Challenges in leading cross-cultural teams

An explorative study with practical implications


Bachelor Thesis, 2020

63 Pages, Grade: 1,8


Excerpt

Contents

Index of figures

Index of tables

Index of abbreviations

1 Introduction
1.1 Task, objectives, motivation
1.2 Methodical approach
1.3 Structure of work

2 Fundamentals of theory
2.1 Culture frameworks
2.1.1 Definitions
2.1.2 Culture dimensions of Hofstede
2.1.3 Culture dimensions of GLOBE
2.1.4 Evaluation of cultural frameworks
2.2 Cross-cultural teams
2.2.1 Definition
2.2.2 Team model and evaluation
2.2.3 Team development
2.2.4 Team processes and dynamics
2.2.5 Problem factors in cross-cultural teamwork
2.3 Leadership
2.3.1 Definition
2.3.2 Leadership styles
2.3.3 Leadership styles according to cultural standards
2.3.4 Tasks, competences and challenges of leaders
2.4 Summary of theory

3 Empirical investigation
3.1 Method of expert interview
3.1.1 Characterisation
3.1.2 Advantages and disadvantages
3.1.3 Structure and design of question guide
3.1.4 Selection of interviewees
3.1.5 Conducting interviews and collection of data
3.2 Method of qualitative content analysis
3.2.1 Characterisation
3.2.2 Advantages and disadvantages
3.2.3 Transcription of data
3.2.4 Procedure of analysis
3.3 Results
3.4 Discussion
3.4.1 Comparison of interview results
3.4.2 Comparison of interview results with theory
3.4.3 Summarising interpretation
3.5 Limitations of investigation

4 Conclusion

Bibliography

Appendix

Index of figures

Figure 1: “Onion Diagram”: levels of depth of culture phenomenon

Figure 2: Linking skills for team functioning

Figure 3: Potential key processes and results during team development stages

Figure 4: Context of cross-cultural teams and leadership

Figure 5: Process of analysis with inductive category formation

Index of tables

Table 1: Power Distance dimension: values in the workplace

Table 2: Uncertainty Avoidance dimension: values in the workplace

Table 3: Individualism and Collectivism dimension: values in the workplace

Table 4: Masculine and Feminine dimension: values in the workplace

Table 5: Short- and Long-Term Orientation dimension: values in the workplace

Table 6: Indulgence versus Restraint dimension: General Norm, Personal Feelings

Table 7: Preferred leadership styles of clusters

Table 8: Interview transcription rules

Table 9: Challenges according to interviews

Table 10: Comparison of results of interviews with theory

Index of abbreviations

GLOBE Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program

TMS Team Management System

1 Introduction

1.1 Task, objectives, motivation

DAX companies employ most of their staff abroad: in the mid-1990s, 60 percent of the employees in DAX companies were employed in Germany, whereas now over 60 percent work in foreign markets (compare Sommer, 2019, no.p.). Hence, globalisation is increasing and national borders are disappearing. Teams are staffed with people from different nations, which brings many advantages in terms of achieving the best possible results for customers, who also have different cultural backgrounds. In this thesis, the leadership challenges that arise and are present in cross-cultural teams will be presented, and practical instruments to deal with them will be indicated.

With the growing global economy marked by rising travel and digital communication, the speed of change and the working complexity are increasing (compare Huesing, Ludema, 2017, p. 7). The relevance of the topic results from the growing globalization and thus growing international cooperation.

One element that affects team performance and defines success is leadership (compare Ungerer, Plachta, 2016, p. 210). Yet, leaders influence the team outcome. In this complex environment (compare Nyein, Wildman, 2016, p.171 et seq.) leaders are challenged through these diverse cultures with new issues and requirements (compare Fischer, Wildman, 2016, p.15). Gaining further practical insights can help to understand, recognize and reduce these issues to ensure the company’s success.

1.2 Methodical approach

The thesis aims to ascertain the challenges of leading a cross-cultural team, as well as which practical instruments are available to deal with them, by conducting three interviews with experts and providing explanations based on theories. Accordingly, this thesis aims to provide some ideas concerning what leaders can expect that they need to solve and the necessary skills when leading a cross-cultural team.

The thesis aims to provide an overview of the challenges of leaders independent of specific cultures. This might hold interest for companies in terms of deploying and developing leaders for cross-cultural teams.

Based on the literature, analysis questions will be developed for the expert interviews with a leader, an HR developer and an advisor/coach, based on which the challenges will be found. The method of expert interviews was chosen to provide new and individual insights from different practical perspectives regarding the issue of leading in a cross-cultural team situation and it is considered an appropriate method to gain details in this situation.

This thesis is based on literature research of recent journals, books and qualitative interviews.

1.3 Structure of work

The subject of this thesis is the leadership of cross-cultural teams and it will focus on the interaction between the leader and team in an organizational environment, e.g. a department or an association for a specific task. Although the specific team variables such as size, composition and gender, virtuality, corporate culture and company structure are not part of this question and will not be considered separately, they nevertheless play a role and thus cannot be ignored.

The plethora of literature spans the research streams of cross-cultural teams, culture and leadership (compare Ungerer, Plachta, 2016, p. 210), global leaders as heads of various departments (compare Huesing, Ludema, 2017, p.4) – in general as well as the company level – and to a lesser extent cross-cultural leadership related to specific aspects of cultures. In particular, there is limited literature available about leading cross-cultural teams (compare Ungerer, Plachta, 2016, p.210). In the context of culture, different literature sources include Hofstede, Trompenaars, and the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness Research Program (GLOBE) study exist.

To answer the research question, culture and cross-cultural teams will first be defined, whereby the cultural frameworks of Hofstede and the GLOBE study and team processes will be described. Subsequently, leadership will be defined and considered. The next chapter will explore the method as defined by the literature and the research procedure employed in this thesis as well as the results will be evaluated and discussed. In the final chapter, a conclusion will be reached highlighting challenges and which practical instruments are available to handle them.

2 Fundamentals of theory

2.1 Culture frameworks

2.1.1 Definitions

Hofstede employs the assumption that everyone has some level of mental programming, which result in people behaving – the only thing that we can view of the programming – more or less equally in comparable situations, whereby their behaviour is partly foreseeable accordingly (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 1 et seqq.). He explains mental programming with values and culture, whereby values are the preferences of a person for one mode over others, more precisely attitudes and beliefs. Values relate to two features, namely a desired or desirable view. Culture comprises invisible elements, values, and visible elements, symbols, heroes and rituals (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 1 et seqq.).

Symbols, heroes, rituals and values reveal differences in cultures (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 7 et seqq.). Specifically, symbols are the words in languages or status symbols, heroes are behaviour role models in the culture, rituals reflect the activities of the society and values as the core are trends in preferring certain conditions (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 7 et seqq.).

Figure 1: “Onion Diagram”: levels of depth of culture phenomenon

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Hofstede, 2010, p.11

This mental software is commonly used in one group or category (collective level), yet differently to another (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 1 et seqq.). Thus, culture is defined "as the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another" (Hofstede, 2001, p. 1 et seqq.). At the individual level, the software is singular, showing different behaviours at the same collective level. The differentiation of appearances between the collective and individual is not sharp (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 1 et seqq.). In a broad sense, culture is the mechanism of behaviour – thinking, feeling, acting – that each person has learned. Hence, all people within one social environment follow unscripted social rules and partly divide the same culture (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p.4 et seqq.).

In the GLOBE study, culture is understood as "shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives that are transmitted across generations" (House, Javidan, 2004, p. 15). In this thesis, the definition of Hofstede is used for the term culture.

The term culture in general is used in e.g. an organizational or religious relation (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 45 et seqq., Stahl et al., 2010, p. 691). There can also be cultural differences in gender, generation, class, ethnicity and region. Hofstede relates the term culture to the culture of a nation (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 45 et seqq.), which is also employed in this thesis.

2.1.2 Culture dimensions of Hofstede

In 1980, Hofstede presented a cultural model from his study to describe differences in cultures, reflecting the values of populations (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 28 et seqq.). In his study, Hofstede questioned employees from 72 countries of the international company IBM during 1967-1969 and 1971-1973. The data set contains more than 116,000 questionnaires and can be analysed based on country, occupation, gender and age. He found four dimensions: a problem area of a culture that can be recorded analogous to other cultures and different solution types (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 30 et seqq.). Later, two additional dimensions – long-term orientation and indulgence versus restraint – were added to his study (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 22).

Hofstede identified the following dimensions, which can also be explained by historical factors (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. xix et seq.). First, power distance reflects the problem of human inequality, and it is differently weighted among countries. It displays the extent to which members with less power await and agree with the uneven distribution of power. In organisations, it is visible in the relation between the leader and his/her subordinates (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 79, 119). His second dimension of uncertainty avoidance refers to future uncertainty, namely the problem of controlling something beyond control. It indicates how much members of a culture feel at ease in an unusual situation. In organisations, it is revealed in relation to technology and rules (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 145). Third, the dimension of individualism versus collectivism reflects the relationship between individuals and society, the problem of positioning in between. It displays the extent to which individuals should take care of themselves or be part of the group (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 209). The fourth dimension is masculinity versus femininity, reflects which effects these differences should have for the roles in society. Accordingly, it reveals the emotional role allocation of the genders (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 279). Subsequently, long- versus short-term orientation was added as a separate dimension to the previous four. The basis of this dimension – perseverance, respecting traditions and thriftiness – derives from Confucius. In a culture, it indicates the degree of acceptance of a delayed reward (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 351). The final dimension is indulgence versus restraint: whereas indulgence reflects the degree of inclination towards a free satisfaction of wishes in terms of life enjoyment and fun, restraint refers to the opinion that rigorous social standards must moderate and manage this satisfaction (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 281).

Each dimension is described with different values, which are displayed in terms of their relevance to the workplace in the following tables.

Table 1: Power distance dimension: values in the workplace

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: in Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 76

Table 2: Uncertainty avoidance dimension: values in the workplace

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: in Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 217

Table 3: Individualism versus collectivism dimension: values in the workplace

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: in Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 124

Table 4: Masculine versus feminine dimension: values in the workplace

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: in Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 170

Table 5: Short- versus long-term orientation dimension: values in the workplace

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: in Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 251

Table 6: Indulgence versus restraint dimension: general norm, personal feelings

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: in Hofstede et al., 2010, S. 297

Corresponding to the dimensions of Hofstede, Germany is generally an individualist and masculine country with low power distance, stronger uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation and less restrained (compare Hofstede, 2010, p. 103 et seqq.).

2.1.3 Culture dimensions of GLOBE

The GLOBE study from 1993 to 1997 investigated 62 societies at the industry level and various organizations within them (compare House, 2004, p. xxii et seqq.). The results are dimensions replicating and expanding Hofstede´s framework as well as six dimensions for the behaviour of global leaders. In this study, culture dimensions and leadership dimensions were investigated as the dependent variables. The leadership dimensions indicate what is seen as important for effective leadership in a specific country. In all cases, practices – reflecting how it is – and values – reflecting how it should be – were researched (compare House, 2004, p. xxii et seqq.). In this study, the culture was researched in three countries – Germany, South Africa, and Switzerland – with two samples (compare House, Javidan, 2004, p. 12).

The GLOBE study uses nine dimensions (compare House, Javidan, 2004, p. 11 et seqq.). Uncertainty avoidance indicates how much members try to avoid uncertainty due to trusting in norms and rituals, while power distance expresses the extent to which members await and agree to the concentration of power at a superior level. Third, collectivism comprises two parts: institutional collectivism displays the extent of encouragement and reward practices regarding the shared circulation of resources, while in-group collectivism represents the level of state solidarity and pride. The extent to which inequality between genders is minimized is indicated by the dimension of gender egalitarianism. Assertiveness displays how enforceable and aggressive people are in social relationships, while behaviour aimed at the future – e.g. planning – is revealed by the level of future orientation. Performance orientation demonstrates the level of encouragement and awards for advancement in performance and peak power, and finally, humane orientation displays the level of encouragement and awards for friendliness, generosity and caring (compare House, Javidan, 2004, p. 11 et seqq.).

As previously mentioned, the dimensions of the GLOBE study are an expansion of Hofstede´s dimensions (compare House, Javidan, 2004, p. 13). Hence, in the GLOBE study the dimensions of power distance and uncertainty avoidance were adopted from Hofstede`s model, while the rest were redefined (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 24 et seqq.).

2.1.4 Evaluation of cultural frameworks

There are a wide range of well-known cultural studies (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 29 et seqq.). In his study, Geert Hofstede proved the forecasted problems of Inkeles and Levinson from 1954 and introduced dimensions to classify national cultures as an explanatory model. Shalom H. Schwartz and GLOBE applied the dimensions of Hofstede in their similarly large studies. Other authors explaining differences in cultures include Fons Trompenaars and Misho Minkov (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 29 et seqq.). Although the classic cultural framework of dimensions is derived from Hofstede (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 22 et seqq., Dimitrov, 2014, p. 34 et seqq.), it is used as a basis for other cultural studies (compare Kohler, 2016, p. 13) and is most developed in each dimension described through the most recognized values. Moreover, Hofstede’s work is most frequently cited in the literature (compare Kirkman, 2017, p.13, Dimitrov, 2014, p. 34 et seqq.). One major advantage of his study in terms of examining differences in nationality is that comparable – i.e. employees in the same company – people of different nationalities were questioned (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 30 et seqq.).

Hofstede´s dimension model has numerous positive aspects, although it also has a range of critics (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 22, Dimitrov, 2014, p. 51 et seqq., Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 30 et seqq.). In particular, positive aspects include the easy presentation of the structure, the correlation between its components, the possibility to monitor the interactions and the fact that it is a useful tool for making general statements. Moreover, it shows a momentary status, although the dynamic can be reproduced and the scores are relative. As an expanding field of application besides practical applicability, there is a development of the model generalizability and stability (compare Dimitrov, 2014, p.51 et seqq.). As such, it clarifies, is clear, has a convenient procedure (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 22 et seqq.), is easy to apply and a comprehensive sample is available for data analysis (compare Dimitrov, 2014, p. 34 et seqq.).

Furthermore, a confirmed benefit (compare Dimitrov, 2014, p. 51 et seq.) through some replications is the comparable dimensions in studies with different samples and a different number of countries (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 30 et seqq.), as well as the stability of the values (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 22 et seqq., Kohler, 2016, p. 13). Indeed, the measures will still be valid for a long time (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 36), specifically the dimensions demonstrating the continuing solutions of a nation to general problems and the relative rather than absolute position compared with other nations (compare Hofstede, 2001, p. 36).

By contrast, points of criticism relate to the method, the nation as a distinction to other cultures, the later-added fifth dimension from a different survey or through research of traditional topics concerning inter-cultural studies (compare Dimitrov, 2014, p.51 et seq.). Tocar´s qualitative analysis reveals that in comparison with the GLOBE study Hofstede´s framework neglects the values of inner balance, enjoyment and bravery (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 24 et seqq.). These values are at either end of the dimensions of assertiveness and humane orientation, which requires more attention since elements are included that do not appear in Hofstede's framework (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 24 et seqq.).

There are likewise critics about the GLOBE study, namely that the questionnaire was used in the context of American leadership as a foundation for its questions (compare Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 334). As such, the construct is difficult to use in other countries. Furthermore, the features of the dimensions are less explicitly specified (compare Tocar, 2019, p. 24 et seqq).

There are limitations in terms of models being applicable on a cross-country basis (compare Ashkanasy et al., 2004, p. 338 et seqq.). In fact, cultures vary in some aspects and therefore theory and procedures for management and organization in one country could be applied in another country, but it needs to be evidenced and considered that the basis is a different value system. In brief, theories and methods are specific to a culture, but by assessing the context and the different values it can be applied to another country (compare Ashkanasy et al., 2004, p. 338 et seqq.).

In this thesis, Hofstede’s framework is used due to its ease of use, clarity and detailed description of the dimensions, as well as because it is well suited in particular to answer the research question.

2.2 Cross-cultural teams

2.2.1 Definition

Increased competition – particularly an increased pressure to solve problems faster – has changed the structure in companies from individual working to working in teams (compare Kühne, 2011, p. 43 et seqq.). Indeed, the cooperation between employees with various languages is necessary for companies (compare Tenzer, Pudelko, 2015, p. 606, Zander et al., 2012, p. 592).

In the literature, the terms team and groups are used equally (compare Kodydek 2014, p. 91, Stahl et al., 2010, p. 690), whereas teams are associated with a higher degree of development through a greater degree of cohesion (compare in der Beek, Pahl, 2016, p. 168, Kodydek 2014, p. 91, Stahl et al., 2010, p. 690).

Teams are the smallest unit in an organisation (compare Kühne, 2011, p. 43 et seqq.). A team comprises a certain number of persons with common influence having a structure and a joint task goal in a fixed period and strong cohesion. In a team, the members decide different tasks through their skills for mutual purposes and targets. It holds major significance that the whole team has the same goal and conception of the result, and thus with their common framework of ideas teams are better at solving problems than individuals (compare Kühne, 2011, p. 43 et seqq.). In this thesis, in general the goal is understood as a preferable outcome.

Teams can occur in different types (compare Cramer, 2007, p. 64 et seqq.). In other words, for teams a distinction is made between how diversified tasks are, the degree of autonomy in decision-making, how close the cooperation is, the hierarchy in the group, the structure of the group in the environment as a project team or department, whether its existence is temporary, a long-existing or new group and the physical distance (compare in der Beek, Pahl, 2016, p. 168, Cramer, 2007, p.64 et seqq.). Nearly all organised teams have a person who is assigned as a leader and a definition of the leadership position exists regardless of whether some leader tasks are performed by team members (compare Tenzer, Pudelko, 2015, p.607).

Global virtual and assembled teams limit the scope of team composition depending on the degree of personal interaction (compare Zander et al., 2012, p. 592). Hence, global teams are characterised as globally scattered and diverse in several dimensions (compare Zander et al. 2012, p. 592). The focus of this thesis is placed on cultural diversity.

Various composition types of team members with a different cultural background are possible (compare Kodydek, 2014, p. 97). All team members can have the same cultural background (homogenous composition), only one team member has another cultural background, two cultures are equally represented or cross-cultural teams comprise at least three members with a different cultural background (compare Kodydek, 2014, p. 97, Kühne, 2011, p. 45 et seq.). Obviously, they have different attitudes and behaviours (compare Kühne, 2011, p. 45 et seq.), different values and persuasions (compare Shuffler et al., 2016, p. 3). Consequently, culture influences cooperation (compare Kühne, 2011, p. 45 et seq.). In this thesis, cross-cultural teams comprise at least three members, each with a different culture, they have a structure of interaction and working together to achieve a common purpose.

2.2.2 Team model and evaluation

Teams in organizations are structured and generally steady, working together continuously in a steady environment, with repeat customers and stakeholders (compare Dibble, Gibson, 2013, p. 765). Different models describe the ideal composition of teams. Belbin´s team role model uses the personality profiles and corresponding behaviour patterns, whereby the team role indicator covers the situational contribution of a member to the success and team management system (TMS) using roles with the work preferences of the individuals (compare Kühne, 2011, p. 89).

The TMS is a globally-used model for establishing effective functioning within a team (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p. 17 et seqq.). Charles Margerison and Dick McCann presented the system in 1985 based on an investigation of leaders and teams in Australia, Europe, America and South-East Asia. They developed two dimensions: one about the work requirements – the types of work model, in which leaders set the direction to reach the goals – and the second about work preferences and team roles, namely the team management wheel. An important factor between each dimension is the link between the elements (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p. 17 et seqq.).

There are eight types of work defined (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p.30 et seqq.). First, Advising is the gathering and spreading of information, reflecting an important work function of the leader to keep the team well and continuously informed. Second, innovating involves finding new and different ideas to existing problems. This requires time, which the employees should receive. Third, promoting means making others interested in the idea, both within and outside of the team, e.g. through the leader. Fourth, developing involves testing the ideas for success in relation to the requirements of the customer and the possibilities in the company. Fifth, organising describes fulfilling tasks within a given timeframe. Targets need to be set, whereby the preparation of the implementation is usually done by the leader. Sixth, realizing is the performance of the task, whereby in order to improve the process employees talk to their leaders. Seventh, monitoring of e.g. targets, tasks or products is important to maintain the quality. Finally, maintaining involves the continuous review of the standards set, in terms of whether they are complied with or whether adjustments are necessary (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p. 30 et seqq.). For the team functioning, all team roles are necessary (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p.61 et seq.). The team management wheel displays the working preferences in terms of roles of team members or leaders, each with their specific attributes (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p. 61 et seq.).

The linking skills – the leadership function – of the team leader and its members are necessary for the functioning of the team (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p. 77 et seqq.). Indeed, as a result of limited linking skills, cooperation and communication lead to problems and the actions are disjointed. Linking skills comprise the core elements of motivation and strategy influencing, the linking tasks of quality standards, distribution of work, team development, delegation and objective, and in the everyday business the area of linking people with active listening, communication, relationships, problem-solving and advice, joint decision-making and interface management (compare Tscheuschner, Wagner, 2008, p.77 et seqq.).

[...]

Excerpt out of 63 pages

Details

Title
Challenges in leading cross-cultural teams
Subtitle
An explorative study with practical implications
College
The FOM University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg
Course
Challenges in leading cross-cultural teams
Grade
1,8
Author
Year
2020
Pages
63
Catalog Number
V980984
ISBN (eBook)
9783346341082
ISBN (Book)
9783346341099
Language
English
Tags
challenges, leading, cross-cultural, content analysis, multicultural, explorative study, practical implications, culture, leadership, team
Quote paper
B.A. Anja Berndt (Author), 2020, Challenges in leading cross-cultural teams, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/980984

Comments

  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Challenges in leading cross-cultural teams



Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free