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Building an Effective Global Business Team

Although myriad organizational mechanisms exist for integrating geographically dispersed operations, the most effective tool is assembling and nurturing cross-border teams comprised of many nationalities. The resulting diversity can yield significant synergies and produce collective wisdom superior to that of any individual -- each member bringing a unique cognitive lens to the group. However, mastering the management of a global business team calls for confronting several unique challenges that tend to exacerbate the more common problems faced by all teams, point out authors Govindarajan, director of the Center for Global Leadership at Dartmouth College's Tuck School, and Gupta, a professor of strategy and global e-business at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Of the 70 global business teams studied by the authors, about one-third of the teams rated their performances as largely unsuccessful. How can companies reverse the generally weak performance of faltering global teams? The authors' survey of 58 senior executives from five U.S. and four European multinational organizations reveals some hard-earned insights that may benefit your cross-border endeavors.

When global business teams fail, it is often due to a lack of trust among team members. As a result, executives guiding global teams must institute processes that emphasize the cultivation of trust. Also high on the list of culpable factors are the hindrances to communication caused by geographical, cultural and language differences. Even in the case of teams whose members speak the same language, differences in semantics, accents, tone, pitch and dialects can be impediments.

To mitigate the corrosive effects of these cross-cultural impediments, executives are advised to carefully craft a cross-border team's charter, composition and process -- with each aspect equally emphasized. The authors elaborate on how these work holistically to increase the odds that your global business teams will become high-performing sources of invaluable multinational experience leading to competitive advantage.

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