In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we described how we attempted to collaborate on a project with a team from a different cultural background and, despite high expectations and an initial “honeymoon” period, this eventually led to a serious breakdown in communication.
Because it took us so long to recognize how the incongruous mixture of workplace cultures were clashing to the detriment of the project, everything soon fell apart and the work ground to a standstill. Frustrations on both sides led to an inability to move forward and of course, the end product was not what we were hoping for, and certainly not what we were paying for.
If only we had decided in advance to examine our individual team cultures through the lens of the Three Colors of Worldview, we could have determined that the disconnect between KnowledgeWorkx’s mostly Innocence-Guilt–influenced perceptions and opinions and the more Power-Fear–oriented approach of the website development company’s team was a potential source of friction. Accordingly, we could have created a common culture or third cultural space where everyone knew the established boundaries and felt comfortable communicating and contributing.
Another guideline that would have been invaluable in helping to build a relationship of trust between the two organisations is the Four Pillars of Inter-Cultural Teaming, which would have allowed us to build a cross-team charter founded on common goals. This would help establish a "third culture space" -- a mutually beneficial space that is unique to our two teams, containing the best elements of both teams' original group cultures. The Four Pillars tell us to:
- Overcome Communication Barriers –– How do we communicate (in terms of process, as well as content)? What type of communication will work for both parties? What permissions do we give to one another and what presuppositions will we bring to the table in our interactions with one another?
- Build Behavior-Based Trust –– How do we build a relationship where behavior-based trust is agreed upon ahead of time? What type of behavior is expected from the two teams?
- Establish Ongoing Common Purpose –– How do we keep our common purpose in focus? Especially in terms of relationships between the programmers, the supervisors, and the project manager. How do we keep the main objective the primary focus and achieve an end result that everyone can be proud of and happy about?
- Develop Relational Capital –– What type of relational strength do we need in order for this project to be successful? How do we go about establishing productive relationships?
We know now that we should have sought to discover back then what gaps needed to be bridged. Then we might have been able to address all those intercultural teaming components more adequately, through trust-building, improving communication, aligning purpose, and building productive relationships. From the outset, during the initial conversations and planning with the company owner: if we had dug deep enough, early enough, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time, money and frustration. Furthermore, we might have avoided the major setbacks on the go-to-market timeline that ended up taking us 40-50% over budget.
We lost out, and it was a hard lesson to learn. We share our story here because it is important to acknowledge that such losses are preventable.
Hindsight is 20/20
There is value to be gained in looking back and learning from our past mistakes. Using our Inter-Cultural Intelligence framework, we can re-examine the situation from start to finish and pin-point nearly the precise moment when things began to unravel.
We now realize that, even in a one-to-one conversation, you are creating culture — intentionally or unintentionally. We learned that intentionally creating culture and using powerful tools (e.g., 12 Dimensions of Culture and Three Colors of Worldview) will advance local-global leaders toward success in their intercultural relationships and team leadership efforts.
There are many ways you can step into that space, too — learning from what we’ve learned. Read the articles on this site. Take a look at the material we have already posted regarding High-Performance Teaming methodology. Sign up for eLearning! Contact us about attending an Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) workshop or other events in your area. Try out the Three Colors of Worldview discovery tool for yourself. Reach out to us! Buy the eBook! Get some support through the online communities associated with eLearning, the eBook, and certified ICI practitioners.
Even better—invite us to come and to work with your team on these types of issues. We would love to have a part in helping your team to combine cultural agility and Inter-Cultural Intelligence for incredible performance.