Diversity in multi-cultural teams: challenges of a global environment

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Posted by Colin Baker on 8th Dec 2016

This was an excellent presentation by four very talented and cultured women about Diversity in multi-cultural teams, which explored the impact that this has on team dynamics, down to how this may impact individuals.

The presentation started with an insightful Q&A session of heads or tails where the audience were asked to answer the question based on which answer they thought was correct, all questions were based around Diversity issues.  Leading into perceptions and cultures - “Why Multicultural Businesses are Important

For instance, did you know that half of the approx. 6000 languages spoken today are not being taught and passed on so the prediction is that most of them will be gone by the end of the century?
A strong message from this part of the presentation revolved around the fact that language is the method used by someone to portray and communicate but is not necessarily a true reflection of culture. Not sure where this came from as it is a reflection but not the only one. Culture is more than just the language. Culture is beliefs and values. It is the way we perceive the world around us. What we do, how we act is affected by our culture. In order to communicate/work effectively with a person from another culture, we need to have knowledge about their background. And that knowledge is an enabler for the points below. Can help facilitate:

  • 1. Being more creative and inclusive
  • 2. Generating more solutions/ideas
  • 3. Building relationships and avoiding conflicts

This was followed by a thought process for addressing different cultures and backgrounds within a team - “Situational Awareness for Multicultural Teams
Looking at the team cultures and dynamics including a brief on Myers Briggs and using the example of the M&Ms (which can be found on YouTube), the talk approached problem solving, setting expectations, and using different lenses to highlight the importance of using an un-biased view when approaching a situation.
Strong example given- based on personal experiences and exposures throughout working environments: a team member who was from of a non-drinking culture stating/claimed that an colleague was an alcoholic, transpired that the ‘alcoholic’ colleague was dealing with family issues and had one or two drinks on the weekend. Main point from this is in relation to perspectives based on culture and experiences and recognises the importance of using an unbiased approach.

The final talk focused around Diversity & Inclusion around the individual - “Different Perspectives to Project Management
It started with defining D&I  - using cake baking as an example. Diversity is the range of ingredients, and Inclusion is the tasty cake that is output from mixing/sharing the Diversity.
A few RR specific examples were given, summarising the importance of including and reviewing a broader environment- having a standard global approach to a process may appear to be cost effective but unless cultural differences and individual needs are understood and accounted for at the design stage, there may be challenges and additional costs incurred.
A non-RR example mentioned was the new £5 and considering the impact for certain religions, and vegetarians.

The main focus was diversity at the individual level, and different personal types/behavioural styles. This was explained using High Performance Culture – All Styles get results model – Controller, Analyst, Supporter and Promoter – in relation to the different foci for each group when communicating.
 
At the individual level, another point mentioned was that employees may have specific medical conditions which could impact  on team dynamics. The example provided was about the lead-time for change, and of ensuring clarity of communication messages, for employees who have Asperger’s/or are on the autistic spectrum .

Overall the presentation was well received it was very insightful, it got people to think in a different way and have an appreciation for alternative cultures, individuals and how this can be relative (is this the right word!) within the workplace.

A copy of the presentation can be viewed on the APM Slide Share page however for ease a copy can be viewed below.

Stevie Gosling
SWWE branch Diversity Representative

 

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