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A Successful Story of a Culture Diversity Work Group in a Global
McDonald's Corporation is the leading global food service retailer with more than 34,000
local restaurants and serving nearly 69 million people in 119 countries each day
(aboutmcdonalds.com). McDonald’s has restaurants on every continent. It has 8255
restaurants in the Asian Pacific Middle East and Africa region. (Lichter, 2009).
McDonald’s Corporation has its long history and clear vision of culture diversity. “At
McDonald’s, diversity and inclusion are part of our culture – from the crew room to the
Board Room. We are working to achieve this goal every day by creating an environment for
everyone to contribute their best” (aboutmcdonalds.com, 2013).
Overview of the Challenges
In early 20th century, McDonald’s global Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
organization was facing enormous challenges. Its fast growing business especially in newly
emerged countries, requires centralized data centre which can host company’s many newly
developed mission critical client/server applications (such as global CRM, McDonald’s
unique New POS system, etc.) and vast growing business data. In order to achieve the above
objectives, McDonald’s global ICT organization had to transform the organization’s
standalone (country independent) data network infrastructure to a unified global scale private
Wide Area Network (WAN) which was able to link each country’s head office Local Area
Network (LAN) as well as to provide network connectivity to each store within countries.
The critical aspect of this strategic transformation was a unique WAN infrastructure (in a
global scale) which can provide cost effective ICT shared data communication service to 121
countries head office and 30,000+ restaurants. There was no global organization that has ever
been able to achieve this kind of objective with such large scale and complexity.
Analysis and Interpretation
Senior leadership team of McDonald’s global ICT organization firmly believed the value of
diversity and believed the organization need to have a culture diverse global ICT
infrastructure group to lead this strategic global ICT infrastructure transformation. They
believed the culture diverse technical leadership group would be able to achieve the ultimate
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goal of designing and implementing an enterprise class, cost effective, global private WAN
infrastructure which would technically meet the organization’s WAN data traffic requirement
and at the same time it would be financially affordable for each country.
This group consisted ICT technical experts from different regions (continents) who had
diverse culture background and would be able to brought their local/regionalized knowledge
and ICT technical expertise as well as seamlessly accessing different regional resources
which ultimately would enhance the group’s creativity (Podsiadlowski et al., 2013) and help
them to resolve many obstacles(complicate challenges) during the journey of designing and
implementing a unique McDonald’s enterprise private WAN in a global scale. The senior
leadership team of McDonald’s corporation also aware of the risk of mixing individuals from
high context culture and low context culture (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010) and negative
aspects (such as geographic location of each member, personality conflicts and
communication barriers) of a cultural diverse work group. However, they believed that
McDonald’s Corporation has its “organizational practices for managing people to maximize
potential advantages of diversity and as policies for recruiting and retaining talent from
different backgrounds”(Podsiadlowski et al., 2013) which would overcome these obstacles.
The Author joined McDonald’s Global ICT infrastructure management group in 2001 as Asia
Pacific, Middle East and Africa regional network services manager and was responsible for
the technical and management aspect of this global program.
The team also consisted Northern America regional network services manager (responsible
for US and Canada region), Latin America regional network services manager and Europe
regional network services manager. Each of them came from different continents and had
complete different culture backgrounds. As Ely and Thomas (2001)stated that diversity is a
characteristic of groups of two or more people and typically refers to demographic
differences of one sort or another among group members”(Thomas, 2001). Obviously,
McDonald’s Global ICT infrastructure management group is a typical culture diverse work
The first challenge facing this group was communication. Paradoxically, language was not
the issue. They all speak fluent English, but since they were all physically located in different
regions/countries and subsequently in different time zones, the lack of verbal communication
and visual contact time were big issues particularly in the first 6 months after the group was
established. In order to overcome this challenge, this group leveraged all the modern
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telecommunication technologies, which they could get their hands on, and developed a
flexible teleconference meeting time table (rostered the weekly meeting time) which
minimised the impact of time zone and maximized the verbal communication for members of
the group. The group also scheduled a 3-4 time group development activity every year. The
venues of those group development activities would be in different regions/countries. This
method dramatically reduced culture categorization within the group and quickly brought
group members close to each other. The group members also had chances to get familiar with
other peer’s region every time they had their group activity. Based on author’s observation, as
Giambatista and Bhappu (2010) suggested, group members increased friendships between
each and got familiar with each others personalities after they met each other. Group
member were motivated to bond with each other in the group development activities
(Giambatista and Bhappu, 2010). Those methods had successfully overcome the obstacles
which this group faced and enhanced the group’s decision-making effectiveness.
The second challenge was the technical and finance aspect of the original enterprise private
WAN solution architecture-global mesh? WAN architecture. It required high bandwidth and
high quality private WAN telecommunication connectivity in each region and country. In
order to have private WAN telecommunication connectivity, each country had to purchase
very high cost private WAN telecommunication connectivity from local Telecom in Asia
Pacific, Middle East, Africa region and other developing regions (i.e. Latin America region).
This financial burden made the original McDonald’s enterprise private WAN architecture
solution unsustainable from cost point of view. McDonald’s Corporation is in low margin
business. It is impossible for the organization to implement any technology solution without
sustainable Return on Investment (ROI). As a matter of fact, right or wrong approach to
resolve this challenge may also determine the existence of this group. In order to overcome
this obstacle, the group had to create an alternative/new enterprise private WAN architecture
which would be very cost effective compared with the original one. This was a tough task.
One of the team members had proposed a complete new enterprise class virtual private WAN
architecture design. Inevitably his recommendation had tricked a long, serious team
discussions and arguments. The original private WAN architecture design was based on well-
known technology and had been successfully deployed in developed regions and countries of
McDonald’s (i.e. Northern America region and Europe region). The new/alternative virtual
private WAN architecture was hardly known at that time and had never been used in a large
global scale anywhere. The group had to decide either to use high running cost original
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private WAN architecture in developing regions and countries or to change the original
design and use the new/alternative, lost cost, virtual private WAN architecture in developing
regions and countries. This became a great test to this culture diverse group as well as to
each of its member.
WAN Architecture Pros Cons
Mesh (Private WAN) Simple Architecture
Store direct connect to
regional/global data centre
Lower WAN latency between
store and data centre
Requires High WAN
bandwidth in each country
Requires High quality
private WAN service
(unable to leverage ADSL
High ongoing administration
overhead from WAN
High monthly cost
Requires expensive device
In data centre
Hub and Spoke
(Virtual Private WAN)
Store (spoke) connected to each
country head office (Hub)
Requires lower WAN bandwidth
in each country (able to leverage
new ADSL WAN technology in
Much lower monthly cost
Not require expensive devices in
Higher WAN latency
between store and data
Never been used in large
Table 1. Mesh Private WAN Architecture vs. Hub and Spoke Virtual Private WAN Architecture
After over 10 months technology assessments and many long philosophical discussions, the
global ICT infrastructure management group eventually agreed to start small scale trail of the
new/alternative virtual private WAN architecture. The small scale trail was very successful. It
removed all the technical obstacles as well as financial obstacle of implementing McDonald’s
enterprise class WAN infrastructure in developing region. The new cost effective enterprise
virtual private WAN architecture eventually became McDonald’s next generation global
private WAN architecture standard. This innovated global virtual private WAN architecture
helped McDonald’s global ICT organization established its sector leader position (in the fast
food industry) from global ICT infrastructure perspective. It enabled McDonald’s corporation
seamlessly transferred their old/obsoleted global ICT infrastructure to new/modern global
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ICT infrastructure with significant cost saving and at same time leveraged new
telecommunication technology in a large global scale.
Summary and Conclusion
The author had observed strong agreeablenessdiversity as well as openness diversity co-
existed and correlated within the group even each member of the group came from completed
different culture background and has distinguished personalities. Member of this group
respect each other’s personalities, culture and technical expertise. Members of this group trust
each other and enjoy each other’s company. There was strong brotherhood existed inside the
group. Even they have different view with some of the subjects, the group discussion always
filled with helpful and creative suggestions. The high level of agreeablenessthat demonstrated
by the team leader had made this strategic global WAN architecture change become possible.
The coexisted agreeableness and openness diversities had played a very important role which
eventually enabled the group to make one of the most important decisions for the
organization as well as for themselves.
The author also observed that individuals within this group who were able to offer unique and
high relevant categories of knowledge/expertise that was also a critical elements for the
success of the group. The author observed many evidences of greater levels of openness
among introvert and extravert individuals which have promoted effective balance between
divergent and convergent thinking that associated with greater performance (Giambatista and
Interestingly enough, the author seemed unable to find significant traces of ethnic diversity
within this group even each of the member came from complete diffident culture background,
region and race. As a matter of fact, it was really hard to find any tangible evidence that can
prove the existence of ethnic diversity within the group even with the view of it may
encompasses other diversity (Giambatista and Bhappu, 2010). The author believes the strong
brotherhood and close bind between the members of group had overpowered the ethnic
diversity within the group.
The positive contribution to the group decision making process of agreeableness diversity
also contradicted with the view of it had significant and negative effect on group creativity
(Giambatista and Bhappu, 2010). The author observed the correlation of conflict and
compromise during the critical decision making process. It appears to be a healthy organism
of the decision making process as long as each group member not taken them personally.
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This real life diversity work group case does support some diversity scholars’ view that
everyone can benefit from a diverse work environment (large or small), the organization as
well as its employees (Podsiadlowski et al., 2013). As a member of this diversity work group,
the author had learnt a lot from peers and group leader and the author believes his colleagues
of this group felt the same way.
This real life story of a successful culture diverse work group in the global organization has
proved that cultural diversity brings new ideas and different knowledge to the workforce,
which are critical to the success of the business. cultural diversity helps us to develop new
skills and cultural diversity helps us to become more innovated (Podsiadlowski et al., 2013).
My literature research and real life experience made me believe that successful culture
diverse work group requires: high level of collaboration between group members, ability to
leverage modern communication technologies to enhance verbal and visual communication
between team members, balanced agreeableness and openness diversities aspects and the
most important was that everyone thoroughly understand and share the same vision and had a
common goal. The success of creating an innovated global virtual private WAN architecture
by McDonald’s culture diverse global ICT infrastructure group was the strong evidence
which support that organization can benefits from culture diversity from integration-and-
learning perspective (Barinaga, 2007).
aboutmcdonalds.com, 2013, viewed 20 April 2013,’Inclusion & Diversity’,
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