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Managing a Global Team: Resolving Cross-Cultural Issues


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Learn how to address global cultural differences in the way people deal with conflict, relate to authority, ask and answer questions, express respect, and practice equality in the workplace.

Presented by:
Barry Saiff - Founder and CEO, Saiff Solutions, Inc.

Published in: Technology
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Managing a Global Team: Resolving Cross-Cultural Issues

  1. 1. Your Host Scott Abel aka “The Content Wrangler” Internationally recognized content strategist Helps organizations deliver the right content to the right audience, anywhere, anytime, on any device Featured presenter at content industry events Serves on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Information.
  2. 2. Your Speaker Barry Saiff 33 years in technical documentation Led content development teams at Symantec, Oracle, IBM, and GE Founded Saiff Solutions in 2011 Provides technical writing services to large enterprises in Australia, Japan, Canada, US
  3. 3. Vision Where are your teams located? ◻ North America and/or Europe only ◻ Asia, plus North America and/or Europe ◻ Asia plus another continent ◻ Asia only ◻ Other What is your role? ◻ Documentation Manager / Leader ◻ Technical Writer ◻ Engineering Manager / Leader ◻ Product Management / Marketing ◻ Other Quick Poll
  4. 4. textScenario I The remote technical writing team in the Philippines is making “a lot of mistakes.” Your US writing team is convinced the Philippine writers are less than competent, or that they don’t care about quality. Perhaps. But what else might be going on?
  5. 5. Vision Remote team members are not asking enough questions. Remote team members are not included in key meetings, resources, etc. Expectations are not clear or not shared. Remote hiring or management issues. Possible Causes of High Error Level
  6. 6. Vision Why aren’t they asking enough questions? How do you* respond to questions that seem pointless? Stupid? Are you* open to people who think differently? Are all questions welcome? Really? --------- *Anyone in authority Asking Questions Structure meetings to encourage quieter people to speak (when feasible): Break into pairs before discussing in the larger group. Have each person in the circle make a comment. (Allow people to pass if they want to.) Everyone should speak once, before anyone speaks twice. Invite quieter people to lead part of the meeting. Talk about problems openly in the meeting. Invite more vocal people to speak less. Between meetings, ask quieter people what would help them speak, or ask for their ideas on how meeting should be run. --Community Tool Box, “Building Relationships with People from Different Cultures”
  7. 7. Vision Why aren’t they asking enough questions? What does respect mean to you? To them? Respect Respect in the Philippines (and some other Asian cultures): ○ Defer to authority/role, age, whiteness, experience, wealth. ○ Be quiet. Appear attentive. Agree. Do what you are told. ○ Do not challenge or question authority. Support leaders. Respect in the USA (and many non-Asian cultures): ○ Tell the truth, respectfully. Do not withhold key information. ○ Ask questions, appropriately. Contribute. Speak up. ○ Do what you say you will. Do not lie. Support the team.
  8. 8. Vision Remote members not included in team meetings, emails, etc. Communication Social factors are the most significant predictors of virtual team performance and satisfaction. (Lin et al, 2008) Predictable and timely responses between members lead to greater levels of trust in a virtual team. (Dewar, 2006) Set times for regular meetings and individual accessibility by phone or email, but avoid relying on email as sole means of communication. (Cascio, 2000) Rely on a common database to store and share knowledge. (Hertel et al., 2005; Powell et al., 2004) ashx?file=4578f59e-21b3-4a2c-bbfe-63e53af3f5dc.pdf
  9. 9. Vision What is ‘a lot of mistakes’? How many? What kinds? Are expectations clear to the remote team? ‘A Lot of Mistakes’ Establish clear lines of accountability by setting monthly, quarterly, and yearly performance goals. Set targets so the remote team knows without a doubt exactly what ‘hitting it out of the park’ means. Prof. Mark Mortensen Organizational Development, INSEAD remote-direct-reports
  10. 10. Vision Turnover at your remote site is very high. What are the possible reasons? Scenario 2
  11. 11. Vision Possible reasons: ● Job market competition ● Compensation ● Shift hours ● Transportation ● Management ● Relations between remote and local staff Turnover
  12. 12. Vision Management in Asia is frequently “Command and Control:” ○ Management as supervision ○ Intensely hierarchical ○ “The manager always knows best” This management style does not encourage: ○ Collaboration ○ Asking questions ○ Prioritizing quality over deference to authority All over the world, people frequently leave jobs because of their managers. This may also explain why they don’t ask questions. Management Style
  13. 13. Vision Why are local and remote staff not getting along well? Conflict / Culture Clash Some Common US approaches to conflict: ○ Discuss. Argue. Raise voices. Blame. Apologize. Resolve/Not. ○ Challenge. Brainstorm together. Resolve/Not. Some Common Filipino approaches to conflict: ○ Avoid. Work around. Await opportunity to resolve. Some Common Filipino responses to US approaches: ○ Withdraw. Resent. Sabotage. Leave. Some Common US responses to Filipino approaches: ○ Give up on the Asians. Blame. Assume stupidity/incompetence.
  14. 14. In Summary: Things Are Not Always What They Seem Mistakes ...could be due to incompetence. But also think about: ● The clarity of your expectations ● Your communication style ● Your openness to questions ● Differences in display of respect ● All the “authorities” involved and the above issues for each of them Turnover ...could be due to typical reasons (competition, compensation, etc.). But also carefully consider: ● Your management style ● Conflicts or culture clash
  15. 15. Vision Which of these challenges are affecting your productivity? ◻ Remote team not asking enough questions, or not following instructions ◻ Turnover rate high at remote sites ◻ Conflict between remote and local staff ◻ Deadlines not being met ◻ Other If Saiff Solutions could assist you in overcoming your challenges, would you be interested in a free consultation? ◻ Yes, please contact me directly. ◻ Not right now, but I would like to receive additional information about your services. ◻ No, thank you. Quick Poll
  16. 16. Barry Saiff twitter: @SaiffSolutions Scott Abel twitter: @contentwrangler