diverse workforce more commonly avails a broader range of skills, opinions, and knowledge in comparison to homogenous groups. As such, multicultural groups tend to perform better as compared to homogenous groups because they possess a richer collection of different positive aspects, which more commonly results in the development of new methods for dealing with difficult situations (White 2014). The objective of this project is therefore to enable the building of global teams for the purpose of improving the efficiency of organizations through the proper use of a variety of viewpoints.

Both global and domestic teams are commonly plagued by similar problems, such as, the poor alignment of goals among the team members, absence of the required knowledge and skillset, and poor clarity when it comes to the team objectives. However, global teams face even more challenges due to the disparities in language, and culture (DuFrene & Lehman 2012). The scope of this project is therefore to analyse the challenges faced by members from different countries and cultures that belong to similar workplaces for the purpose of improving the operations of a multinational company.

Challenges Faced by Global Teams

Communication barriers in global business teams are resultant of the disparities in language, geography and culture. For instance, with regard to members living in different geographical locations, the team is likely to experience difficulties brought about by the different time zones and conflicting work schedules. As such, simple tasks, such as setting up a team meeting could pose as a significant logistical challenge. While there are numerous technological devices that could enable team members to work together regardless of the difference in location, such solutions should be used to compliment rather than completely substitute team meetings. Similarly, face to face meetings improve trust and familiarity among team members, which is not often evident in the more virtual meetings. For example, failure to witness other members’ body language could negatively influence reactions, thus limiting the team’s emotional dimensions (Rodrigues & Sbargia 2013).

Language barriers in global teams is inability to properly understand what a team member is saying based on their country of origin. If left unaddressed, it is highly likely to create an atmosphere that is not conducive to the proper sharing of different perspectives, thus creating challenges in the formation of solutions (Momjian 2017).

Trust, being another important factor in the productiveness of global teams, should be facilitated to ensure proper cooperation and minimal conflict. This is because every member of a global team brings with them a distinct cognitive aspect to the group. If trust is incorporated effectively, the results will enable increased diversity that brings about relevant synergies, and a collective resource of knowledge that is far more superior in comparison to the mindset of an individual (Bui 2017). On the other hand, the absence of mutual trust causes team members to exclude themselves from reaching their maximum potential in the team. As such, global teams are highly prone to issues of trust, as governed by certain individual characteristics, like personal value of effective communication, and opinions of the institution’s broad goals (Iorio & Taylor 2015).

Cultural barriers originate from the different cultures, and more often result in inconsistencies in norms, values, perspectives, individual character and behaviour, and any other collective cultural norm integrated into the processes of decision making. Similarly, national culture strongly influences the values and behaviours of global teams that are often located in one geographical area (Cordery et al. 2009). Hofstede (2001) has categorised national culture in five different dimensions (see appendix 1) – uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, short term versus long term orientation, power distance, and masculinity/femininity; the most relevant of which are discussed below (Hofstede 2017).

Strategies for Managing Global Teams

Power distance is individual or collective belief with regard to the effectiveness of small or large differences in authority figures as stipulated within the members of a society or specified group. In cultures accustomed to low power distances, there is need to minimize inequality so that people in more superior positions can be easily accessed. In societies with high power distances, those in authority are often entitled to more privileged because the society has accepted power to be a basic fact in their culture (Hofstede 2017).

Uncertainty avoidance is based on the degree to which people accept or agree with ambiguity in work settings. For example, in societies with low avoidance, there is minimal concentration on regulations, the young population is relatively more trusting, emotions are very rarely conveyed, and certain levels of deviation from tasks are tolerated (Shachaf 2008). In contrast, cultures with significantly high uncertainty avoidance value their leaders, show great value for those who work hard, and give emphasis to consensus (Hofstede 2017).

Lastly, individualism/collectivism is a dimension that deals with the aspirations and needs of people to get priority in comparison to others’ needs. In cultures that value individualism, great value is given to freedom, privacy, personal achievement, and individual autonomy. Conversely, collectivistic cultures give great value to welfare, and ensure that team responsibilities remain as a collective task (Sole & Edmondson 2008).

Global teams often dal with complications in form of tasks, restrictions to different geographical contexts, diversity brought about by the background of team members, difference brought about by time zones, and dependence on communication technology (Momjian 2017). This section therefore reviews the background of the topic, main key challenges encountered by global teams, and a discussion of the techniques that could be used to properly manage global teams.

Previous literature suggests that there are a number of communication challenges when it comes global, or virtual global teams. There are reduced non-verbal and physical aspects in teams with geographical restrictions and technological mediation, such as, poor establishment of individual attributes, and communication barriers in other contexts (Sole & Edmondson 2008). This distribution of team members in different time zones or work settings leads to challenges with regard to time management and allocation of responsibility, thereby leading to increased stress among team members. Similarly, cultural diversity often leads to increased conflict and faultiness among individual members in different cultures and countries as seen in their different attitudes, values, character, and institutional geographical restrictions (Sole & Edmondson 2008).

Importance of Diversity in Team Composition

Due to the fact that globalizations occur in a continuous attempt to access the opportunities dominant in the different parts of the world, global teams therefore have the ability to cater for the demands and needs of its unique markets (Horwitz & Santillan 2012). These teams also aid organizations in developing better relationships within its international markets. Multinational companies also often develop international research teams so as to reap the benefits of expertise that is not often found in one locale, but is instead found in several areas around the world. Additionally, other companies have developed global teams in certain areas of function, including, marketing and sales, for the purpose of having them act as representatives of that specific task globally as a collaborative team. In doing so, organizations are able to profit from the diversity that is brought about by certain services and opinions that can properly fulfil the requirements of a global client, wherever they may be (Cordery et al. 2009).

Global team members more commonly display dispositional in comparison to situational aspects when it comes to dispersed team members due to their limited knowledge of the local specifications of their co-workers and their work restrictions (Dulebohn & Hoch 2017). As such, they more commonly attribute any inconsistencies of any distant team members and colleagues to their personal characters, while excusing their own discrepancies to geographical factors. This nature of quick judgement against others often leads to increased conflict and mistrust.  Similarly, there is great challenge in knowledge sharing across different geographical borders. The geographical distance between team members also makes it difficult for them to take part in any informal encounters that could lead to better communication, hence leading to inconsistent levels of commitment, and the sharing of unique individual expertise (Rodrigues & Sbargia 2013).

The concepts of international mindset, cultural intelligence and agility have both been widely researched with regard to leadership; however it is yet to be applied to any global team processes. Caliguiri (2012) suggests that cultural agility is an important skill among global business team members, such as, top level managers who are often tasked with the more strategic aspects of organizational functions, generally receive more training in supervision and organizational development, as compared to other low level team members. Global mindset has also been perceived as an important aspect among global managers, and not among other global team members (Iorio & Taylor 2015). To expand these concepts to other team members with regard to creating a more diverse team composition presents a potential gap that could be used for future research on the subject matter. This would increase the potential for team members to work with others who are culturally different, thereby leading to more positive outcomes in form of creativity and performance (Caligiuri & Bonache 2010).

Diversity in multiple levels of organizations has an influence on organizational results. Stahl et al (2009) established that managing team heterogeneity has an influence on a company’s competitive edge. General sources also reveal the presence of a distinction in the visible, like character gender and nationality, and the invisible that are more task-related, such as education and expertise, since diversification on these grounds can yield significantly positive team results (Stahl et al. 2009). This therefore drives the body of the primary question of this project -- What are the influences of team composition?

Other prominent secondary research questions are:

  1. Is there an impact on project outcomes and the level of fulfilment of team members with regard to cultural disparity?
  2. Are there major challenges in global team composition, and its impact in project outcome and the level of fulfilment of team members?

Being that this phenomenon has not been properly analysed via a quantitative research approach, hypothesis testing does not apply in this scenario. This project will therefore adopt a qualitative research design to allow for the examination of different theoretical propositions using the collected material sources. Qualitative research is also relevant being that this project seeks to study the different aspects of social relationships in a global team. The research will utilise a comprehensive theoretical framework, as proposed by Pare and Dube, to include the factors, like team composition, project outcomes, group member attributes, and work environment (Vinaja 2012).

There are countable studies that focus on the issues based on multicultural teams. This project will therefore also empirically investigate any multicultural difficulties encountered in global teams, be it virtual or not (Ailon 2008). The research will consist of multiple study cases of a sample consisting of middle and top level managers in maquiladoras and other multinational companies-- that is at least 5 organizations. The sample will entail nationals from three different countries, and will be gathered through a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews coded to fit the purpose. The interviews will be tailored to identify the relevant key challenges in global multicultural teams. This is so as to properly develop deep insights that could be later used to develop hypotheses. Standard blind translation processes will be used to ensure reliability and validity. The original interview will be translated by an interpreter into the necessary languages, and later back-translated by another interpreter to ensure that all instruments bear the original and intended meaning (Vinaja 2012).

Maquiladoras to be used are manufacturing and assembly industries that were set up in 1965 to create more employment in Mexico. The plants are located in the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border, and have greatly encouraged the opening of assembly plants in Mexico. Most of these plants are Japanese owned; hence the interview instrument will be catered to the three nations – the United States, Mexico, and Japan (Vinaja 2012).

The control study will be undertaken using a sample involving graduate students from both Mexico and the United States. However, unlike the study proposed by Vinaja (2012), the students used will consist of those that have recently entered real life situations that are relevant to the study. They will be grouped into virtual teams that are culturally diverse, and the data will be collected via email (Stahl et al. 2010).

The important independent variables consist of cultural distance. It will be used to analyse whether or not it is equivalent across the relevant cultures. Similarly, dependent variables entail team composition, performance, and level of fulfilment. Performance will be measured using outcomes, like time, participation, quick consensus, member involvement, and the quality of decisions made (Cordery et al. 2009).

The interviews carried out will initially be transcribed, and the examined several times so as to identify evident patterns and hidden meanings. For the purpose of data analysis, the project will focus on a thematic concept which will entail a method for the identification, examination and recording of any patterns in the data collected. Any themes identified will act as important aspects in the data that should be connected in line with the research questions, and will thus be indicative of any meanings that are highly likely to reappear and create certain patterns throughout the data.

The analysis is therefore basically inductive since throughout the entire coding process, it will be guided by the aforementioned research questions. The entire project of analysis will also strive to remain objective; as such, the coding of the interview questions will entail grouping responses codes of sub themes that are governed by factors identified as management challenges for the managers and project managers. Such codes will consist of comments that are classified under verbal and non-verbal cues, such as, poor posture, poor reactions, and lack of trust, minimal communication, and poor relationship building. Eventually, the aforementioned coding aspects will be focused on, and will be used to generate any patterns of factors that have led to the challenges in the management of global teams.

The managers that will be involved in the study are unanimous, as such there is great difficulty in the way in which they internalise or generate knowledge based on international experience and any multicultural competence. In addition, cultural issues are intangible and are therefore relatively difficult to measure, and register. As such, other sources as acquired from the human resource department will have to be included (DuFrene & Lehman 2012).

The tasks will most likely be performed in parallel. The summary below is therefore an estimate of the time schedule for the entire research, and the progress to be expected for any update reports and the writing of the paper.

TASK

TIME PROGRESS

Report

2 months

Data collection

2 months

Creating a framework

3 months

Data analysis

3 months

Compiling thesis

3 months

TOTAL

13 months

Conclusion

It is common for multicultural issue to arise on global teams. For global teams that have to interact virtually, there are more challenges that that may be presented by communication tools across national borders. Virtual and multinational corporations should therefore fid ways on handling the effects of culture on a global team’s dynamics, trust and general performance. However, there are still several areas in the use of virtual teams that may need further attention and examination in order to make them even more successful in the near future (Iorio & Taylor 2015).

Reference List

Ailon, G 2008, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall: Culture’s consequences in a value test of its own design', Academy of Management Review, vol 4, no. 33, pp. 885-904.

Briscoe, D, Schuler, R & Tarique, I 2011, International Human Resource Management, 4th edn, Routledge, New York.

Bui, B 2017, Collaboration Challenges for Global Organization with Distributed Personnel, University of Oregon, Oregon.

Caligiuri, P & Bonache, D 2010, Managing the Global Workforce, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Cordery, J, Soo, C, Kirkman, B, Rosen, B & and Mathieu, J 2009, 'Leading Parallel Global Virtual Teams', Organizational Dynamics, pp. 204-216.

DuFrene, DD & Lehman, CM 2012, 'Growth in popularity of virtual teams.', Managing virtual teams, pp. 3-10.

Dulebohn, JH & Hoch, JE 2017, 'Virtual teams in organizations', Human Resource Management Review.

Hofstede, G 2017, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, New edn, Sage, Thousand Oaks, California.

Horwitz, SK & Santillan, C 2012, 'Knowledge sharing in global virtual team collaboration: Applications of CE and thinkLets ', Knowledge Management Research & Practice, vol 4, no. 10, pp. 342-353.

Iorio, J & Taylor, JE 2015, 'Precursors to engaged leaders in virtual project teams.', International Journal of Project Management, vol 33, no. 2, pp. 395-405.

Momjian, B 2017, Managing Global Teams, EDB Postgres.

Rodrigues, I & Sbargia, R 2013, 'The cultural challenges of managing global project teams: a study of brazilian multinationals', Journal of Technology Management and Innovation, pp. 4-4.

Shachaf, P 2008, 'Cultural diversity and information and communication technology impacts on global virtual teams: An exploratory study', Information & Management, , vol 2, no. 45, pp. 131-142.

Sole, D & Edmondson, A 2008, 'Situated knowledge and learning in dispersed teams’, British Journal of Management', British Journal of Management, pp. 17-34.

Stahl, G, Makela, K, Zander, L & Maznevski, M 2010, 'A look at the bright side of multicultural team diversity', Scandinavian Journal of Management, pp. 439-447.

Stahl, G, Maznevski, M, Voigt, A & Jonsen, K 2009, 'Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: A meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups', Journal of International Business Studies, pp. 690-709.

Vinaja, R 2012, 'Major Challenges in Multicultural Vurtual Teams', University of Texas-Pan-American, pp. 6-8.

White, M 2014, 'The management of virtual teams and virtual meetings', Business Information Review, vol 2, no. 31, pp. 111-117.

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