Intercultural management: managing teams across borders and cultures

Imagine this all too frequent scenario:

You have been working for a high tech multinational for about a year, one of the American members of a GVT (global virtual team). You are sitting in your open plan office on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco when your computer says, “ding!” and delivers an email from your boss, Benoit, in Paris.

Benoit writes:

“Please prepare a report on the status of Widget 913. Work with Michelle and Günter. I need it by end of next week.”

The email is not copied to Michelle and Günter – members of your team you’ve never met who are located, respectively, in Sophia Antipolis and Munich. Günter is senior to you in the company, Michelle is relatively new.

In Benoit’s mind, he has been very clear about what he needs, when he needs it, and who is to work on his request. He would be surprised to realize his request has generated questions and anxiety.

What information is missing to insure Benoit obtains what he wants from his staff? Here are a few examples:

* WHEN: What is ‘end of next week’? What day, what time, in what time zone?
* WHO: Are Michelle and Günter informed? Have they received the same email?
* WHY: Why is the report needed? What questions should it address? To whom is it supposed to speak? In what context?
* HOW: What is each of them supposed to do (i.e.: who does what?)? Who holds overall responsibility? In what format is the report to be prepared? How will the report be used (read or delivered as a presentation?)

What core management principles are involved here? How do you think this will play out? What issues will come to the fore as Michelle, Günter and our San Franciscan pull together this report?

Until next time,

Lokahi & Quill

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