Erin Meyer released “The Culture Map” in 2014 and it sat in my stack of books for a few months or I would have written about it sooner, for anyone working with an international team this book has the keys to team-building heaven. It turns out that in the midst of the United States trying to make amends for past sins in the “you and I are different” category, the rest of the world has known all along that a French Chef beats a British one, and that Indian executives are much less worried about timeliness than the Germans.
Meyer has created a global relative scale for culture differences in eight different categories ranging from timeliness to persuasion to performance review evaluation styles. The results are
striking and will allow you to have a better chance of getting to yes with your teams once you learn how to look for certain culture “cues.”
On a client assignment we had been tasked with helping a company deliver a large project on time with team members in Russia, India, and the United States. Inside the United States we had people who had gone to high school in France, Great Britain, Russia, India and the United States. Skype and WebEx may bring us all together at the touch of a button, but not everyone read “The Little Engine That Could” growing up, and referencing “Glengarry Glen Ross” when trying to get everyone’s attention does not work either.
It turns out that things like how long a culture was isolated by geography (like Japan) has a deep impact on how subtle their communication style can be. In Japan, much of what is important in a message is signified by what is left out. Contrast this with the new United States with a short history and a consistent flow of other cultures coming together to build our cities, and you get a culture that leaves nothing out of the message. In the U.S. if you didn't spell it out and repeat it three times, it was not important.
Using the advice from “The Culture Map”, we brought the leaders of the team together and walked through how we all viewed the timeline, gave the less powerful communicating cultures room to speak and ended up with a much better idea of how long the final delivery was going to take.
If you have had any experiences like this, please let us know so we can compare notes.
Take a read on more local culture of companies workforce culture related to the Speed Trap
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