Working with cross-cultural teams comes with unique opportunities that if effectively exploited can translate into organizational success. Employees from different cultures come with various diversities including work ethics, experience, and culture that can be effectively tapped for the benefit of the organization including strategic positioning in the corporate world. Working on a project with distributed teams from different cultures allows the organization to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of team members. Businesses also have access to resources including technologies and skilled and affordable labor and business-friendly regulations and laws that can ensure the successful accomplishment of project deliverables and spur business growth. However, distributed teams come with unique challenges including different time zones and work ethics which can cripple the project if handled ineffectively.
In the scenario under discussion, the primary challenges facing the gaming firm working with a distributed team based in different time zones are communication breakdown, work ethics lack of effective team leadership, and operating in different time zones. Due to time differences, the team is increasingly finding it difficult to hold effective asynchronous meetings every two weeks. The challenges associated with time zone difference is exacerbated by work ethics differences between China and the U.S. Though is known for their hard work and ability to work for long hours, American workers are more individualistic in defining their identity and successes, unlike Chinese professionals who lean more towards national and social identity as opposed to individualism. This can lead to difficulty in bringing American teams together especially in meetings (Garcia et al., 2014).
Overcoming the Time Zone Difference Challenge
To overcome the time zone difference challenge, there is a need for the project team leader to communicate effectively key issues surrounding the team including project expectations, cultural diversity, and time zone differences. Effective communication will ensure that team members understand and embrace these differences; not as weaknesses but as strengths on which to build the success of the team and the project. The team manager should encourage communication between team members with the view of building connections necessary for successful project completion. He or she should be what Gratton and Erickson (2007) termed as being “both task- and relationship-oriented”: both a manager and a leader. Therefore, focusing on relationship signature practices such as virtual water coolers such as Slack and Interact can help in building a collaborative culture marked by a high sense of camaraderie and community among team members. Greater cultural assimilation, flexibility, and productive relationships within the team are the pillars for building an effective distributed team.
Moreover, overcoming the time zone difference challenge calls for choosing a default time zone for the team and creating a consistent schedule for meetings around the time zone. A default time zone that synced with local time zones should be rotated between early morning and late night for both the Shanghai and New York teams. Rotation will ensure that both team share the burden of inconvenience of time zones without overburdening one team. Using professional communication and interactions platforms created specifically for the team, the manager and the team leaders can send reminders to all members of an upcoming meeting. The meetings invites and reminders will ensure that team members are cognizant of time to avoid lateness and cancellation as witnessed so far. Additionally, reminders can help members to plan and avoid conflict of schedules.
Developing Cross-cultural Intelligence
The scenario highlights the importance not only for human resource practitioners and organizational managers but also employees working in diverse, distributed and collaborative teams. With the business environment and societies increasingly aggregating towards globalization, collaborating with individuals and companies from different cultures is increasingly becoming an instrumental success factor for corporations and individual professionals alike. Cultural sensitivity and awareness or cross-cultural intelligence improves the business image and reputation which are critical for developing effective internal and external relationships (Ersoy, 2014). It leads to greater success when it comes to employee retention, motivation and productivity.
Cross-cultural intelligence among organizational leaders gives businesses a competitive edge when it comes to attracting talents, investors, partners and customers. Such organizations are able to curate organizational culture, practices and products and services that are adaptable to the demands of the local cultures (Ersoy, 2014). This cultural synchronization is critical in penetrating local labor and product markets while also effectively solving or avoiding conflicts with employees, local authorities, communities, and industry players.
Despite its importance in shaping day-to-day organizational activities, cross-cultural intelligence is a competence that takes time and process to develop. To develop it, I recommend that the management assesses the cultural quotient of the managers and employees in general. Assessment will help in identifying gaps and development of strategies to bridge them. The organization should consider on-job training for the employees on cross-cultural intelligence. External events such as seminars, conferences and cultural exchange programs with other divisions can help in learning new cultures and the importance of cultural diversity and awareness. Additionally, the company can opt for e-learning which is convenient. Scenario simulations can also be used to create cultural awareness and sensitivity among the employees including the managers.
Gratton, L. & Erickson, T. J. (2007). Eight ways to build collaborative teams. Harvard Business Review, pp. 101 – 109. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2007/11/eight-ways-to-build-collaborative-teams
Ersoy, A. (2014). The role of cultural intelligence in cross-cultural leadership effectiveness: A qualitative study in the hospitality industry. Journal of Yasar University, 9(35), pp. 6099 – 6260.
Garcia, F. et al. (2014). Cross-cultural, values and ethics differences and similarities between the US and Asian countries. Journal of Technology Management in China, 9(3), pp. 303 – 322.