Multi-cultural Team Management

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Introduction

Team management in an organization is a difficult task and the difficulties arise because of the fact that different team members often hold different views. This is common because the thought processes, cultural backgrounds, knowledge and experience held by team members differ greatly. Perhaps culture is the most prominent cause of dissent in most teams set up to oversee any activity’s implementation or formulation. As such, any team management should take into account various factors that may affect the proper functioning of a team.


In this case study a team of twelve Nike employees have been assigned to conduct a feasibility study on how Nike could succeed in making a new product line of inexpensive shoes for the Brazilian market. This paper highlights the various challenges that this multi-cultural team may encounter and how these problems can be alleviated. The team comprises of three employees from both America and Brazil and two employees from each of Nike’s branches in England , China, and India.


As Hofstede (2003) notes people from different nations and cultures score differently on various indices that measure aspects such as individualism, collectivism, masculinity, power distance, long term orientation and uncertainty avoidance. The different scores on these indices indicate that the diversity in the team may not a source of synergy. Firstly, cultural diversity may present both negative and positive effects in this team because the team has people from five nations and these people have never been out of their country to gain experience into how to deal with any other culture apart from their own. Therefore, a multi-cultural team may have diverse and rich ideas, but it may fail to agree on certain ideas based on their different experiences. Therefore, a lack of consensus or at least the ability to reach a fast agreement may be the first problem. Secondly, miscommunication may present another challenge.


As a multi-cultural team they will be forced to communicate in a common language because each group may not have the common language as their first language. This may mean that not all team members can proficiently communicate in the common language, and as such their communications may be perceived differently by other members (Kottoli, 2006). Additionally, some cultures are more explicit in explanations while others presume the other party should get what is implied and thus they are less explicit.


Thirdly, teams having cultural diversity may lack trust. Mistrust is common in diverse groups compared to group with greater homogeneity. Work stress may result from poor communication/miscommunication and slow decision-making. This may result from the fact that some cultures do not openly air criticism, because of fear of jeopardizing the work relationship. This artificial behavior in multi-cultural groups may contribute to stress increase. Experience differences may also be a source of problem, for example the team members from Brazil may want to assert themselves in the decision-making process because the study is under their locale (Kottoli, 2006).


Despite the difficulties that such occurrences may cause, solutions to them can be sought and the team work synergy improved. Firstly, it would be good if the team members were offered training on cultural issues so that they can be well prepared to deal with others and at the same time know what to expect from certain cultures. This preparation may be essential for the team understanding of any problems that may arise from culture. The problem of miscommunication may be handled through training the members to prompt for more explicit details whenever they are not sure of a message, additionally, training session may be tailored for the same-where the members will learn how to enhance their communication skills for better cross-cultural communication.


Chances of mistrust occurring could be averted through the application of Tuck mans model of team building. Through the forming, storming and norming sessions the team members will be able to familiarize themselves with one another (forming) and during the storming (everyone will be able to bring every member’s opinion to his/her perspective for analysis) and finally, through norming a common goal can be reached and a way forward chartered. This model allows the team to transform by first initiating familiarization with each other in person and later with each others ideas and finally normalization and action. Breeding of familiarity helps the team members to understand each other better and open up to one another without fear  of criticism (Anonymous, 2009).


Conclusion

Notably, diversity in form of culture at the work place may both be a source of richness of ideas and minds, but it can also be the biggest hindrance to synergy and the ability to communicate, understand and decide effectively on any business process. As a result keen care and high management skills are required for the potential of management to be tapped. The best option to this would be the creation of familiarity and openness followed brainstorming that is done in an open atmosphere with no fear or reservations due to fear of criticism. This should however; be preceded by training on handling of multicultural issues and cross-cultural communication.


References

Anonymous (2009),. Famous Models: Stages of group development, on 19thhttp://www.chimaeraconsulting.com/tuckman.htm February, 2011 from

Hofstede, H. G. (2003),.Culture’s consequences: comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations, 3rd edition, SAGE Publication

Kottoli, A. (2006),. Thoughts on Marketing Innovation and leadership, retrieved on 19th February, 2011 from http://arunkottolli.blogspot.com/2006/11/challenges-of-multi-cultural-teams.html

 


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