An intercultural team can be of great advantage when it comes to solving complex problems, as different points of view are coming together. At the same time, cultural diversity comes along with some diffculties. Entrepreneurs often underestimate the cultural implications of such a cooperation. We dive head first into joint projects, true to the motto: “I’m sure it will be fine,” without investing much time in the preparation of our employees or considering potential complications. Only well into the business relationship do we realise the problems of international cooperation.
Primary teamwork consists of recognising and appreciating the differences and similarities and learning how to deal with them. In a next step the roles and functions of all team members for the duration of a project should be clearly defined. It is of particular importance to create a common culture within a team. Binding rules and standards can only be established once a common foundation has been created. As soon as a basic understanding for the otherness of the partner has been developed, this diversity can become a resource for international projects.
Difficulties regarding intercultural management
Communication is an important component of project management. If the project is executed on an international level, communication gains in importance. According to a study conducted by Cockpit Consulting, 43.5 percent of the surveyed companies complain about insufficient communication within teams and between the different sites that are involved in the execution of the project. An essential reason for communication problems is therefore the inconsistent and unstructured use of communication media. While some rave about Skype and Wikis, most business partners still have important conversations via telephone. This leads to the development of different information levels, which obstruct the achievement of a common goal.
The applied project language appears to be a further problem. While approximately 75 percent of all businesses consider English the primary language where international projects are concerned, the language abilities vary greatly. The consequences are often misinterpretations and misunderstandings. The communication problems increase where partners only cooperate on a virtual basis without any face-to-face interaction.
Working within intercultural teams can be of great advantage. Every culture is unique so there are differences between every single culture. But instead of complaining about these differences, such creative diversity should be embraced and integrated into the business concept. By doing this many problems can be overcome.
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