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UME? SCHOOL OF BUSINESS UME? UNIVERSITY INT. BUSINESS CULTURE AND COMMUNICATION ARTICLE REVIEW LECTURER: HAMDE / NICOL UME?, 15-04-2009

BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE GLOBAL BUSINESS TEAM
by V. Govindarajan and A. K. Gupta MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2001, Vol. 42, Issue 4, p 63-71

WRITTEN BY

GAILHARD, JULIEN MITTELSTEN SCHEID, MATTHIAS KISKA, JIRI T?YR?, MALIN

Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

INDEX OF CONTEXT

1. 2. 3. 3.1. 3.1.1. 3.1.2. 3.1.3. 3.2. 4.

Introduction .................................................................................................................. 1 Article review ............................................................................................................... 1 Discussion of relevant issues ....................................................................................... 2 Communication barriers ............................................................................................... 2 Geographical barriers ................................................................................................... 2 Language barriers ......................................................................................................... 2 Cultural barriers ........................................................................................................... 3 Team Diversity ............................................................................................................. 3 Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 4

APPENDIX.................................................................................................................................... II I. A Framework for High-Performing Global Business Teams ...................................... II

REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................. III

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

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Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

1.

Introduction With this article review we want to investigate which challenges a multicultural business team can face in a global business world. For this we have chosen an article of V. Govindarajan and A. K. Gupta (2001), since it shows the problems surrounding the process of teambuilding in a multicultural business environment. Govindarajan and Gupta want to show how effective global business teams can be by recognizing the potential problems, be aware of the reasons that lead to the problems and handling these issues effectively towards their objectives. At first we give an article review (2). This is followed by a discussion of the relevant issues (3) such as problems due to communication (3.1) and diversity (3.2). At the end we finish our paper with a conclusion (4).

2.

Article review In order to build an effective business team the authors of the article starts with describing why global business teams fail. The first reason that is mentioned to why such teams can fail is that mutual trust is hard to achieve among team members. Three important factors that determinants how much trust people feel are the individuality of characteristics, quality of communication and the broader institutional context. The second reason to why teams fail they point out is obstacle in communication that can occur when it comes to building a team out of members that have different backgrounds. The barriers that have to be cut across are about geography, language and culture. After the authors have shown the common problems of communication and trust issues they give a framework for how high-performing global business teams should be created and managed; the following figure (Appendix I) will give the reader an overview about the steps within this framework. The first step is about team charter where it is important to set up clear and explicit objectives that each member knows the target of the project and its responsibility within this project. As well it ought to guarantee that there aren?t any misunderstandings regarding the content to ensure that every member aims for the same output. The second step towards building a high-performing global business team is selecting team members. When doing this the question of diversity is important to consider. The diversity is characterized by two perspectives: cognitive issues, the way members of the team reflect and perceive the process and the objectives; and behavioral issues regarding languages and norms. When it comes to defining the team size the optimum is often said to be the smallest number of people with required knowledge and skills. In order to manage these teams it?s crucial to select a suitable team leader and determine if there is a need for an external coach. The third step is set to be managing the team process. This is about facilitating open and rich communication between the members of the team and to building trust. In the end of the article the authors advise global business teams to follow these guidelines to be successful.

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

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Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

We will now proceed with emphasizing the relevant issues from the article that match the content of the module. 3. 3.1. Discussion of relevant issues Communication barriers

3.1.1. Geographical barriers Geographical barriers arise when people that live in different countries have to work together in a team. Two of the problems connected to geographical barriers are time zone differences and conflicting schedules. This makes face-to-face meetings difficult to arrange and advantages that are generated by reading the body language is harder to get.1 Beamer and Varner (2008) explain that high context cultures rely more on the context of the communication and body language is one important factor in their communication; the body language completes the meaning of the verbal communication. In contrast, low context cultures trust in the message to be direct and completely encoded in words. Examples for this are given by a comparison of Germany – standing for a low context culture - and Japan – representing a high context culture.2 We think that geographical barriers are more of a problem in high context cultures since the body language often can?t be interpreted. However, in our point of view today’s developed technologies decrease the problems geographical barriers can bring in these countries because of now given possibilities that through video conferences via internet enable partners to have a visual contact. 3.1.2. Language barriers Language barriers refer to inability to understand what another person is saying. We can distinguish between the situation were members of a group don?t have the suitable ability to communicate in one common language and the situation where they do have this ability but still problems occur due to different interpretations.3 The book says that traditionally, the official company language was the language of the home country. However that seems to be changing and English has become the most important international business language.4 We agree with the statement that English is nowadays the most important business language. We have noticed that every country is adapting their higher education towards the English language to make sure that people are familiar
1 2

V. Govindarajan, A. K. Gupta (2008), p. 64 L. Beamer, I. Varner (2008), p. 34 3 V. Govindarajan, A. K. Gupta (2008), p. 64 4 L. Beamer, I. Varner (2008), p. 61

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

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Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

with this before they enter the business world, this as a reaction to the demand of the labor market. Even if we agree with the statement that English might be the most important business language, we would also recommend business people to get knowledge of the Chinese language in order to take advantage of the potentials that lie within the country with the biggest population. This country can in the next decade expand to one of the biggest markets and by business people learning Chinese the language barrier would decrease. 3.1.3. Cultural barriers The third kind of barriers is based on cultural diversity. Cultural diversity can be described to be the different ways values and norms are formed and interpreted. Based on values and norms assumptions and patterns of behavioral are shaped.5 The connection of values and norms regarding to how they affect assumption and patterns of behavioral is also mentioned by Beamer and Varner (2008). They also emphasize that in the business context it is important to understand the differences that exists amongst people from different cultures. The culture of an individual influences the perspective of evaluating issues and rank what is important and what is not.6 Furthermore the article mentions differences between individualism and collectivism regarding decision making.7 As our group work is taking place in Sweden, which is mainly influenced by collectivism, and our team includes French, which are known for their individualism, we realize that cultural barriers can appear. However it depends on the members actions whether these differences will develop into barriers or strengths. Now that we?ve described the common problems surrounding cross cultural communication we will continue by focusing on diversities that arise in the teambuilding processes. 3.2. Team Diversity Nowadays where globalization affects most of the industries and multinational companies are getting more common the risks and opportunities of diversity are often discussed. Diversity within multinational companies arise and comes from the different origins of the team members regarding to their culture, their subsidiaries or their division. There are two kinds of diversities that can arise from these differences. The first one is called cognitive diversity and this refers to how people perceive challenges and opportunities and how they evaluate situations. Cognitive
5 6

V. Govindarajan, A. K. Gupta (2008), p. 65 L. Beamer, I. Varner (2008), p. 9 7 V. Govindarajan, A. K. Gupta (2008), p. 65

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

3

Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

diversity is seen by Govindarajan and Gupta (2008) as a strength. The second one is the behavioral diversity, seen as differences between language skills and norms that depend on each culture. Opposite to the cognitive diversity this is mentioned as a weakness that can be helped by multicultural experiences or language trainings.8 Beamer and Varner (2008) mention the advantages that arise from the globalization regarding cultural diversity within multinational teams. They see diversity as enrichment for the performance of the team but it is crucial to spend time developing the team and creating awareness, understanding and respect.9 These aspects of course rely on trust that is also brought up in the article. It is described as critical to the success of the global business team.10 As a multinational cross-cultural team we agree that trust is the key factor for the success of a team such as ours. In our point of view trust is essential for teamwork. Especially when different nations are mixed in a team, cultural diversity can be transferred into an advantage by trusting each other. However, we also see the need for a similar level of language skills in order to be successful despite the behavioral diversity. 4. Conclusion After we evaluated the article we agree with the mentioned problems within global business teams as well as with the offered guidelines to build successful teams. The article was very suitable for our assignment since it brings up different aspects of working in a cross-cultural team. The article helped us realize the different obstacles that can occur in communication and from this we have concluded that modern technology, multinational education and an open-minded global orientation are ways to overcome these obstacles. We have also learned that cultural diversity should not be seen as a weakness. Instead, by using the diversity as enrichment for your team you can benefit from the differences of the team members. Hence, the article expanded our knowledge regarding to teambuilding measures which we can profit from by using the guidelines for university and business cases. In today’s global business world the issues of cross-cultural teams is relevant for everyone and we recommend that the process of improvement regarding the effectiveness of a team should be continuously.

8 9

V. Govindarajan, A. K. Gupta (2008), p. 67 L. Beamer, I. Varner (2008), p. 432f 10 V. Govindarajan, A. K. Gupta (2008), p. 2

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

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Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

APPENDIX
I. A Framework for High-Performing Global Business Teams

Effective Team Character

Effective Team Composition

Effective Team Process

Effective Team

Source: Govindarajan & Gupta 2001, p. 65

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

II

Building an Effective Global Business Team Article review 2009, Int. Business Culture and Communication, Ume? School of Business

REFERENCES

Govindarajan, V., Gupta, A. K. (2001). Building an Effective Global Business Team, MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 42, Issue 4 (Summer 2001), 63-71. Beamer, L., Varner, I. (2008). Intercultural Communication in the Global Workplace, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, NY.

Gailhard, Kiska, Mittelsten Scheid, T?yr?

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