January 2014 news

January 2014 –  Are your teams taking your business expansion into Asia, the fastest growing region?

As you are already aware, many Australian businesses are now doing businesses with Asia as the fastest growing region in this 21st Century and beyond.

Let me tell you a personal story about my prior regional Asia Pacific management role with a global organisation that has offices in more than 100 countries including the Asia Pacific region.

I was hosting regular monthly regional teleconference with 20 country representatives  across the Australia- Asia region for corporate risk management programmes, with guest speakers from the US and UK offices.  As we were from diverse Asian, Aussie, American and European cultural background, different time zones and where many of the team members had not met face-to-face in most of the country offices,  we were facing numerous intricate challenges that resulted in the misunderstanding of work expectations, practices and communications.

For instance, the concept os use of time  is different in different cultures.  Some Asian sites have very laxed meeting times whilst other countries focus on punctuality. So, I have participants dialing into my  two hour monthly teleconference on time, 30 minutes or 45 minutes late. That was a “real pain” to me as the regional host. as I did have some meetings of special guest trainers from different regions and their initial perception of the Asia representatives was “weak” due to the misunderstanding of Asian cultures, where business is relationship focused rather than task focused.  Some meetings in Asia may take longer to close deals compared to western cities and therefore  meeting schedules may overlap with other meeting times.

It was an “ugly” story that has to change for  better team performance and personal effectiveness through the following critical aspects:

1. Cross -cultural differences in communications, expectations and work variations.

Difference in language skills, cultural customs, religious beliefs and work variations such as the use of time concept,  posed a new challenge to the westernized culture where punctuality is a critical factor . There is a gap i.e.to become culturally competent in order to communicate and work effectively among the teams across the regions.

Among the many cultural differences that your diverse teams encounter are differences in interpersonal communication, time orientation, religion, dining habits, business protocols and many more subtle tips and tricks in doing business in Asia.

2. Time zone difference

As virtual cross-cultural teams are in varied time zone locations especially when the Australian, American and Asian virtual teams dial into the same regional teleconference, there is bound to be virtual teams who would need to accommodate the rest of the remote teams by attending such webinar or video conference in the early morning or late evening.  

3. Creating and maintaining trust with cross cultural virtual teams

Most of the remote teams who attend the webinar or video conference may not have met face-to-face, so the lack of trust at least in the initial teleconferences would be a common headache..  Such “swift” trust would take time to build as task oriented projects would need to be converted to relationship- focused projects where cross cultural and time zone differences are also taken into account to make these virtual teams effective and successful.  

For more information about creating effective virtual teams, visit  www.ODConsulting.com.au

Relevant article: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/misunderstanding-asian-cultures-is-holding-australia-back/story-fni0dcne-1226793375703

To your success 

Rachael Mah