An Analysis of Culturally Based Tendencies in a Virtual Team

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Teams involves a group of people from different backgrounds working together on short term or long term projects. Kimble argues that despite the diversity of team member either culturally or professionally, they have to come together and develop a framework which allows for them to meet their project goals (7). The team under analysis include a small team of three members tasked with the project of designing and launching a marketing advert for their company’s. The project aim was to develop a marketing strategy that would establishing a new and more attractive brand for the company. The company has branches in three continents with each team ember representing the three continents. The first team member Tai, is a Chinese marketing manager based and representing the Asian region, the second team member George, is a German representing the European region and finally, Macy, an American representing the American region. The team members are located in the three three continent they are representing and as such for the purpose of the current project formed a virtual team. The following is an analysis of the culturally based tendencies and preferences of the team members based on three behavior scales, their expected shared preferences, possible misunderstandings and conflict, and the behavioral solutions for the conflicts.

Meyer's Behaviors Scales

Meyers developed eights scales as a means of creating an individual’s cultural profile and understanding their cultural tendencies and preferences. These include communicating, communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding,            trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling. Of the eight scales, communicating, trusting and scheduling were among the most critical for the virtual team made up of Tai, George and Macy in meeting their team's project objectives.  According to Meyer, communicating is an important behavior scale and involves the manner in which communication is undertaken in a particular culture. The scale measures the levels to which a culture follow low or high context communication.  In low context cultures, good communication is precise and explicit with messages taken at face value while in high context cultures, communication is layered with reading between expected.

Trusting is another behavior scale in Meyer's cultural profile and involves the formation of trust either task based trust formation or relationship based trust. Task based cultures form trust through their work while in relationship based cultures, trust is developed through personal connections and interactions.  Finally, scheduling is considered critical and involves the approach taken with timetables, Cultures either take a linear approach to the timetable whereby they are followed strictly while a flexible approach involves taking a timetable as a suggestion not a rule.

When working in a global team with team members from different cultures, it is important to consider and understand their varying cultural tendencies and adopt behavior which will ensure cohesion and team work among the members (Rodrigues and Sbragia, 39). For the virtual team, it is as such important to consider how Tai, George and Macey, all from different cultures, will interact within the team.

Team Interactions

One of the major areas where there is a shared preference is between George and Macey who are from German and the US, which are low context cultures. In low context cultures, communication is taken to be precise and explicit with messages taken at face value (Meyer). Further, the two countries are task based cultures with trust developed through work. Finally, the countries tends towards a linear scheduling approach whereby they prefer to stick to the schedule. George and Macey are as such likely to have good working relationships with each other as a result of these similarities. In addition to this, the results of Tai cultural profile assessment reveal that despite coming from the Chinese culture, he leans towards the linear scheduling approach which favors sticking to the plan.  Tai does not conform to the Chinese tendency of having a flexible schedule whereby the timetable is taken as a suggestion.

Despite the shared preferences, conflict and misunderstanding is likely with regards to the working relationship between George and Macey as a team members and Tai. While George and Macey have a straight forward and precise communication approach, Tai’s tendency to communication is layered with much left for interpretation, a norm in the Chinese culture. Further with regards to trust, Tai has a relationship based culture with trust build based on relationship while George and Macey develop trust through work as is common in task based cultures.

In order for the three team members to work cohesisvely in meeting their objectives, it is important for the team members to adjust their behavior in order to work well among themselves. In regards to communicating, Macey and George are aligned with their communication approach direct and precise while that of Tai is layered. There is a need for a behavior change for the three team members to ensure that they understand each other through repetition and ensuring that there is written confirmation. For instance, as the team mainly works through emails, video conferencing and teleconferencing, it is important to ensure that all the three understand through confirming that their message is understood by the other team members. For instance, having a summary of what each is to do and next agendas at the end of each communication can help in ensuring that they are all at the same page.

On trusting, George and Macey have a task based culture whereby they develop trust through work while Tai is through personal relations as he has a tendency of a relationship based culture. According to Kimble, trust is very important in work relationships particularly within teams (11).  In addition to the challenge of being in different geographical locations, they are also having different cultural backgrounds. Constant communication is very important in developing trust and ensuring that each team member understands what is expected of them from the others and what to expect from others (Rodrigues and Sbargia, 39). There is a need for the three team members to constantly communicate and provide feedback immediately allowing for trust to be developed.

According to Kimble, a virtual team allows for team members in different geographical locations to work together effectively (8). Rodrigues and Sbragia agrees and further points out that for the virtual team to be successful, communication, trust and adequate planning are critical (48). Further, having cultural competence is critical in making sure that global teams are successful. It is important for all the three team members to understand the challenges facing them as individuals from different cultural backgrounds as well as the challenge of being in different geographical locations. Virtual teams face additional challenges due to the differences in their locations. As such, the virtual team needs to work together and adopt their behavior in order to face the challenge of working as a virtual team with team members from different cultural backgrounds. Effective communication is key in ensuring cohesion and team work and by working on their communication, the challenge of trust can be handled in turn.

Conclusion

In majority of the multinational corporations, projects are often headed and overseen by global teams. A virtual team allows for individuals located in different georpgrahical areas to work together in meeting their objectives. The virtual team analyzed above included three team members;  Tai a Chinese marketing manager, George a German manager and Macy an American manger all working towards developing a marketing advert to rebrand their company.  The analysis reveals that communication, trust and scheduling were critical elements in ensuring that their objectives were met. As a result of their different cultural preferences and tendencies, there were areas of agreement and other of disagreement. The areas of agreement on shared preferences included communicating, and trusting between George and Macey as well as scheduling among the three team members while possible misunderstanding and conflicts includes communicating and trusting between George/Macey and Tai on the other hand. In order to be successful, there was a need for the team members to adjust their behavior in accommodating and interacting with each other. It is clear that it is important for global teams made up of members from different cultures to be culturally competent and to adjust their behavior in order to work together and meet their objectives.

Works Cited

Meyer, Erin. "The Most Productive Ways to Disagree across Culture." INSEAD 6 April. 2015, Web. https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/the-most-productive-ways-to-disagree-across-cultures-3936. Accessed 28 February 2018.

Meyer, Erin. "Building Trust across Cultures" Erin Meyer 16 September. 2015, Web. https://erinmeyer.com/2015/09/building-trust-across-cultures/.Accessed 28 February 2018.

Meyer, Erin. "Mapping Out Cultural Differences on Teams." Erin Meyer 25. January 2015, Web. https://erinmeyer.com/2016/01/mapping-out-cultural-differences-on-teams/.Accessed 28 February 2018.

Kimble, Chris. "Building Effective Virtual Teams: How to Overcome the Problems of Trust and Identity in Virtual Teams." Global Business and Organizational Excellence, vol. 30, no.1, 2011, pp. 6-15. https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1404/1404.7761.pdf. Accessed 28 February 2018.

Rodrigues, Ivete and Sbragia, Roberto. "The Cultural Challenges of Managing Global Project Teams: a Study of Brazilian Multinationals." Journal of Technological Management and Innovation, Vol. 8, 2013, pp. 38-52. Web. https://scielo.conicyt.cl/pdf/jotmi/v8s1/art04.pdf. Accessed 28 February 2018.

October 30, 2023
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