Magazine article Training & Development

Helping Global Teams Compete

Magazine article Training & Development

Helping Global Teams Compete

Article excerpt

In global organizations, every team intervention--from measuring team performance to team development training to other miscellaneous consulting initiatives--needs to consider the dynamics of global teams. The definition of "good team member" varies from country to country. The concept of "effective leadership" may also differ. As a result, global teams sometimes find themselves reconfiguring into national collections of subteams--that is, a Japanese subteam, an American subteam, a French subteam, and so forth--that may misunderstand each other's expectations and approaches.

Cultural values. An underlying cause of the success or lack thereof of global teams may reside in the definition of what it takes to be a good team member or leader. Cultural values play a significant role in those definitions. For example, a French team member may jump in to assist a U.S. colleague he or she perceives is in need of help. Americans, however, generally have a strong desire to act as individuals; thus, the U.S. team member may interpret the French colleague as undermining his or her job by interfering.

Cultural and language differences. In addition to whatever else might be at the root of global team issues, cultural and language differences obviously add to the complexity. It's important to acknowledge those differences up front and create opportunities for discussion of different perceptions. If you're able to leverage the differences, you can improve creativity and add value to your global team.

Miscellaneous interferences. Other reasons may exist for a global team's sub-par performance. Its problems may stem from a specific team leader's approach, a lack of organizational support for the team, or because individual rewards overshadow team success. In such cases, training to build a global team may fail because you didn't know or address the real reason for poor team performance.

Why use measurement?

Global teams, because they represent significant corporate investments, require proactive attention and preventive maintenance, which are always preferable to disaster recovery. A proactive approach--taking the team's temperature periodically--can help identify if and when it needs training and what kind of training.

A proactive approach positions the training professional as a strategic thinker--someone who brings value to the business by detecting problem issues early and preventing them from getting bigger. The training professional becomes a business partner with a bottom-line focus. Measurement techniques using appropriate tools can help management compare many global teams within the same business sectors, adding to management's capabilities.

Unfortunately, it usually isn't until a problem arises that management calls on the training provider for help. Requests for team development interventions after the fact--after a client already believes that training is the solution--usually means one of two things: The team leader knows he or she needs help, or the team leader may have attempted other solutions without positive results. The leader, or his or her manager, then calls on the training and development professional to provide a solution.

Even if providing team training addresses the problems, it may be at considerable expense to the business. For example, consider the costs associated with time lost on the job. With global teams, add to that the cost of international travel. Business leaders value preventive measures that save such costs.

Instead of waiting to be called on after a problem is identified, use a proactive measurement approach to get useful information on the state of the team. …

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