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What does it take to build a cross cultural team?

A culture can be defined as the the ideas, social norms, and behavior of a person or a community. Culture is derived from a heritage or a norms which are found in a society. In organizations, cross cultural teams are defined as the group or a team which manages to work in different cultures across the demographical boundries (Wu & Lee, 2014). These teams might be formed out of a country, ranging from more than two countries working for a single purpose. We live a modern world, where globalized companies make teams that are arranged on different timezones, workplaces, and continents. Even for a local company, the activities of their labor across the boundries means that the company is observing cultural diversity in their workplace (Wu & Lee, 2014). Organizing and maintaining a team in this global marketplace is different from the past, as cross cultural teams are emerging rapidly.

Accepting the cultural diversity and looking to the high performance cultural teams, can help the companies to build their own cross cultural teams. However, some things should be kept in mind to create an efficient cross cultural team. The case chosen for this study shows that how Giant, the bicycle company, moved from being a supplier to a whole new manufacturing company. It was of great importance, that the company was first supplying materials to the US companies, and when China became their competitors, they tried to make them a whole new company instead of non existence. By implementing this business strategy, they had to be diverse with their cross cultural teams, as the company was a multinational (Wu & Lee, 2014). The charateristics to build a strong cross cultural teams are:

Acknowledge and respect cultural differences

To build a strong cross cultural team, it is important to keep in mind the factors of cultural differences. It is of great importance if the company is globalized, and working in different cultures. Addressing the existence of diverse cultures, and the need to approach the differences is important in optimizing the team performance. These differences can be termed in to language, behavior, norms, values, different cultures, and different actions attached to it (Wu & Lee, 2014). Giant addressed these factors effectively by evaluating the cultural backgrounds of their labor force, and interacting personally with each other. A useful approach to highlight these differences, is the Geert Hofstede’s model, which explains and contrasts the international cultures differences (Wu & Lee, 2014). This model consists of six contrasts; power distance (ability to equally distribute power among cultures), Uncertainty avoidance (a society’s ability to tolerate in errors/mistake), individualism vs collectivism (ability of a company to pursue groups or individual in a culture), masculinity vs femininity (giving rewards vs eliminating errors), long term vs short term orientation (innovation vs regular work processes), and indulgence vs restraint (focusing on joys vs strict norms). By using this model, it helps a company to identify which point they have to adopt and what cultural differences there are in the company.

Establish norms for the team

The key to a strong cross cultural team, is to develop norms for the team and maintain them. These teams then contribute their efforts to the formation of the norms introduced, and try to follow them. Due to the collaboration in a diverse team, the members of this team will sometimes need their own norms and rules. As a global company, their teams try to follow their own rules in some situations, but they are also derived from the main norms set by the company (Tang & Wang, 2017). In context of Giant, they tried to set standards in their labor workforce and implement effective communication in the group. Their labor force was from different countries and norms needed to be set for this course of action. Norms also increase easy collaboration and ultimately team performance is optimized.

Defining roles and responsibilities

As for the cross cultural teams, it is important to define what role every individual in the group will perform. It is necessary in terms of a global business because, with appropriate role definition there cannot be an effective business (Tang & Wang, 2017). There should be a clear outline of each members’ contribution towards the team, in local and global mindset.


Over-communication is a good thing in a diverse cultural team. In most situations, the team members are not getting the point with a limited communication. Communicating with a large amount of data, helps in good flow of activities by the team (Tang & Wang, 2017). In the chosen case, Giant was becoming a whole new company from supplier to manufacturer. These instructions were clearly defined globally, and resulted in making the company strong. If they had not focused on making good communication, the global team might have thought that the company is still a supplier and their work would be effected by this. Over communication involves the factor of language barriers which sometime becomes a problem in a cross cultural team, as everyone might not know English as their basic language.

What are the challenges facing managers of projects that cross cultural boundaries?

When a company goes from local to global level, the challenges also increase from the small to large perspective. It also creates challenges in terms of cultural boundries, as every country/society has their own business culture. When these challenges arise in a project based scenario, it creates a lot of external hinderance for the managers to take account of (Tang & Wang, 2017). These issues were faced by Giant (the company discussed in the case) and they overcame it according to their capability. The case showed that Giant increased their market share to 75%, compared to Chinese who were their main competitors in the bicycle business (Tang & Wang, 2017). This increase was done with efficient project handling in cultural boundries. When a company is beyond their cultural boundries, it becomes difficult for them to maintain a mutual language i.e. English and it creates a lot of problems for the company. At some point, it becomes a problem for the company which might reduce the productivity of the project and leads to negative results. The language barrier mostly comes where the company tends to work in a place which is not very skilled in different languages. Their labor force is also not skilled in such a situation, and it becomes a big challenge to overcome.

Again, the cultural differences of groups and individualism comes in play, as different cultures work in different patterns. A Japanese based workers might want to work without getting commands from their superior, while US based workers might want to work with guidance from a supervisor of their line. These challenges are most important because if a company does not match the culture of the area, the project will not give effective results (Tang & Wang, 2017). Same is the case with flexibility. Some countries like China and Russia, does not want to work in flexible shifts and require that they are given a task which can be completed in a specific time duration. It becomes a problem when a project needs to be delivered in a certain time, and there are no appropriate workers for that task (Tang & Wang, 2017). Managers face these problems a lot because there are no suitable criteria defined that how should the task be completed. Same was the case with Giant, who could not manage to create operations in the diverse culture context.

What strategies can be used to address these challenges?

To overcome these challenges is as important as it is to run a successful business, because if the challenges are not eliminated, they can affect the overcome company and create hurdles in the workflow of the company. Companies tend to overcome their challenges in a way which does not harm their short term and long term goals (Chevrier, 2003). The challenges enlisted above about the Giant company, and overall challenges for the market can be reduced by making certain business strategies. As the case tells that, there were challenges for Giant in their processes and it was becoming a problem as the company had decided to become a separate brand. In order to reduce this problem, the company managed to collaborate with the R&D department and made relations with the Industrial technology research institute of Taiwan. By doing this, it helped the company to analyze the demographical areas where the operations of the company were not so efficient. They made separate cultural teams, which were diverse in nature and tried to produce carbon fiber cycles which no other company was producing at the moment. Building strong research teams, including people from different cultures helped in overcoming this problem (Chevrier, 2003).

Another aspect is where the companies try to enter new markets to improve what they have not achieved yet (Stahl & Tung, 2015). It helps in increasing the strength of the business. Giant expanded their business from being a supplier to a whole new brand. They did this because they were facing the threat of China becoming the core supplier for the US markets. So, the company was faced with a challenge of becoming liquefied. Instead of doing that, Giant started their business as a new brand in market and became the competitors for China. They also managed to finish links with their suppliers Schwinn, from where they were getting the materials for producing bicycles.


Chevrier, S. (2003). Cross-cultural management in multinational project groups. Journal of world business38(2), 141-149.

Stahl, G. K., & Tung, R. L. (2015). Towards a more balanced treatment of culture in international business studies: The need for positive cross-cultural scholarship. Journal of International Business Studies46(4), 391-414.

Tang, N., & Wang, Y. (2017). Cross‐Cultural Teams. The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Team Working and Collaborative Processes, 219-242.

Wu, W. L., & Lee, Y. C. (2014). From OEM Supplier To A Global Leading Company. Journal of Business Case Studies (Online)10(3), 225.



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