Twelve: Concerning multinational teams and the “head of world cocks”

Originally Posted 10th February 2011

Today I am dedicating my post to my collegues in the United States of America. This is inspired in general by this past year, which I have spent working in an american company with quite a lot of colleagues from the USA and specifically by an occurance from today’s team meeting which is intercontinental and conducted by teleconference. In honour of these coleagues, who I have very much enjoyed working with, I have chosen today’s photo:

The first thing I want to do is tell you about the event form today’s meeting starting with a bit of background. The team I work in has about 11 people in this country and a multitude of people in the states and there is a daily meeting conducted via teleconference which causes no end of difficulties. Today there was a discussion, the point of which is not entirely relevent but involved one of the UK team saying “we are ahead in world clocks” which caused some general merriment all round followed by a US colleague saying “yes Dave you are head of world cocks” or at least that is what it sounded like!! This as you can well imagine caused much hillarity!

Now aside from the amusment value of this story,and the fact that today’s mix up was probably a phone line clarity issue, it got me thinking about two things. The first being how much of our communication comes from non verbal methods, it is only obvious what non verbal clues you recieve feom people when you have to communicate without them. This has become increasingly obvious in times where virtual teams are becomming the norm and it is not uncommon for meetings to be conducted over the phone or over the internet. I wonder whether this will enhance our communication skills as we have to adapt ot whether it will lead to increased miscommunication, supplemented by techology which is often a step behind the ideal.

The second point that this whole year has brought to mind is how different the UK and the US are both in language and culture. Two countries who, to an outsider, don’t seem too different and appear to speak the same language are more different than I had ever appreciated. The number of conversations I have had this year with very intellegent people when I, or they, have had to explain at least half of the terms we are using! In addition to this, the picture of the flag its self adequately represents the differences in our cultures, you can find a flag on every street corner and building in the states whereas there are relatively hard to come by in this country. This is a very minor example of the cultural differences but the more I work with the US the more I realise that for all the talk of the Americanising of the British culture, we still remain very different.

I have to say that this year has been an enjoyable one (in work terms) and the cultural differences, although they have caused some amusement have not caused a problem when building a coherent team. I can’t really comment on the effect it has had on my mindset…but I am still wearing 2 watches…draw your own conclusions!

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