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International Project Teams: Workplace Diversity

Overview

The company chosen for the analysis is an international firm that has just started using a new information technology system that is still being developed. The key users of the technology are scattered all over the country, and each team member is from a different culture. The Slovakian subsidiary of the firm has been selected as the technology team to design and develop the proprietary technology. However, there have been problems, especially regarding clear communicating the objectives of the project and even coordinating the team efforts since the team is dispersed all over the globe. Moreover, the project has an unrealistic deadline. The primary standout issue, therefore, is the coordination of the team effort to meet the tight deadline.

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IT International Division Partner

The selected international division partner is situated in Slovakia. It is the division of the international enterprise firm that deals with IT. Evidently, Slovakia has a different worker culture as compared with that of the U.S. Using Geert Hofstede’s culture evaluation model, it is possible to delineate the differences and similarities between the two cultures and predict with certainty what aspects of the Slovakian culture could be detrimental to the cooperation efforts between the two divisions. The first dimension is the power distance. The dimension measures the extent to which the less powerful members of the society accept the unequal distribution of power in the society (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). It expresses the attitude of culture towards the inequalities in a community. Slovakia scores 100 points as compared to United States’ 40, indicating that hierarchical organizations are normal in the Slovakian society including political, gender, and economic spheres (ITIM International, 2016). The powerful members are allowed and expected to use their powers to the detriment of the less powerful.

The second cultural dimension is individualism. The dimension measures the extent of individualism and collectivism in society (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). In individualistic societies, the interests of oneself are given prevalence over those of the community while in collectivist societies the interests of an individual are subservient to those of the community or the group. From the data collected by ITIM International (2016), the Slovakian culture is a relatively collectivist one with a score of 52 while the U.S. society, with a score of 91, is incredibly individualistic meaning that most people in the United States care first about themselves and their immediate family.

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Another cultural dimension is masculinity. It measures the extent to which the members of the society are driven by competition, achievement, and notions of success (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). Slovakia, on the one hand, is a highly masculine society scoring 100 points, indicating that the members of the society are incredibly success-oriented (ITIM International, 2016). The U.S., comparatively, is only relatively masculine scoring 62 points. Therefore, while the American society is success-driven, it also values the quality of life and caring for others. They do not necessarily work extra-long hours to achieve higher standards of living so that they can boast about their wealthy status.

An additional cultural dimension is uncertainty avoidance. It measures the extent to which people abhor uncertainty and ambiguity in their routine operations and their willingness to avoid such situations (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). With an intermediate score of 51 points, the Slovakian society shows no clear preference. However, the U.S. society, with a score of 46, definitely demonstrates the absence of fear of uncertainty and that it does not necessarily feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations (ITIM International, 2016).

The penultimate cultural evaluation dimension is pragmatism. It measures the extent to which people are future or short-term oriented. Future-oriented societies are pragmatic while short-term ones and considered normative (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). With a high score of 77, it is evident that Slovakia has an incredibly pragmatic orientation. The members easily adapt to the changing situations and conditions and extoll a strong propensity to save and invest. This is unlike the U.S. society which, with a score of 26, is largely normative (ITIM International, 2016). Unlike Slovakians, the U.S. citizens prefer to maintain time-honored traditions and norms that are quite rigid.

The last cultural dimension is the indulgence factor. It measures the extent to which people control their desires and impulses (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). Indulgent societies have weak control while restrained societies have relatively strong control. With a low score of 28, it is evident that the Slovakian society is highly restrained and tends to profess cynicism and pessimism (ITIM International, 2016). The U.S. society, with a high score of 68, is relatively indulgent meaning that its members put some emphasis on leisure time and are keen to gratify their desires.

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Success or Achievement Issue

One issue that may potentially impact the success of the project is coordinating time in the different time zones to meet the unreasonably tight deadline. The Slovakians have a low uncertainty avoidance index. As such, they may not be very keen on meeting tight deadlines as they conceptualize time as being fluid. Additionally, the fact that there is time difference and problematic communication means that the failure to meet the deadline is a significant threat. Coordinating the time and efforts to meet the deadline is, thus, the key to the success of the project.

Web 2.0 Solution

One of the Web 2.0 technologies that may prove an apt solution to the predicament is the use of Short Message Service (SMS). This would be used to prompt the other project members in the U.S., Slovakia, and anywhere else in the world in real time. An automated system that generates SMS alerts when the deadline for a task approaches will be used to coordinate the team’s efforts and ensure that the time difference and laxity towards deadlines do not impact the success of the project.

Personal Reflection

Researching and writing about Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions have been informative. Before undertaking this assignment, I barely appreciated the challenges international project teams that are culturally diverse face. I assumed that for the personnel to be involved in such multi-disciplinary engagements, they have to be ultimate professionals who are not necessarily influenced by their native cultures in their operations. I reckon the only factor I deemed problematic was the language barrier. However, I have now realized I was thoroughly misinformed; there are many other ways through which culture manifests itself including the notions of power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, pragmatism, and indulgence, which all influence the effectiveness of cooperation between the members of a culturally-diverse team.

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