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ExxonMobil Corporation is an American multinational oil and gas corporation, led by Rex Tillerson, the headquarters are located in Irving, a suburb of Dallas. It results from the fusion in November 30, 1999 of Exxon Corporation and Mobil Oil, respectively 2nd and 4th behind the world leader at this time BP (BP-Amoco as called at this time). With a turnover of 425 billion dollars (the budget of the Department of Defense of the United States in 2008 and almost the budget of the French State), for a profit of 45.22 billion, it is largely the company with the highest profits in the world. Its turnover is equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland and is thus higher than 179 of the 195 countries recognized by the ONU4!
Second market capitalization in the world in 2012 (412 billion) behind Apple ($ 650 billion). ExxonMobil was already in 1975, behind IBM, one of the first of world 6 valuations.
It represents about 2% of the capitalization of the NYSE. It competes with the Royal Dutch Shell which assets and turnover are more important. ExxonMobil is nonetheless one of the largest "super majors" oil company its oil and gas fields have a reserve of the equivalent of nearly 22.4 billion barrels what constitutes the largest proven reserves to a private company. It is the first private company in terms of reserves, but many public companies have larger reserves as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria and Venezuela.
In 2010, it showed a turnover of 354.674 billion U.S. dollars, ranking 3rd in the world's largest companies according to their turnover.
Exxon Chemicals is part of Exxon corporation and one of its major goal is to set a corporate culture, following Alison Doyle (about.com), company culture is " the personality of a company and defines what a company, from an employee perspective, is like to work for. Company culture includes the company mission, values, ethics, expectations, goals, and work environment."
But, how to develop a corporate culture in a multinational company while paying attention at all the national differences in term of culture?
Exxon Chemicals managers had the idea to make a survey that all the employees at to fill, the survey was based on several criteria such as Culture, Conformity, Labeling, Gender and Internationality.
Organizational culture is what can give coherence to the company, it allows it to resist through time and troubles, and for many companies (current strategy) culture can largely explain the success of a business. But obviously culture is not neutral for the employees, they must immerse themselves in, change their behavior and habits: they must adapt themselves!
The corporate culture is a very important factor even if it is not directly visible inside the company. It can give coherence to the company in a direct, sustainable manner over time, to have consistent objectives.
Culture is a distinctive system of shared meanings established between the members of an organization. Over time we tried to identify a number of factors that contribute to the development of shared meanings. Several factors exists such as:
Innovation and risk-taking:
There are organizations where there will be a culture of innovation. These companies are dynamic, they set ambitious targets and often they are companies that have a strong culture: employees are encouraged in creativity, initiative, innovation, etc.. We do not find this culture in other types of organization. There will be a particular way of working that you will not find in any other organization.
Attention to detail:
The degree of precision in the analysis, in the daily work, this is what makes some companies develop a reputation for excellence and others do not. This reputation of excellence can be defined as part of the corporate culture of the company.
A distinction was made between orientation towards results and process orientation. The interest for individuals is that the human dimension is integrated into the management of the company. What are the consequences of individual decisions over the entire business if everybody is not walking in the same direction? It could be very bad for the company, and corporate culture can set the goal that have to be reach and how to do it.
Priority to the group:
Is team working promoted in the company, is that it is something essential in the business? Those are important question concerning the corporate culture, indeed, the fact of promoting team working or not have an influence on how people feel in the company and act between each others. It is important not to forget that when people work together they create links and begin to know each other's.
The concept of aggression:
Employees are they aggressive in their behavior to achieve their results? Is it from an individualistic perspective or collective? Another couple of interesting questions concerning how people interact between each other. It is logic that in a company where individualism is promoted, people will not tend to create links and develop a common culture.
The notion of stability:
The organization structure does in connection with a dynamic logic? Is that the objectives of the organization are directed towards the status quo or to a permanent dynamic?
Cultural characteristics : What is the content of the culture?
Generally when we speak of an undertaking by the culture. It would suggest that there is a culture in the company shared by all members of the organization. The reality seems a bit more complex. In fact, there is a culture that seems dominant. Dominant culture that integrates the values â€‹â€‹shared by all members of the organization. When we talk about corporate culture it refers to the dominant culture made of â€‹â€‹elements shared by all the employees in the company. But there is also subcultures: If you pay attention on details, we can note the existence of sub-cultures: these subcultures are related to company departments (Finance, marketing, ...), geographical differences (region, ...). Subculture embodies the core values â€‹â€‹in the dominant culture but also specific values â€‹â€‹attached to the place or activity.
A 2004 study done on 230 companies shows that a strong culture leads to increased organizational effectiveness. This study on organizational culture and performance leads to the following items:
âœ“ Provide employees more power reinforces the culture of the organization and its performance (it is the notion of empowerment)
âœ“ Having a team organization, it strengthen the culture and performance by getting the employees work with each others, eliminates boundaries and increase cooperation in the company.
âœ“ Have a clear strategy at the top of the organization it clearly define the goals of the company and how to reach them. It allows employees to understand more what are the expectations of the hierarchy.
âœ“ This strategic vision must be shared by the members of the organization, employees are able to express themselves on the company's strategy and how to achieve it. It is important to give the employees the opportunity to give their opinion about the company's strategy, it will help find any misunderstanding concerning the company vision of the employees.
To achieve this, it is important to notice that there is some countries where the concept of empowerment is more important than others: in the united states it is clearly much more developed than Japan. This concept is very important for a multinational company because same way of working will not be applicable everywhere because national culture is more important than the culture of the company. French workers are more influenced by their national culture than their organizational culture. This study also shows that there are limits to the standardization of management. Management methods must be adapted to the countries in which the company will be present even when recruiting, the company can focus its research toward people who already faced an Anglo-Saxon type of management.
In relation to the company, a strong culture strengthen the identity the company. Companies which are seeking to differentiate themselves, try to show that they are not like their competitors. A strong culture complements the formalization in the business, everything is related to rules, procedures, ways of doing things, etc..
It is also a mode of corporate governance, it is not necessarily formal but it can relies on informal dimensions: culture, trust ... Culture establishes a governance alternative in modern companies.
The "Four Layers" model is essential to truly understand our workforce
This model can help the manager understand that diversity comprises many characteristics of people at work, not only a few. The diversity-mature manager will seek to understand these factors and dimensions of diversity to ensure he is bringing out all aspects of an individual's talents and abilities in support of the organization's mission and goals.
The usefulness of this model is that it includes the dimensions that shape and impact both the individual and the organization itself. While the "Internal Dimensions" receive primary attention in successful diversity initiatives, the elements of the "External" and "Organizational" dimensions often determine the way people are treated, who "fits" or not in a department, who gets the opportunity for development or promotions, and who gets recognized.
â€¨A manager who wants to understand diversity and be an effective manager of a diverse team needs to pay attention to all these layers of diversity with the goals of using both differences and similarities to enrich the work environment and bring us closer to our mission.
â€¨We can analyse each part of this scheme:
1. Personality: this includes an individual's likes and dislikes, values, and beliefs. Personality is shaped early in life and is influenced by and influences the others three layers throughout one's lifetime and career choices.
â€¨2. Internal dimensions: The aspects of diversity of this dimension are difficult or impossible to influence. We have no control on their (though "physical ability" can change over time due to choices we make to be active or not, or in cases of illness or accidents). This dimension is the layer in which many divisions between and among people exist and which forms the core of many diversity efforts. These dimensions include the first things we see in other people, such as race or gender and on which we make many assumptions and base judgments.
â€¨3. External dimensions: these include aspects of our lives which we have some control over, which might change over time, and which usually form the basis for decisions on careers and work styles. This layer often determines, in part, with whom we develop friendships and what we do for work. This layer also tells us much about whom we like to be with, and decisions we make in hiring, promotions, etc., at work.
â€¨4. Organizational dimensions: this layer concerns the aspects of culture found in a work setting. While much attention of diversity efforts is focused on the internal dimensions, issues of preferential treatment and opportunities for development or promotion are impacted by the aspects of this layer.
Following the results of the survey, Exxon chemicals has targeted different values that have to be developed inside the company. These improvements might be a source of competitive advantage for the company, creating a climate of hope and expectations for employees.
Themes of discussion have been set to reach that goal:
Concerning company culture, Exxon Chemicals wanted it to be unified between all the employees, and they were agreed about this idea, employees want Exxon to create a strong company culture with task orientation of the organization, moreover, they want this company culture to struggle against conflict between competition and collaboration. Indeed, is shows that in Exxon Chemicals, employees tend to act for their personal interest and not for the whole group benefit. This is a non-negligible lack of efficiency for the company.
Then, the survey showed there was many subjects that were taboo, people do not feels like they can say what they want about everything, so sometimes problems cannot be solved, just because they are not said. This situation is very bad for employees, they cannot feels like belonging to the company if they cannot express themselves. This problem is clearly a problem of communication between employees, and furthermore, between the company and its employees.
The last point concerns the lack of leadership skills inside the company, indeed, employees thinks that they are not managed the way that would be the most effective for the company success, this problem could be link to other points like gender or internationality.
Employees of Exxon Chemicals conformity is set by the company, which not leaves enough space for the employee's own culture, then they feels like they are not committed to the company because the company do not show any interest in their individuality.
The survey show that hierarchy is one of the cause of this, it must change. People have to feel that the company respect their individuality and encourage people to be themselves, not force them to be something they are not.
To encourage the change, people may should be committed more in the company, but Exxon must do something else, it is a problem that Exxon and its employees should face together.
The key to get result is to promote individuality for the employees.
Exxon employees feels like they are labeled by the company considering their nationality, gender or education. Then, it is a major threat according the development of individuality to the employees, and, by extension, to the company culture.
People cannot feel committed to the company if they think the company and its hierarchy does not respect who they are.
It creates an elitist system where employees develops an inferiority complex which totally stops employees commitment to the company.
Exxon Chemical shows a strong male-dominated environment, as a proof, we can see that few women are in senior position, this system is not encouraging women to get married, and have a family life, which is not stimulating at all for women in term of commitment to the company. Then, it is a strong lost of competitiveness through a leak of competencies from women working in Exxon. We can link this gender problem with the lack of leadership skills inside the company, indeed, women in Exxon, by the fact that they could understand more what is it to be labeled, they may understand more the labeling issue and be more effective at solving it.
Employees are proud to be part of Exxon as an international company, but they suffer from the lack of attention linked to national differences, stereotyping & categorizing. It as a major threat for the implementation of a company culture, people does not think the company respect them as person, then they cannot feel part of it, and develop a commitment to the company, and, by this way, develop a company culture. Exxon should definitely pay attention on national differences as a first step to get a strong company culture.
Internationality appears as a weakness for Exxon Chemicals, but it should be a strength. Each of the employees should feel part of the company as an individuality who brings his strengths for the group and the work teams.
Moreover, not all the employees have the English as their first language, this a serious issue that infer a possible problem of communication between teams and inside the teams. It could also be a problem concerning communication between the employees and hierarchy, indeed, if people are not able to express their feelings about something they are not agreed with because they cannot say it in English, it is very frustrating for the employee, furthermore, he could feel bad about being involve in a company which not understand his needs and expectations. And then, could not be interesting in getting involve in the company project of a common culture between all the employees.
Exxon Chemical's Reaction
In this part, we will analyze the implications of Exxon's set of value on employees, their work methods and their effect on objectives.
Dangers for Exxon
Firstly, we ask ourselves, what are the dangers for the company of having a monoculture, a strong labeling and conformity, a gender orientated hiring process and a poor international focus.
Exxon could experience an unmotivated workforce; unmotivated staff is one of the biggest threats for the company in regard to both the company's finances and long-term gains. Unmotivated employees are also very unlikely to contribute to their fullest so companies suffer a loss in terms of both quality and quantity in the work provided at the end of the day. Some of the remedies available to such situation are presented below.
As every leader in a company, they want to push their staff to the maximum of their abilities leading to a loss of morale when employees are not matching their expectations. The remedy is to monitor each and every employee to set an objective that they can manage to attain without going through a mental breakdown; it is obvious that some people can handle more than the average and therefore this process could be used to identify those with a promoting potential.
In order to assign the right task to the right employee it becomes evident that a manager must connect with them on a personal level, get to know the person beyond the employee. In other words the employer/manager must be accessible and friendly to facilitate communication up the chain.
If despite the previous techniques you still experience unmotivated staff then the hiring process may be the problem. Instead of trying to meet the HR targets you must be employing accordingly with the company's culture.
One last advice would be, as a manager, to be a flexible one; in the sense that you should not be restrictive on how employees interact with other departments. Often, employees are more interested in another business function than the one they are occupying, but do not know it yet, and leaving staff the freedom to explore other aspects of the business is a way of assigning that person to the right task.
At the light of those threats it becomes evident that Exxon is exposed to a loss of potential competitive advantage and nowadays where competition is tougher everyday that loss would result in dreadful consequences such as bankruptcy or at least huge downsizing.
Adapt To Succeed
When a system is broken it must be fixed and that is why Exxon must undergo deep changes on different levels.
Communication breakdown is also a danger that Exxon is facing and as a matter of fact one of the leading causes of failure in companies. Communication takes place when one person attaches meaning to information. Therefore, effective communication occurs when two people attach the same meaning to that information transferred. Communication breakdowns often take place amongst international teams. Besides the basic components of communications that every person of a same group should master amongst themselves, when confronted with others the communication basics differ from one group to another, thus, we observe misunderstandings and act upon them. Here are a few steps recommended to deal with communication within a multicultural group.
First, you must consider the effect that the different cultures around the table would have on the information exchanged. Then, it is important that you review the way you convey the message, studies have shown that less than a tenth of the message is conveyed through verbal communication; the rest is body language, tone and pitch of your voice. Some research beforehand on how the people in your group interact in their own cultures would be handy; at least you can meet them halfway and take more information across the language barriers. Finally, learn about yourself; it is hard for one to recognize their own biases therefore this is the last step to achieve perfect communication harmony but the hardest. If for example, you know that as a British you possess a sense of humor that is too subtle for the non English native you are also aware that using it would only lead to communication breakdowns, misunderstandings and probably a loss of respect from your co-workers.
Being aware of those few steps give managers an effective tool to work in a diverse group and therefore gives his company the edge to thrive in an international market where competition is intensified through globalization.
Every company applies its own set of rules and policies but Exxon's must be reviewed. The survey indicated that policies in place limit the amount of women working in the different teams, the same is observed for people issued from minority groups therefore the new policies implemented should resolve those issues. In today's world it is archaic for a company to refuse hiring women on the basis of their genders; even though it may not be the case at Exxon, it might look the part anyway and producing a bad image of the company is always bad for business. The issue is the same with people issued from minority groups.
These same policies should set career goals for those groups to allow harmonious development within the team. Even if the company employs a few women and African-Americans it will not achieve the level of diversity it aims because for that objective to be fulfilled those groups of people must succeed within the company; therefore they should have goals that fit their social status and they should be as potentially considered for promotion as everyone else.
As a result the new set of rules implemented must withdraw barriers to promotion. We want to give the team members something to work for, something to aim. Therefore the meritocratic value of a promotion must not be affected but it must be attainable so team members will value it and set it as an objective in their work, thus supplying better quality work.
The policies must be accompanied by a continuous monitoring in order to be effective and impact on employees' behavior at work. Below we will study a few characteristics that make policies efficient and sustainable.
Building an effective policy
Policies must be relevant; managers want their staff to embrace the rules so employees must be able to recognize their usefulness and the impact they have on their personal safety. If a manager decided to implement a policy based on a personal belief, it would only confuse employees and provoke resentment, or even rebellion.
Another policy characteristic that is difficult to apply is its simplicity. It should be short enough for employees to read it from the beginning to the end. A short paragraph will bring across more information to the readers as opposed to 15 pages that will not even be read at all. This method is successfully applied because it has been proven that people have short concentration spans, especially when it comes to read mandatory office-related paperwork.
Even though it must be short, a policy must meet a high standard of clarity so its words cannot be twisted and used to justify harmful actions. For example, if a policy states that during business hours it is prohibited for employees to use the office's computers for personal business, it does not state anything about coming back in the evening and use the firm's resources to a personal interest.
Consistency is the key word when dealing with multiple policies, a manager should always check with policies already in place before issuing a new one on the same issue. If however, there was a need to reinforce some rules the previous one in place has to be disseminated and the new policy should stipulates that this new set of rules overrides any of the rules previously stated.
A policy must also be viable, so if a policy is created as a response to an unexpected crisis-event, the manager must ask himself if the policy will be likely to be re-used at a latter time. For instance, if a dog had wandered off into the office and nobody knew how to deal with it, it would be counterproductive to create a policy that outlines how to react in such situation because of the improbability of this event to occur again.
Finally, where possible, it is important to let the staff participate in the establishment of a policy. If employees feel involved in the making of a policy they are more likely to support its existence and thus the policy is more likely to affect their behavior.
The survey strongly indicates that diversity is to be more integrated in the work environment.
Exxon's success and competitiveness, like every company, depends upon its ability to integrate diversity and capitalize on its benefits. When firms assess diversity issues in the workplace, develop on them and implement diversity plans we witness several benefits.
The first one would be the increased adaptability of the company; organizations with a diverse workforce are able to offer a broader variety of solutions to one problem. Employees emerging from different backgrounds bring their own set of skills to the table and the fact that all team members have various experiences depending on their culture, the team is able to suggest ideas that are flexible in adapting to fluctuating markets and customer demands.
Then, obviously the team encompasses different cultures and therefore is able to provide a broad service to customers from all over the world.
When an international team works at its best (communication flows and viewpoints are discussed) we observe a larger pool of ideas being drawn and therefore management is able to select a more precise plan of actions having considered a wider range of suggestions.
In conclusion diversity should be embraced and not neglected, furthermore we witness a snowball effect when implementing diversity management in an organization, the challenge is that high that employees must give the best out of themselves and therefore company-wide strategies can be executed resulting in higher profitability.
Education & Development
Such resourcing, as presented above, involves training and employees must be culturally aware. They must have a sense of diversity and act upon it.
Careers development and Training Programs must be multiplied and intensified on those who have international careers or often move abroad to attend meetings and conferences.
More use of company's cross-cultural resources could be accomplished if certain group of employees, such as committees responsible for career development and supervisors, were specifically trained to deal with diversity. That way they would make the best choices in regard of diversity features, for example, in the choosing of the teams, accomplishment of certain tasks and choosing the right candidate to fulfill the right position.
The underuse of diversity is the biggest threat in Exxon's International Teams and must be dealt with quickly in order for Exxon to become an international company as opposed to a U.S. based company with offices "here and there".
We suggest four steps to improve the education in the workplace:
âœ“Conduct workshops in order to better employees' understanding of diversity. Use concrete examples from your HR department that illustrate how misunderstandings and communication breakdowns could lead to discrimination complaints. Involve the staff with different backgrounds than the ones they are used to and encourage them to share their thoughts about their own perceptions regarding cultural differences.
âœ“Build opportunities for employees from various backgrounds to work together on projects. You should also be careful to pick those with high aspiration and allow them to lead certain groups and projects. By working as a team, people perceive the value of their co-workers and learn to work together to achieve a common goal. This step is also an important one when forming teams; you want to identify the groups that work best together in order to maximize the use of diversity in your teams.
âœ“Volunteer your teams to take part in daily lives of minority populations. For example you would want your team to help out a community of disabled kids in order to expose them to the diverse struggles of life and ultimately open their minds. As a manager you should join in the activities to serve as a role model.
âœ“Communicate your policies about discrimination and inform employees of your dissatisfaction. Also, always follow up on discrimination complaints and let everyone know in the workplace the consequences of violating the rules set out in policies.
Training for change
Leading a team can be a huge challenge for a manager at the best of times. Assembling a group of people, calling them a team and expecting to get easy results with little management input has never been very realistic. In a world where teams are increasingly made up of different cultures, team leadership becomes more difficult and more time consuming for the team leader.
Effectively leading an international team requires an understanding of how national cultural values shape behaviour at work, and in particular, in the team context. It's important to highlight the key areas where national culture has an impact on teamwork and provide suggestions for dealing with the challenges of international team leadership.
But how do we have to do that? Do we need a theoretical or a practical knowledge?
Can we Classify cultures?
Whether managing a mixed nationality team in your home country, or managing abroad as an expatriate, you will undoubtedly notice differences in the way various nationalities behave in and out of work. Team behaviour cannot of course be accurately predicted based on nationality, but useful guidelines can be drawn from intercultural research.
Putting different countries into boxes is fraught with difficulties. It's always dangerous to stereotype, partly because it's so easy to ascribe behaviour just to nationality and not to look further. Of course people in France, Belgium and Spain don't all behave in the same way. But the values of French and Spanish nationals will tend to be more similar than say French and Swedish, or Spanish and Chinese nationals.
Importance of training for change
We realize so that theoretical learning and knowledge are not good enough to understand and learn how to manage an international team, even if there are necessary. What managers are expecting is more to discover by themselves first the difficulties of managing an international team, the problems you meet, then learn about the others, about the different ways of working and achieving their goals, about how they behave in a group, about what we should avoid doing in front of one particular cultureâ€¦ In my opinion, it is very interesting to remind here the thinking of Aristotle about experience and knowledge. He makes experience to be the true source of all our knowledge, intellectual, as well as sensible. "There is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses" is a fundamental principle with him, as it was later on with the Schoolmen. All knowledge begins with sense-experience, which of course has for its object the concrete, particular, changeable phenomenon. But though intellectual knowledge begins with sense-experience, it does not end there, for it has for its object the abstract, universal, immutable essence. This theory of cognition is, so far, summed up in the principles: Intellectual knowledge is essentially dependent on sense-knowledge, and intellectual knowledge is, nevertheless, superior to sense-knowledge.
For us and for Exxon Chemical this theory seems very important because it justify that to improve and manage effectively diversity in a company we need experience, and so training. A lot of examples can justify that, for example in the video we have seen in course, Gavin is learning thanks to this experience.
Having seen the core problems of diversity management in the company, Exxon decided to start its process of cultural change with experiential learning in the outdoors.
They used a workshop for managers called "Quest" to get changes in the organisation and to improve Diversity in the company. One of these is the "choices" program, aiming middle management in Europe. This program's name is very interesting because it remind us this theory: we can consider that culture is like software where choices correspond to awareness plus knowledge. "All human beings are programmed by cultural software that determines our behaviour and attitudes. Once we recognize what our programming teaches us, we have the capacity to control our choices." We understand here what are the stakes of this exercise for every person in an international team and in a company.
So this program adapts itself at all the cultures, nationalities, gender and all others affects present in the company. But even if the kind of presentation can change, these programs have always the same objectives:
-Develop an understanding of the company values
As we said in first part, it's very important to succeed in creating an organization culture and to increase commitment toward the company.
-Improve the teamworking and so the value of diversity
As a result diversity and differences are not a weakness anymore and become a strength for the company.
-Improve personal actions to practice company's values in daily life
We notice an increase of personal commitment, efficiency, and this part is also very important to accumulate knowledge.
-Develop teamwork and networking
Then they have to assist to courses with mixed participant where they are asked to exchange about their company feeling and what seem to be the core values for them. Because analysing value orientations and communication patterns serve to examine the similarities and differences between cultures: it's the model of cultural diversity. They exist many models of cultural diversity like the one of Kluckhonh and Strodtbeck, or the one of Hofstede or Trompenaars. Each one are using different criteria to examine different culture, for instance Cultural value orientation, Power distance, individualism or collectivismâ€¦
Each members note the existing differences between cultures using their own criteria.
Then these international teams have to make challenging projects, requiring cooperation, organisation and innovation, and to develop a personal project about the company.
All that, alone or in-group, lead to achieve one "company vision", and realize that different cultures, nationalities, gender, age, movementâ€¦ may have different company vision and different ways to achieve their goals. We fight against stereotypes that are "set images" non rational. They come from the process of making metal plates for printing, and means a set image. When we apply it to people, it means the same thing, that is to say that we have a fixed picture of a person or group of people. It is essential fighting against their in an organization because they are barriers against efficiency and good work in group.
Choices programs highlighted diversity issues in the company to managers, allowing every manager to notice by himself the difficulties of managing an international team or of working in group. Facing these situations they developed a better understanding of others cultures, and a bigger awareness regarding some situations.
The most relevant example in this case study is the one of French people. As they are French, they are talking together in French because it seems easier for them to exchange ideas in their native language. But all the members of the group are not aware of this particular language and may feel ill at ease. We do not really realize that when we are having this king of comportment, we are putting the others members away from the conversation, even if what we are telling to our colleague is useless. They are having a wrong behaviour toward their group. As a consequence, forced to support this behaviour, we notice that the group is loosing a lot of time, energy, efficiency and maybe quality of work. The barrier is not just the language, but also the culture and the behaviour of people having and coming from different cultures. They are put in front of diversity.
It can remind us the example of Gavin having to manage an international team for Morel Company. It justify that the barrier was not language but much more the fact that Gavin wanted its colleagues to join his way of thinking whereas international teamwork is to understand the different ways of thinking, share and build together a solution to get the project done. Those people are not British like him. They all have a different culture, a different way of working. For some of them, like Mohamed, it is important to know the people before starting working and trusting someone. For others, like Eva, the most important is the result, doing the job. All those differences might seem not important, but they are. Indeed, they can not understand each other if they do not know how they perceive work and team working. The important is to understand their way of thinking, the impact of different cultures he will have to deal with, and how it will impact their work. When you are aware of these differences you are able to make diversity be a strength and a source of synergy.
Thanks to the exercises done by the managers of Exxon Chemical company, they will all be aware of French culture particularities like being sometimes interruptive, moaner and always dissatisfiedâ€¦ And as a result they will understand this diversity and be more supportive.
Finally, situations like that have shown to people in the company that it's very difficult to work with very different people, that culture may be a barrier against change or against diversity, but the understanding of all that allow them to be more supportive and tolerant. And we all know that cultural diversity is source of synergy (that is to say better return from human capital, more performance, profitability, efficiency and good climate at work) when differences are recognized, understood and discussable.
Exxon Chemical's Change Management Team
One of the strength of the globalization today is the new easy way for people to work, to move for a short time period because of their work or to first of all to share information or points of view. Globalization led companies to evolve deeply as regards diversity, making decisions and communication, transportation, and technology. Nevertheless these evolutions are sometimes difficult to manage. People don't have the same values, the same way of thinking, standards of leaving in each country. This trouble has been observed these last years at Exxon Chemical's.
To find a solution to Exxon's Management's problem, a survey has been distributed in the company to all the employees. In this context, managers would have known how Exxon's members felt in the firm, and what they suggested for improvements to create a better climate of confidence within the teams. Moreover, the aim of this strategy is to develop a set of values for the organisation based on diversity. To make this work evolve, managers established an international team with people from all around the world. The aim of this work is to describe group dynamics and spell out the issues such a team may face to and at last come to an organisation's strategic plan.
A multinational team images.jpg
As already said, Exxon Chemical's management team is a group of several persons from many western countries such as France, Holland, United States, England, Sweden, and Germany. These people don't know each other, have no points in common but make the organization improve. As a major problem, this international team is managed by people who don't have the same values, thus all of them feel the troubles in a different way with different solution to answer an issue. The film the world of difference was a perfect illustration of what problem an international team can lead to. Most of the time, in every country, people imagine stereotypes about foreigners. In this case we can guess as French people that German are very strict and directive, French people are used to be seen as lazy workers and always on strike, French people hate Americans. On the other hand, Americans are seen like lazy or stupid. English people are received like old school, or well-mannered people. Actually, even if globalization should lead to better relationship between societies because of better global meeting or more common culture stereotypes are still in mind. Unfortunately, this is a relatively rigid and over-simplified belief about a group of people that is not based on facts or actual experiences. In addition, everybody is always oriented by its historical or geographical backgrounds. The trouble is that the other "perspective" is not always found. As a result these stereotypes are based on explicit facts, visual manifestations like the emerged part of the iceberg. For example, the ways of doing like food, dress, religious rituals or standards of living.
All in all, I would say that, the most damageable not only for an organization, but also for open-mindedness happened when human beings stand theirs grounds and do not attempt to understand other points of view, as watched on a video in class about American and Mexican workers. Teams brainstorm used to come to nothing because of misunderstandings. Even humour may also be misunderstood as seen in The world of difference, when the Italian try to relax people during a group meeting but his joke is received like an injure by the American woman. Internationality is still a source of misunderstanding. Many workers suffer from neglecting paying attention to national differences. Moreover, stereotyping and categorising are withdraws (inconvénients) are still problems that occurs a team, and prevent them to improve. As Stewart Black said in 2005, "A global leader is a leader whose responsibilities have a global scope". So we may say that he must have an overview on the way each cultures work or think, the relationship skills, their business expertise to harmonize his team. This point will be examined in the second part: "How to support efficiently such a group? "
In addition to the behaviour's troubles, a multinational team must face to problems of language. In these kinds of meeting that's known the international language is English. However, not everybody speak very well English. Even if people from northern countries such as Scandinavian countries are better in this language than their neighbours from France or even Spain or other countries from south Europa, English is still the main way of communication. But it still exists some situation in which, nobody talk the same language. This is another problem and very difficult to solve. That's why, in some companies and especially in some relation meeting, new ways of communication like drawing or explaining with high technology such as new translators are used.
A problem I observed during an internship in a multinational company for real estate is that people may be lead to travel and not be present everyday. That might be a problem for a team to have the information on time. I dare say that all rest on organisation and high technology like new software can help people to share documents stay in contact with the other members of the group.
How to support efficiently such a group?
To reach a goal with an international team, some of the most important points are to define ground rules, roles for each person of the group as much as possible, and fix dead lines and guidelines. For example in this case, the aims of the team are:
Dismantling barriers and create change
Promote contact and mutual support and encouragement
Improve team working and leadership skills.
In addition, to make a project succeed, team works must be very strict between the members. People must follow the rules imposed, like the respect of the deadlines, set down structures, share as much documents as the can between each meetings. According to several lectures, or documents studied, it may be obvious that each worker feel better at ease in a team work when each have a responsibility. For example here, in addition to follow the improvements of the team and suggest new ideas, the leader's role is also to motivate people by satisfying basic human needs. The role of a good manager in teamwork is also to reduce as much as possible conflicts within the group, like conflicts of internationality or misunderstanding.
To support a team in a good way the managers should answer criteria as followed:
Having kind of perception management: the leader must be able to find an issue in ambitious situations, and not let the company or the work being stuck into nothing.
Having a relationship management: to know how to create a confident atmosphere between the members. The best team is created when the co-workers are not only co-workers, not only several people who are led by a common project, but also when a friendship born threw the company. That is one of the points developed by the international team by Exxon's Chemicals. When colleagues have good feelings each other that automatically lead to a good working atmosphere favourable to progresses. Relationship management is also the ability to deal with different behaviours and cross-cultural interactions.
At last but not least, Self Management: managers are the first people in an organization who must face to adversity, adapt to change in a positive way while maintaining the company in a good way.
In such a group, there also is a process leader whose role is more directly linked to the team. He should help the leader to make the team improve, give him feedback, and make suggestions to improve as fast as the team can.
To reach a well-working environment, structures and ground rules must be really efficient. As briefly said, Time Management is one of the key word. All the team must respect deadlines in order to finish the project on time. That's why the Exxon's Chemical international team organised group meetings every 3 month with work to be done, or improvements about the project.
When no problem happened, a multicultural team should lead faster to innovation thanks to more creativity due to better open mindedness thanks to people who have different point of view from every part of the world with different values and norms, Moreover some innovations can already exist in some areas but not in other. In that way workers in companies can inspire new ideas and that's the point of the innovation, and above all the strength of multicultural teams.
According to Exxon's Chemical's experience, the right number of co-workers in a same team is between 12 and 15. Respecting this amount of people, the all group can be divided into several other teams. That lead to better brainstorming because it has been noticed that people are less shy when they are in smaller groups in bigger one. In that case, more interesting ideas may be shared. Moreover, Exxon's Chemicals tried to establish more breaks. For them, it is a crucial energizer for large group because it can be a helpful way for networks to be improved and thanks to it, improve the workers' productivity.
Nevertheless, Language stays the recurrent problem in multinational companies such as Exxon. Even if talking is not the only way of communication, it remains one of the easiest. Language is the recurrent problem in multinational groups.
To conclude, it is important to underline the important role of diversity inside a company such as Exxon, indeed, diversity brings skills and different way of working. It is a very hard goal to reach a balanced way of managing cultural differences. We have seen that people needs to keep their own individualities but they also have to fit in the company business model, it is important that everybody inside the firm have the same goal and walk in the same direction to reach the corporate goals.
While studying the case study and elements from others sources, we have learned how hard it is to manage diversity in a good way, in particular in multinational company such as Exxon.
But, it is often the harder jobs that give the best results in return, diversity could be seen as a strategically advantage over competitors, it could be even more than that.
Cultural differences and diversity can be part of the global strategy of the company, indeed, the fact of mixing skills to create and advantage is not a modern idea.
SÅ«n Wu (c. 544-496 BC), a Chinese general who have wrote the famous book The Art of War (which is consider as the oldest military book in the world) said:
"There are not more than five musical notes, yet the combinations of these five give rise to more melodies than can ever be heard.
There are not more than five primary colours, yet in combination
they produce more hues than can ever been seen.
There are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of
the yield more flavours than can ever be tasted."
This quotation shows that even in the 5th century, diversity and cooperation were important in the Chinese military strategy, which later have been adapted in different wars such as the Indochinese War (1946-1954), the Vietnam War (1964-1975) and the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979).
To conclude, it is important to remember that strategy is a word used by in the business world but which was originally used in the military vocabulary.