When working with international teams there are going to be multiple levels of issues and concerns to navigate consciously and subconsciously. When discussing this topic (and it is one of my favorites) I love to reference my favorite text on the subject, Understanding Cross Cultural Management by By Browaeys and Price. (Everything below is based on their work).
According to Michael Browne, “[g]lobalization means that modern teams and companies are increasingly staffed by qualified people from around the world. In order to create a harmonic working environment while maximizing team efficiency, it is necessary to understand how different cultures approach things such as meeting deadlines, direct or indirect communication or project mentality”.
Individuals who master the ability to operate and navigate international teams with success and results are people high in demand. You can too by studying the following aspects of cross-cultural diversity.
Culture operates on three levels:
Artifacts and Attitudes
Can be observed in terms of architecture, rituals, dress codes,
making contact, contracts, language, eating and so on.
Beliefs and Norms
Statements of fact about the way things
are. These are the cultural rules, as it were, which explain what is happening at level one
and determine what is right or wrong.
Values and Basic Assumptions
Values are to do with general preferences as to what
is good or bad, how things should be. Basic assumptions are difficult to explore and what lies there can only be construed through interpretation of what is happening at the other levels. Interpretation involves trying to explain why we act according to particular rules or in line with particular values. It is to do with the question ‘Why?’ and the attempt to answer it with more than just a ‘Because!’
Cultural dimensions were created as a comparative model with six cultural orientations:
1. the nature of people;
2. the relationship to nature;
3. the relationship to other people;
4. the modality of human activity (doing and being);
5. the temporal focus of human activity (future, past, present);
6. the concept of space (private/public).
Building on that, the following Model of Culture is adapted from Doing Business Internationally, Participant Workbook: 2.3 and in reference to the eight cultural value orientations that international teams need to master in order to be successful on multiple levels.
The three things we most quickly notice:
- What we see: Behavior, body language, and non-verbal communication
- What we hear: Tone of voice, choice of words, respect toward authority or lack there of (Power dimension).
- What we process: meanings of words or phrases, underlying messages and context,
Since we all interpret these things differently among our own culture, it can be difficult to quickly adapt to abstaining from making judgement about people or situations in other cultures.