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Overview

A multicultural team can be described as a team whose members are from different cultures, backgrounds, and nations. In today’s world of globalization, multicultural teams are very common in any multinational organization. This is more so due to the increased mobility of labour across geographical boundaries, increase in the use of team work and increase in the number of virtual teams used by organizations. As culture is a very important factor which affects an individual’s behavior within the organization, cultural differences cannot be just ignored. Insensitivity and lack of cultural knowledge can injure, permanently or temporarily, the relationship with co-workers and customers. It is found that various aspects of cultural differences pose challenges to the global executive in global organizations. Cultural differences can influence work values, motivation, and job attitudes. That is the reason why the multicultural teams require special management tactics and this is one of the major challenges faced by multinational organizations today. The various challenges involved in managing a multicultural team are conflict management, communication management, leadership etc. Failure to address these issues may lead to employee exodus, low productivity, poor morale, and the list goes on. It is always important for an organization to identify the diversity within multicultural teams and develop a strategy to manage or to address them. The book focuses on managing multicultural teams in an organization. The core content includes perspectives of the effective management of multicultural teams and ways of handling challenges of cross-cultural communication, conflict management etc. The book has been presented in two sections: “Management Perspectives” and “Experiences”. Section I: Management Perspectives The first article “Challenges of Managing Cross-Cultural Teams” written by Sumati Reddy of Icfai Business School Research Centre, Hyderabad, provides an introduction to the key features of a multicultural team and the reasons why there is an increase in their use. The success factors of a multicultural team can be discussed along three dimensions: cultural Aspects, which include cross-cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity; technical Aspects, which discuss factors such as team mix, team size, team development and training prior to working on teams, complementary skills, effective means of communication and coordination; and human Aspects, which pertain to aspects such as resolving conflicts, building rapport among team members, and developing high transparency and trust among members. By ensuring the above aspects, team managers can ensure high performance multicultural teams. Training has a vital role to play in preparing members to work within cross-cultural teams. The article lays emphasis on this aspect also. The second article “International Teams: Beyond Cultural Differences” written by Jack Keogh of Keogh & Associates Consulting LLC, briefs aboout the factors involved in managing the multicultural teams. It stresses that the secret of a strong team is a clear common purpose, identification of each member with the group task, and influence of personality differences in the team. The article draws insights from the experiences of an international team from Shanghai, China that consisted of members from USA, Italy, the UK and China. The article further discusses the impact of culture, clash of cultural differences and professional identities of individuals in multicultural team members, and highlights the importance of emotional intelligence and vital role of adequate support systems for team building. The author emphasizes that leaders who manage multicultural teams need to have a clear understanding of different dimensions of multicultural teams and to develop themselves with new global competencies to deal with the challenges of culture. The next article “Cultural Intelligence for Multicultural Teams” has been written by Brooks Peterson, who highlights behavioral aspects that need attention to achieve cultural intelligence while working in an international team. Cultural intelligence is defined as Knowledge about Cultures (facts and cultural traits) + Awareness (of yourself and others) + Specific Skills (behaviors). The author proposes five simple scales involving opposing ideas for building awareness of cultural issues and analyses the people behavior in the team with the help of a Boiling versus Freezing analogy. The five simple scales are as follows: Equality versus Hierarchy; Direct versus Indirect; Individual versus Group; Task versus Relationship; and Risk versus Caution. The author states that the five culture scales serve to improve one’s performance in multicultural teams by understanding others’ cultures and applying this understanding to make changes in the way you interact with others. “Cross-Cultural Awareness and Engaging in Multicultural Teams: An Ongoing Practice” is written by Mohan Murti, of Reliance Industries Limited. It discusses some of the cross-cultural differences that are relevant to the business environment such as eye contact, greetings, concept of time, social etiquette, etc. It throws light on the 12 common mistakes that should be avoided when doing business in Europe. They include inapt language, misuse of telephone, poor listening skills, distracting mannerisms, failure to greet properly etc. It presents a few common stumbling blocks for multicultural teams, which include communication issues, attitude towards hierarchy and authority, voice, tone and tenor, robust leadership, etc. The article further discusses the three golden rules of engagement for multicultural teams. These include flexibility, malleability and blending. It concludes that managing diversity and managing teams are complementary

and when properly implemented, multicultural teams can be a more effective way of using the knowledge, skills and abilities of a multicultural workforce. “Building Trust with Multicultural Teams” written by Robin Fletcher, of The Thomson Group, is a report of a study that explores the effect of communication technology on trust building among multicultural teams. It stresses the idea that good communication is of the utmost importance to build trust in multicultural diverse teams and discusses some of the strategies for building trust. The author states that the most important factors for team building are undertaking dependable actions (integrity) and clear and open communication (transparency). The article explains features and principles of communication (face-to face, email and phone), how to structure these in multicultural teams, and the purpose these different modes of communication serve in teambuilding. Despite the diversity in preferences and styles, the principles for effective use of communication apply throughout and these should not be lost in the innovation of new technologies, as all the means of communication have their own importance in the promotion of better understanding and trust. In the next article, “Globalization and Cross-Cultural Issues in Project Management” the author,Dennis G Ballow, of PMP’ Project Management Knowledge Transfer, Inc. shares his experiences gained through interactions with people from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and India. His experiences pertain to the international socio-cultural issues in business operations that companies encounter while globalising their operations. He presents cross-cultural issues that arise while working with individuals from the perspective of Asians and Americans and their implications with respect to language; individualism versus collectivism; cooperation; uncertainty avoidance; masculinity versus femininity; conflict resolution; work group characteristics; and motivation systems. The author also provides cross-cultural implications for the Non-Western and Western world in terms of beliefs, values, relationships, hierarchical structure, etc. He states that implementing project management globally requires the use of key words, which are difficult to translate into other languages. Moreover, individuals have a low tolerance for western ideas. “Managing Multicultural Teams: Ensuring Functional Unity in Cultural Diversity” is an article written by Mallikarjunan Krishnamurthy, who was earlier associated with UCO Bank, Hyderabad. He states that the task of managing multicultural teams begins with a team building process aimed towards selection of right mix of members. The article specifies that a holistic approach should be adopted while constituting a team and preparing it for effective functioning and emphasizes the importance of planned and comprehensive training programmes for the members of a multicultural team. The article lists out the factors to be considered for assessing multicultural teams and some strategies and methods for successful functioning of the multicultural teams. It also suggests a management model “market process model” (social construction model) for managing multicultural teams. It concludes that management of multicultural teams should aim at suitable psychological and functional reorientation of the team for breaking through the barriers of languages, cultures and practices to achieve functional unity in cultural diversity. The succeeding article, “Managing the Performance of Teams: Manager’s Role” written by Donald E Sexton, of Columbia University, explores the key considerations for a manager in building and managing a team and the special challenges that emerge with multicultural teams. It discusses the impact of team members’ differing cultures, individual values and the manager’s attitude towards culture on team building and how cultural differences affect the team performance in terms of team goals, performance, objectives, approach, accountability, rewards, selection of team members and team leaders. The author explains managerial interventions to bring the team back on track during different kinds of problematic situations. The author concludes that managers must make an effort to know individual members of the team and what their values and attitudes are to manage them effectively. The next article “Multicultural Teams and Superior Performance: The Role of Leadership” has been written by Kathleen Patterson, Paul B Carr and Myra Dingman, all of whom are associated with Regent University, VA, USA. They focus on the challenges and opportunities that demand new leadership styles and techniques in order to be effective and successful in the globalized world. The article provides examples of Coca-cola and Wal-Mart. The authors discuss barriers to improved performance in teams, which include individual barriers, job barriers, organizational barriers and emphasizes that awareness of these barriers is the first prerequisite for a team leader to be effective. It examines a few creative strategies to overcome the barriers and improve work performance within multicultural teams. It briefs about the five factors that influence multicultural team leadership: national culture, corporate culture, the nature of the industry or functional culture, the stage of team development and personal attributes. It concludes that the role of leadership comprises a continuum of various levels of support as well as knowing when to stay out of the way of the team to allow it to perform at a superior level. The following article, “Why Multicultural Teams Malfunction Sometimes: Culture Plays A Big Role” written by Rana Sinha, of Dot-Connect, Helsinki, discusses the main reasons for the underperformance or failure of multicultural teams, culture being one of the main factors. The author explains how culture affects the workplace based on a discussion of a number of different cultural dimensions such as orientation to time, space, communication, competitiveness, power, etc. He states that difference in communication styles and hitches in these areas become stumbling blocks ruining the

performance of the entire team. He cites examples from cultures of Sweden, Germany, Japan and Arab countries. The more consciously decisions pertaining to clarification and communication of objectives, assignment of roles and responsibilities are made, the less is the chance that cultural misunderstandings cause malfunctions in the team. It concludes that multicultural teams are sure to fail if there is very little awareness of the factors of diversity that enrich the human pantheon and the special challenges faced by multicultural teams. “Optimizing the Performance of Multicultural Teams: The Unrecognized Bonus” is written byRensia Melles, of Global Clinical Solutions. The author states that a multicultural workforce is an unrecognized bonus of globalization and taking advantage of this opportunity can give the organization a competitive edge. Understanding of multiculturalism and culturally competent behavior can support in attracting and retaining top talent and trust in the organization. Other than implementing diverse policies, an attitude of respect, knowledge and cross-cultural skills across all levels of the organization is essential to take advantage of the expertise and ideas present in the multicultural workforce. The author further explains that a culturally competent organization can be created by making changes at the organizational as well as at the team level. Section II: Experiences The first article of this section “Projects Without Borders: Gathering Requirements on a Multi-Cultural Project” written by Elizabeth Larson and Richard Larson, both of Watermark Learning Inc., presents the challenges faced by project managers and business analysts in multicultural projects and virtual teams. It identifies challenges of gathering requirements from culturally diverse business customers, which include physical distance of stakeholders, clarification of roles and responsibilities, language barriers across cultures, and not understanding the cultural landscape. It discusses some of the tips and techniques to overcome the barriers in multicultural project teams. The authors conclude that the ultimate goal of those managing multicultural teams should be to uncover requirements in a way that is easier for all stakeholders, regardless of their language and culture. The second article “Managing Offshore Software Projects: The Agile Way” is written byThavaranjan Thavendran. This article is based on the experience gained from an offshore software project work based on agile methodology, which could be used by anyone considering exploring offshore development and dealing with teams of various cultures, communication, multiple locations, etc. A good understanding of offshore challenges such as trust, culture and language barrier, and communication will help to alleviate the risks completely or reduce them drastically. The article stresses the need to introduce agile software development methods, which provide benefits such as overall quality and efficiency, team morale, improved relationship between IT and business staff and responsiveness to change. It illustrates how agile method is used in different aspects of the project life cycle, such as Requirements Analysis and Documentation, Project Planning, Time Boxes, Transparency and Progress Monitoring, Active Client Participation etc. Article three “Facilitating Leadership in a Global Community: A Training Tool for Multicultural Team Leaders” is written by C Shawn Burke (University of Central Florida), Kathleen P Hess (Aptima Inc.), Heather A Priest(University of Central Florida), Michael Rosen (University of Central Florida), Eduardo Salas(University of Central Florida), Michael Paley (Aptima Inc.), and Sharon Riedel (Army Research Institute). This article lays special emphasis on military and armed forces. It states that leaders of multicultural teams face additional challenges over those of culturally homogeneous teams that, when overcome, can lead to teams that perform more effectively than their homogeneous counterparts. It describes team leadership as a series of steps, i.e., leader’s response to social problems: problem identification and diagnoses, generation of solutions, and implementation of a chosen solution. It identifies a number of cross-cultural dimensions that may have a substantial impact on the leadership of teams within multicultural environments. It presents a series of principles organized in terms of the three leadership skills: interpersonal skills, decision-making, and team building. Using these principles, a training tool namely Functional Learning Levers – The Team Leader Toolkit was created. This tool includes elements of selflearning, skill training, role play and scenario-based training. The authors state that training tools that will facilitate effective leadership within multicultural teams can greatly increase success for military and organizational teams. The last article “An analysis of Cultural Differences Upon Project Team Performance for Global Projects” is written by S J Lee and T MA both of whom are associated with University of South Australia. The article examines the impact of cultural difference upon global team performance. It also recommends how project managers can work effectively and positively for global projects. It presents the five elements of cultural differences such as religion, education, economics, politics and language and illustrates with US, Korean, Russian, French, Japanese perspectives. It explains that the key impacts of cultural difference upon team performance are due to different approaches by team members, in terms of problem-solving technique, decision-making process, communication, etc. It suggests effective ways to maximize the efficiency of multicultural team members by reducing the impacts due to cultural differences. The article further suggests “Strategic multicultural project management” processes to improve the team’s performance. It includes the following processes: Environment analysis, Strategic planning, Performing, Checking & Controlling. The authors, state that, when cultural differences are recognized, valued and used to the organization’s advantage, redundant greater

synergies can result for project management.