SMT007 Magazine


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 53 of 99

54 SMT Magazine • October 2016 by Susan Mucha POWELL-MUCHA CONSULTING INC. We live in a global society and one of the challenges can be learning to manage effective- ly across different cultures. I was fortunate to grow up in an Army family, making my first in- ternational trip at the ripe age of three months and then frequently moving around the world in the course of my childhood. Growing up in different cultures gave me a much different per- spective of culture and its influence on behavior than I would have had growing up in a single culture. Most importantly, it helped me learn to view the behavior of people in other cultures through their cultural paradigms rather than through my own cultural paradigms. I think that is the one skill that leaders managing glob- al teams should focus on mastering first. Years ago I had a conversation with a Japa- nese engineer that illustrates the depth of the differences one may find on a cross-cultur- al team. He received his undergraduate degree in Japan and his graduate degree in the U.S. I asked him what he felt was the biggest differ- ence in pursuing degrees in two countries. His answer was, "the size of the book." I asked him that was because of the difference between the amount of space kanji (Japanese characters) and English characters required. He shook his head and went on to explain that Japan was a homo- geneous society where everyone was educated the same way. The books could be very short be- cause everyone had the same frame of reference in terms of the concepts introduced. Converse- ly, students in U.S. universities came from a very diverse set of educational experiences. The books needed to be longer to ensure that expla- nations were detailed enough to provide every- one with the same educational foundation. From a sociological standpoint, cultural per- spectives are a lot like that example. Some cul- tures are high context, meaning there is an un- written set of rules of behavior that everyone in that culture understands. Examples would in- clude most countries in Asia, India, the Mid- dle East and Latin America. Conversely, low- context cultures like the U.S. have a very broad spectrum of acceptable behavior. Culture clash can arise when someone from a high-context culture meets an outsider who doesn't know the rules. The person from the high-context culture FEATURE

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of SMT007 Magazine - SMT-Oct2016