Innovation. Integration. Motivation.
Once again, three simple words…
However, each of these is extremely complex and rarely executed.
In order to win the war for global domination, we must engage both our colleagues and our employees on three key battlefields: Innovation, Integration and Motivation. This week, we will address the second of these combat zones: Integration.
The rapid pace of change and the growing number of collaborative technology solutions has enabled virtual work while the demand for skills from around the world has made it a necessity. However, collaborative teamwork is not intuitive. It’s far more than dealing with technology and time zones – it is about people and the value that cross-cultural, cross-functional integration can bring to the organization.
An increasingly significant number of people lead geographically dispersed teams or work on international projects that attempt to draw expertise from across multiple regions and functions – different corners of the battlefield. If you, as the Commander, want to harness the power of that expertise across the organization… or across the globe, while simultaneously maximizing the cost/benefit of working across boundaries and borders, you need to not only understand, but also develop the capacity of your troops. You must intuitively leverage the multi-dimensional talent and diverse viewpoints you have against the invisible Integration Enemy on the battlefield by creating an integrated united front across your diverse workforce.
Collaboration (much less integration) does not come naturally within the traditional organizational setting. However, when working across multiple cultures and functions that may or may not encourage collaboration, things become very complex. Think about it—we generally assess performance based on individual effort and results. When we ask people to collaborate across various cultures (functional and/or geographical), it may contradict the structure they are used to and become a major challenge – both emotionally and cognitively. In order to overcome these challenges, you need to ensure communication channels are open and prepared for integrated collaboration.
In order to lay the foundation for success, consider that communication is the key to collaboration. When individuals from different backgrounds miscommunicate, it inevitably leads to the lack of integration that is responsible for failed projects and suboptimal results. Culture forms the way everyone thinks and acts – across all spectrums – often causing members of your team to perceive reality very differently across boundaries and borders… often intiating battle amongst themselves.
Your troops have the capacity to generate significant results through integrated collaboration… IF you follow a clear methodology for establishing a successful communication strategy. In order to mobilize the power in your organization, you should consider integrating CIPATM (Cultural Integration Practical Application):
- Internalize Cross-Cultural Integration Principles: Create Awareness
Knowledge is power. Incorporating both geographical and functional context will provide your people with a mechanism not only to understand that we all see things differently, but also to comprehend that these perspectives have an enormous impact on attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and priorities… drastically affecting their ability to work together effectively. It is not enough to simply tell people about different functions and cultures – they need to gain a deeper understanding of why they are different from their colleagues. Everyone must internalize the value and meaning of integration…or significantly increase the likelihood of failure.
- Incorporate Inventories: Conduct Assessments
Assessments provide insight as to how best to interact with and leverage organizational diversity – but more importantly, they provide each person with insight as to their own specific norms and preferences while also allowing them to better identify their colleagues’ norms and preferences. These inventories allow people to discover how they can best communicate and leverage one another for organizational success. In order to effectively integrate, people need to understand what is enabling success or hindering progress from a holistic perspective.
- Integrate Orientations: Facilitate Alignment
Orientations provide individuals with a way to understand their own and their colleagues’ behaviors. Once team members begin to understand the specific components of culture they perceive differently from their colleagues, they will gain the ability to identify specific behavioral differences that an inhibit the ability to build bridges between perspectives… and effectively integrate across boundaries and borders.
- Empower Strategic Intention: Enable Action
Strategic Intention provides your teams with a toolbox of reliable methods for strategically evaluating any situation – cultural, functional, or organizational – very quickly. It delivers a clear process for them to intentionally prepare for interactions with their colleagues from alternative cultures and/or functions on the spot – or leverage the same tools to strategically prepare in advance for almost any situation that has the potential to thwart successful integration.
Understand that one or another of these tools is not enough to equip your organization for its’ best chance at success. What few realize, is that these tools build upon one another to enable integration. An assessment may provide insight, but it will not tell you what to do with that insight…cross-functional/cultural principles may provide a foundation from which to go forward, but they will not help your team members to understand their colleagues… and while orientations may provide inherent understanding of behaviors and perspectives, they will not provide a strategic process from which to interact. Each step is necessary… each step builds upon the last…. each step is mutually inclusive.
Give your people a critical advantage – equip them with a toolbox that facilitates global integration. The only way to accomplish this is through intentional cross-functional, cross-cultural collaboration. As a leader with global responsibility, you have a distinct opportunity to leverage integration to create innovative solutions. A true integrated effort creates something new – new philosophies, processes… new products and services. Collaboration that crosses boundaries and borders creates unique opportunities – the ability to leverage diverse perspectives and viewpoints to create something exceptional.
Integration is hard work and is not easy to achieve. Differences in preferences, communication styles and working practices can easily become amplified and cause a loss of efficiency if not addressed and channeled with purpose. Simply asking people from differing backgrounds and experience to work collaboratively across boundaries and borders (especially when there is limited face-to-face interaction) will not guarantee integration. Not surprisingly, collaboration places significantly more structural, interpersonal, and cognitive demands on individual team members than individual work does. It requires constant attention and is not for the faint of heart.
Are You Providing Your People With The Integration Tools They Really Need To Succeed Across Boundaries & Borders?