Cross Cultural Teams in Global Projects — by Nayan Hazra

Cross Cultural is now a common professional term. On a historical note, the term ‘cross cultural’ originated in 1970 for the professional world. This was in response to the age of globalization which produced a demand for cross-cultural awareness in various commercial & professional sectors.

I am a technically sophisticated & business-savvy professional in India with a rich experience in Customer Relationship Management and Business Processes Analysis & Implementation in IT. My experience of cultural diversity is bundled with strong business acumen, with the ability to manage business and implement necessary measures for potential business outcomes in advance of executions, having extensively managed global customers based from Asian Pacific, American & EU regions. I have the distinction of successfully managing prime valued customers using mentor skills with the ability to motivate cross cultural teams. Working in the Functional Consultant role, I have managed implementation of varied Business Processes & Applications, through constant Research and Analysis for the most competitive business solutions.

I had the chance to be in one of the situations experiencing the cross cultural effect. In my early professional days, I was working for a big information technology company and my client was a giant Telecom Solution Provider. Being in a project and in a Service Delivery model, I had the chance to interact across the globe, right from the Asian Pacific to America, covering the EU in between.
In those days, I was handling a customer request for the delivery of Telecom Solution in China. Due to the differences in communication China has been a difficult zone for me. As per the process the networking solution was delivered on time and it was time for the most difficult to get things up and running for the customer. And then we scheduled a conference call with a local engineer at the China site, a networking engineer from UK, a network engineer from Germany and finally Me, from India. And our target was common – get the customer sign off the ‘Acceptance’ report after the test shows 100% results.

It did not take long after the call started to understand that we were all going nowhere. The communication gap rose up to be biggest challenge. The local engineer has been very fluent in technical aspects but could not explain the results in the dialect we understood. Similarly, the network engineer had the limitation to his mother tongue. Left were two of us, who could only help things by guessing. The whole show was surely going for a toss. We had to decide to close on the call for the moment. What we understood was that the across-the-border communication was not helping the cause for us. Rather, it was making it worse.

With three days before the deadline, we decided to call again, but better prepared this time with a couple of other team mates accompanying us on the call. With sheer determination that the no language and cultural differences would come between this time, we started off. The local engineer began, with the translation done by the new team mate from Hong Kong and similarly, the other end done by the new entrant from France, who happens to know German as well. Putting in the best of efforts, with trials and errors, the call moved on from minutes to hours. And finally on the verge of five long hours, the network suddenly went to 100% output.

Yes we did it; we hit the deadline with 48 hours to go. Despite we had the miles in between us, despite we could not see each other, despite we could not understand each other, but we did it. The final goal has been met, we have one more than happy customer.

This one experience in my life will always act as an example of what the power of Cross Cultural professionalism can do, not just for an enterprise but for any business house. Today with the ever merging world, language is no longer the barrier but just the mental block that hinders our relationship with people who sometimes just happen to be mission critical. For any organization today, having a team that is cross cultural, with people from across the globe, born with different cultural aspects, is not a hindrance, but a boon. The same boon helps not only to grow a business, but also to broaden human values. Yes, cross cultural teams are the way to develop a united world, a world where the borders are shattered for the common goal.

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