There are three data points. Let’s call them facts. And they are independent of our work at understand-culture. First Fact: There are differences between cultures.
Second Fact: Those differences are in foundational areas such as communication, decision making, leadership, processes, product philosophies, and more.
Third Fact: These differences necessarily, per definition, directly and constantly, exert influence on the success of cross-border teams within global companies.
When we take a closer look at the influence of culture on our work, on cross-border collaboration, we always address the same three questions, and in this order:
First Question: Where do we differ in our thinking, therefore acting, differences in logics, approaches, methods, beliefs, traditions, mindsets?
Second Question: What influence to do these differences have on our work, on our collaboration, on our success?
Third Question: How do we minimize the problems, maximize the opportunities, decrease the downside, increase the upside, convert a liability into an asset?
The minute we decide to make a serious effort to understand the influence of culture on our work we have decided to enter into three conversations:
First Conversation: With ourselves, in self-reflection: “How do I as an individual think, therefore act?” You with yourself.
Second Conversation: With colleagues in your own culture, in co-self-reflection: “How do we as a culture think, therefore act?” You with same-culture.
Third Conversation: With colleagues from the other culture: “How do should we as a cross-border team want to collaborate?” You with other-culture.
Whether you are in management or a subject-matter expert or an individual contributor in a global company, you most likely are engaging in three kinds of relationships, and on a constant basis.
First Relationship: With your colleagues. In the company. From different departments. Working together in order to get the right things done in the right way.
Second Relationship: With the company’s customers. These are the people you are serving. By delivering a product, a service, in most cases both.
Third Relationship: With the company’s suppliers. These are the people who are serving you and your colleagues. With products and services they provide.
When colleagues better understand the influence of cultural differences on cross-border collaboration three good things happen:
First Outcome: They get the job done. On schedule. Within budget. Quality results. That’s good for the company, the team, and the individual colleagues.
Second Outcome: They sleep better at night. We mean this literally and figuratively. The stress of working in a cross-border context is reduced dramatically. That’s good for them as people.
Third Outcome: They contribute to the relations between countries. If they get along at work they will have a favorable impression of each other’s country. That influences them as voters. That’s good for mankind.