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Global Virtual Teams - Essay Example

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We will assume company X is American and so is its manager who wants to target the Japanese market. To evaluate the cultural differences that could lead to difficulties in working with a team from Japan, we shall begin by looking at the five bipolar dimensions of culture identified by Geert Hofstede as: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, masculinity, and long-term orientation (“Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions,” 2011)…
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We will assume company X is American and so is its manager who wants to target the Japanese market. To evaluate the cultural differences that could lead to difficulties in working with a team from Japan, we shall begin by looking at the five bipolar dimensions of culture identified by Geert Hofstede as: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, masculinity, and long-term orientation (“Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions,” 2011). Power distance relates to the degree of inequality, defined from below, between people in a particular society. Both Japan at 54 and the U.S. at 40 are below the global average of 55. This implies that in Japan, like in the U.S. subordinates are treated well, entrusted with important tasks and managers often assume blame over their subordinates given that it is their duty to manage. Therefore as the manager contemplates the move to Japan she can rest assured that involvement of subordinates in decision making, and an inclusive management style similar to America’s will be accepted. However, when we move to uncertainty avoidance (UA) the U.S. and Japan are worlds apart. The U.S. has a below average UA index, 46, whereas Japan has a UA index of 92. For starters Japan is largely homogenous and has a long history therefore its populace lacks exposure to a different way of doing things. This implies that in Japan the manager will be faced with the arduous task of cajoling and convincing before new ideas are embraced. The Japanese are risk-averse. It will therefore take more time to convince team members to take a different direction from that which they are used to if need be, say in the middle of a project. Under the individualism index, Japan and the U.S. are again at the polar opposites. This is the U.S.’s highest dimension whereas it is Japan’s lowest dimension. Under the Japanese culture conformity is expected and teams are bigger than personalities. This implies that teams would thrive more in Japan than they do in the U.S. due to cultural approval for them. However, this may stifle the innovativeness of individuals since there are no incentives for individual brilliance. Another key difference to remember between these two countries here is that whereas in the U.S. promotions are dependent on performance or achievement, in Japan they are largely dependent on seniority and experience. Another challenging cultural dimension that the U.S. manager will have to encounter is that of masculinity in Japan. At masculinity index 95, this is Japan’s highest cultural dimension. Japan’s attitude towards the working woman verges towards the ridiculous. Japanese companies are among the world’s least-friendly towards women to the extent that a majority of women quit their jobs voluntarily (Schumpeter, 2011). Nevertheless, for businesses, there is an upside to Japan’s highly masculine society and that is employees generally work longer hours and take shorter vacations and are open to more travel. Finally, the U.S. and Japan again are on polar ends with regards to their long-term orientation (LTO) dimension. According to Geert Hofstede, LTO values associated with long-term orientation are thrift, perseverance and making sacrifices for a long-term goal (“Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions,” 2011). This implies that teams in Japan would be better placed that U.S. teams in working on long-term projects that may require much sacrifice and patience to realize meaningful outcome. Based on the above cultural dimensions, the selection process of virtual team members in Japan will begin with evaluation of proficiency with technical tools such as e-mail, teleconferencing etc. and conversance with electronic etiquette. This attribute will be evaluated in tandem with ability to communicate in a virtual environment. Inter-cultural communication is vital for virtual teams since it reflects cultural values – a key cause of conflict among global virtual teams (Kankanhalli, Tan, & Wei, 2007). The next step would be to evaluate the technical and project management skills of the team members. This attribute would enable the manager achieve functional diversity so as to increase innovation as well as increase task conflict that will encourage communication and eventual improved performance. Finally the selection process will involve evaluating every potential team member’s self-management skills. As much as the Japanese society is collectivist, they will now have to work together with American’s who are on the other end of the individualism index. Under self-management skills the selection panel will look for potential employee’s ability to create and execute opportunities for individual learning and growth as well as taking the initiative to change working methods and processes to meet the demands of the work. The probability of success for the planned expansion through virtual teams in Japan is, to be realistic, high for the following reason. The Japanese have similarly high technical skills in technical tools used for online communication and they have also adequate experience in communicating within a virtual environment. Language may be the major barrier here especially if the American company insists on communication to be conducted purely in English. This could be tackled by hiring Japanese who have either been educated in English-speaking countries or have good working knowledge of English. References Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions. (2011, November 29).geert-hofstede.com. Retrieved November 29, 2011, from http://www.geert-hofstede.com/ Kankanhalli, A., Tan, B. C. ., & Wei, K.-K. (2007). Conflict and Performance in Global Virtual Teams. Journal of Management Information Systems, 23(3), 237-274. Schumpeter. (2011, November 5). Land of the wasted talent. The Economist. Retrieved November 29, 2011, from http://www.economist.com/node/21536543  Read More
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