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MSc International Management was my chosen area in which to study after my BA honors in International business management at Oxford Brookes and I was given the opportunity to complete a Masters Degree in the same line of study. The semester classes started on the 28th of September 2009, where I was to take part in International Management Competencies. The sessions would give me the possible additional prospect of becoming a first-class international business manager. To be involved in a global business concerning mixed cultures, overall integration and examination for changes that affects globalization by interacting cross-culturally. (Thomas, 2008). The class in which I took part in included 23 students from 17 different countries of origin, which meant I would be having contact with individuals that have the same interest of subject with different backgrounds and experiences to offers with diverse cultures which most certainly could give me an insight into different ethnicity and cross-cultural factors. These could potentially overlap between each other while interacting. With this in mind, understanding culture it is to be associated with the aim to define common human problems which are shared between groups. (Schneider, 1997). The module itself would also give me the unique opportunity to enhance my mangerial skills by learning form my experiences and taking part into the activities that would bring further education in developing my fundamental process of learning. I began to understand that the classes would give me a vast ability to develop my skills on a weekly basis by interacting with all the members of my class and group that I was placed in, also while working on the reading material and keeping a weekly diary (see Appendix A) it seemed to be appealing and would most definitely exceed my knowledge on the subject in question, to understand that International managers hold the responsibility towards an organisations success by managing with their human resources which are related to their cultural differences and backgrounds (Groseschl, Doherty, 2000).
The most important task that I had to undertake this semester was associated with a mixed group of individuals form the same division to then explore the core case study given by our module leader, “The case of the Floundering Expatriate”, in which it involved diversity in cross-cultural groups concerning an organization that tries to manage these mixtures effectively to try accomplish great performance and success.
The role for the project would be to analyse Bert Donaldson‘s managerial practices and to address the key issues with his team, and actions he could take in his own cultural development. The final results would then to be presented to the peers in weeks 8 (trial mock, see diary Appendix A, week 8) and week 10 (final assesed, see Appendix A week, 10), with also a group report showing all the content and understanding of the case. The group i got allocated to consisted of 5 people from different countries with mixed culture backrounds, knowledge and experiences to offer (Appendix A,week 2-3), of which Shirley came form Venezuela, Konstantin from Bulgaria, Judith form Germany, Moses from Denmark, and me from Italy. The process in which all these events happened has been recorded in diary format shown in the appendix (Development through the weeks of the semester) showing overall actions taken during the initial process in which it began, where i had to change to another team (Appendix A, week 2 and 3). The group was given the chance to be fully independent, and we had the power to decide when to schedule as there was no pattern or organised structure to follow, therefore we could procede as best as we could, to optimize the procedure, which would be critical for the result. As described by Robert Harris, (2004) the synergy within a team has to be promoted by improving strategy that creates enhanced quality of work, autonomy control, improved communication, which then results in higher performance, productivity and more research and development. On initial startup there was a lack of organization and indeciciveness to whome should be the leader, to find a comprimise to work consistenely, but then Shirley proved to be up to the part and showed great ability to commence and organize a programme to follow (see Appendix B) related to meeting times and place, and a leader was found, persuing the role as the motivator and director of the operation by applying her human resource skills and direction of the generic scope which are crutial for a successful leader by creating a sense of purpose structure and clear defenition of purpose (Emirates Center, 2002)(Appendix A week 5 to 6). The role in which i could represent myself would be as a team worker and finisher ,a relevant role that would have to be skilled over the weeks to come. As mentioned by Harris, 1998, a team worker has the main priority to put people on top of his list, concerning feelings, needs, and has a strong observing power of the strengths and weaknesses of the group. Additionally he plays as a facilitator minimising any possible frictions that may arise.
I was very content to be in the assigned group and ready to combine all our ideas together to then put them into practice. By using different prespectives on cultures and leadership which are essential to be able to learn the basic skills for managing its organization successfully and create a working environment that can develop its skills and training through time. Managers are faced with one of the biggest tasks to motivate and lead individuals to different cultures by understanding their behaviors, as motivation has the need to achieve and dominate in its class (Mc Cleland’s, 1981). I had an amazing feeling that the overall experience would bring me insight into team working and learning other cultures by having the possibility to integrate and develop skills needed in working life environment, involving decison making process, solving problems, and being able to carry out required tasks. Furtermore an absolute importance to the way in which you present your skills and ideas is crutial for the success and undestanding you bring across. As explained by Tjosvold et al (2003), cross cultural management is increasing due to expatriation and international trade, meaning that people from diverse cultures must work together in the global marketplace. Societies differ in characteristic ways of thinking, feelings and acting through effective approaches derived from their values which portrays stereotypes and expectations that come from these specific situations. Finally by examining my teams diversity there were some disadvantages towards lack of cohesion(Appendix A week 7-8), and misscomunication through language as none of us were native spakers, but there were several advantages thatour mixed creativity gave a wide range of prespectives, better ideas and less groupthink, that resulted in better problem definition in regards to finding solutions for productivity.
As our first meeting started on the 16th of October many thoughts ran through my head and I was thinking if the group would be able to interact, merge developing ideas and fuse past experiences (work related and life events) with knowledge to minimize any potential cross-cultural issues that may arise. During the meeting everyone knew their role (Appendix A, weeks 3-6). I was motivated to extend and widen my thoughts by analyzing the situation in hand for the development plan needed. I was beginning to feel very relaxed and was pleased to share my opinions and ideologies of the case, by describing as best as I could what I thought we should include for the report to analyze it according to the prerequisites. I stared to realize that I was changing as time passed on, as I understood that my preferences where towards working with others and accepting ideas and mixing concepts to reach an evaluated criteria for fluency. I began to apprehend that I function perfectly as a team worker by constructing a working structure with appropriate skills and resources as suggested by West (2004), but there was a necessary need for change towards the way I express myself and come up with ideas. I would have to be more assertive and confident in myself. As for being an expatriate from Italy it brought additional challenges for working in a new cultural environment. Haour-knipe (2001), argued that in order to be successful during the integration of a new society there needs to be an adaption towards learning the new language, making new friends and getting occustomed to the the new surroundings and local culture. Nonetheless I saw different insights into people’s different styles and ways of achieving a process where I could take into account additional practices to develop myself towards diversity and the power that a team can generate, as mentioned by Essed (1996), diversity can be understood by experiencing events that are in common with the individuals from the team, where these beliefs, principles and theories have an important impact on the opportunities for success. Not only would this be developed through practice but also the assigned reading would help me to expand the ideas and understand further ways to think globally and express myself.
Through team working I understood different aspects of behaviors towards work commitments and endless encounters that would affect the work process. With this in mind i can understand that culture influences behavior as its a process about people or events they carry out, by looking towards cultural norms (acceptable behavior and influences of past experiences, Francesco, 2005) shared in a group, with selective perception, stereotypes, expectations, social dominance and different attributes for reaction (Usunier, 1998). A good example illustrating this could be the existence within the group members of both low and high context cultures of which everyone except for me was low context. Meaning that there explanations are done through words or verbalization instead of context, while I was the only one of high context mainly the opposite of them. Therefore by looking towards my experience i have noticed the various advantages that brought me to seek my role, not only that i knew what i wanted to do but also it was confirmed by Belbins self awareness questionnaire (Appendix C) that i was an implementor and team worker. These implications are the essential attributes for my team, that are in need for improvement towards my communication practice and presentation style that would have to be fully prepared to describe content coherently and right to the point. By developing these aspects it brings me a step closer to becoming a successfull specialist in the field of international business as Brooke (1996) described the process of becoming a successful by 3 stages involving observation, experience and theory, thereon analysing them to understand the relevance of each to learn the theoretical side.
THEORY INTO PRACTICE
The potential cross-cultural problems related to the topic of the session were plentiful, where there were issues concerning team roles, working skills, and decision making. There were also differences in communication style (verbal and non-verbal) and performing practices among cultures. Moreover there are diverse preferences towards leadership performance (skills), decision styles, and expectations with a need of cross cultural adjustment towards a new environment. Consequently it is necessary to know ones skills to be assertive; portraying what you may offer when entering in United Kingdom to show all the benefits you may bring to future career.
Managers need to able to take into account all the concerning circumstances mentioned above to lead Individuals form their team towards working as a unit to increase overall performance to reach targets (Thakur, 1993).What needs to be understood is that globalization is a major factor affecting cultures all around the world, where everyone has to work closely together and need each other’s support to build up to required expectations and competencies. This factor involves the rapid growth of a market in relation to social, economic and technological problems (Kavous, 2009). This module gave me the chance to question, analyze and improve my managerial skills, while the reflective statement and diaries give a broad outline of the experiences passed. Furthermore the professional development plan below will outline future areas for development .The overall project gave me an opportunity to discover my interpersonal skills as well as weaknesses that I need to overcome to develop sufficient international managerial competencies, the most important of which are communication, decision-making, leadership, presentation skills and team working.
Ardalan, Kavous. (2009) “Globalization and culture: four paradigmatic views”, International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 36, No. 5, pp. 513-534.
Danielle Medina Walker, Thomas D. Walker, Joerg Schmitz, Terence Brake. (2003) Doing business internationally: the guide to cross-cultural success. McGraw-hill pages 33-36 Culture.
Dean Tjosvold, Kwok Leung. (2003) Cross-cultural management: foundations and future. Ashgate publishing company, pp. 1-6.
Francesco, A.M. and Gold, B.A. (2005) International Organizational Behavior, Upper Saddler River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., pp. 159, 161,175, 204, 205.
Groseschl, Stefan, Doherty, Liz. (2000) “Conceptualising Culture”, Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 2-3.
Jean-Claude Usunier. (1998) International and cross-cultural management research. Sage publications. pp. 31-35.
Mary Haour-Knipe. (2001) Moving families: expatriation, stress and coping. Routledge publisher, pp. 90-92.
Michael A. West. (2004) Effective teamwork: practical lessons from organizational research. Malden Oxford. Pp. 75-85.
Michael Z. Brooke. (1996) International management: a review of strategies and operations. Stanley Thornes Ltd. Pp. 3 -21.
Philip R. Harris. (1998) The New Work Culture: Hrd Strategies for Transformational Management Publisher HRD Pres, Team working pp. 520-526. Philip Robert Harris, Robert T. Moran, Sarah Virgilia Moran (2004) Managing cultural differences: Global leadership strategies for the 21st century. Elsiver, Oxford ,sixth edition PP.150 -156 Cultural differences.
Philomena Essed. (1996) Diversity: gender, color, and culture. Library of Congress, A challenge towards diversity pp. 135-137.
Schneider, S. (1997) Managing Across Cultures, Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall
The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. (2002) Leadership and management in the information age pages 12-22.
Thomas, D.C. (2008) Cross-Cultural Management Essential
Concepts, 2nd Edition, Los Angeles: SAGE Publications Ltd, pp: 49, 50, 59,131-137, 187, 223, 234.
DATE: 29th of September 2009
EVENT/ACTIVITY: Introduction of the Module and Key Competencies of an International Manager. Discussion of a Case Study, Exercise 3 “Spanning the globe”.
This was my first class where a brief presentation was given on how the module would turn out to be and what was expected form us with course objectives and learning outcomes. During this class we were given a specific task to work on, the case study “Spanning the globe”, to be worked on as a team with people that were assigned together to work sitting on the same table during the lecture break that was give to us.
During the given time the whole group decided we should read the case study individually and then discuss and go through the question given, therefore everyone had a specific task and to combine ideas together.
The overall outcome of the task was to see how everybody would react to team work under a strict time management and to combine personal ideas with other members of the team.
My initial feelings of the task were orientated toward overall successful performance to achieve what was asked from me, I thought the group was well organized and prepared to come the exercise to come up with combined answers and ideas. Time management was also dived in 3 sections, the first towards reading the case study, secondly reviews opinions of members and finally to write notes down for a final answers.
During the whole experience I felt I was learning throughout and getting to know different people and other ways of working as a group which made me happy and motivated to continue with the module introduced to us, where I realized that I would learn a great deal from this module that would most definitely improve me as a potential fine manager.
What I could learn from the first group discussion was that all individuals are different and that everyone has a different way of performing and achieving a process, therefore we have to accept to learn to work together and combine all ideas and conflicts to create something unique and to use individual’s strengths to help the process. Also I had a rough look at the content of the module and understood that a wide range of reading material had to be studied, also by using as core text book Cross-Cultural Management essential concepts by David C. Thomas 2nd edition, and others similar to this.
THEORY INTO PRACTICE:
The potential cross-cultural problems related to the topic of the session are the following:
- Time pressure (35 min)
- Different understanding of the content
- Different opinions about approach
- Different perspectives of case study
- Working together effectively (constraints)
- General discussions to agree on a certain point
In order to enhance these potential threats it has to be noted that individual competencies of members need to be worked on in order to be a successful manager and improve cross cultural team work by accepting different skills and behaviors that might come into practice.
DATE: 6th of October 2009
EVENT/ACTIVITY: International Team Working. Work group vs. Team. Division into groups for Assignment 1, Discussion of the Case Study 0.1 “The Thames Pump & Valve Company” and different activities about team working guidelines, reflections about advantages and disadvantages of working in groups, improving long-term performance of leaders of a multicultural team and personal awareness and skills exercise. The group that I was in included me, Julius, Roman, and Pimita, but one member was missing as she did not attend the class. (Of which we were assigned to be group 2).
During this class our team explored the performance and potential of multicultural teams and the key barriers to achieve high performance and which strategies to consider to address these issues. The first discussion was about the case study of “The Thames Pump & Valve Company”. This case study was part of our homework for the day and the discussion in my group was productive in the end. During the class we experience even other activities such as the exercise about team working guidelines where different cultural background proved even different ranking of the list of provisional guidelines. The second activity consisted in establishing advantages and disadvantages of working in groups and the other one was about improving the performance of leaders of a multicultural team in the long-term. During the session we discussed on conclusion of the role of self assessment to find each members preference and role within the group by completing Belbin’s team role task to see each other differences.
Finally we were given the case study of “The case of the Floundering Expatriate” of which we would be analyzing with a group for the rest of the module to then give an oral presentation of the findings and solutions asked for.
I felt very happy to get to know my team members and see if we would work efficiently together, understand there different ways of doing and achieving a method, our group consisted of members from Germany (Julius), Russia (Roman), Italy (Eugenio), Pimpta (Thailand). So there were certainly potential for different cultural issues and idea generation. Overall there was a feeling of excitement for the beginning of a new relationship.
While we were getting to know each other I was thinking what kind of benefits they would bring to the team and what could I learn from this experience and give towards making the group work. With this in mind previous weeks task for homework help me understand potential preferences that I might be involved in, I assessed myself development by completing the questionnaire given to us to correspond towards qualities for an effective manager where my strong points found were towards:
- Relevant professional knowledge and understanding
- Proactivity, inclination to respond purposefully to event
- Social skills and abilities
Secondly I looked towards personal awareness and skills exercise between the roles that an international manger takes into account, by organizing the most important roles that comply with you to be successful, the most important ones for me where:
- Team leader/ Judge/ Challenger/ and Innovator
While attending the session I learned that I would most definitely be a team worker as I got along with my members and I was motivated to bring great ideas and completing the task assigned to us. At this moment in time there was no evident leader so positions still needed to be assigned. Finally we all decided to meet the following Monday to discuss the case study of “The floundering Expatriate”, for a general review. Finally I was also reviewing the material that had to be red, the initial chapters of the core text book and others suggested by the module leader.
THEORY INTO PRACTICE:
The cross cultural factor that were influenced in this session were that there could have been a language restrain between each other and that clear ideas didn’t seem to flow at times , therefore a better organization was needed.
Date: 16th of October 2009
Culture and Values and Managing diversity. I started to feel ill, which resulted in getting the flu. Therefore I could not attend the First group meeting as I was unable to for health reasons and I was therefore moved to group number 1, as another member form group 2 attended and course leader suggested I move to the other group as they were already agreed to work together.
During this week I got a temperature resulting in getting the flu and I was in bed for a few days. On Wednesday we had the first group meeting and one of my group mates was really kind to send me an e-mail with all the details discussed during the meeting. On Thursday I tried to recover from this by taking medicine and resting for a few days which put my back on track, unfortunately I felt badly that I could not attend the meeting and felt very frustrated; also I had to interact with my new group and set up new meeting and roles that would be taken
I was very happy to meet the other members of my group and was ready to work with them on the case study of “The floundering expatriate”, I wanted to see how we would socialize and combine all our ideas and put them into practice, but as I was ill I could do that, so it made me sad that I let the team down, and I had to tell them that I couldn’t attend.
The group I was now assigned to consist from Shirley (Venezuela), Konstantin (Bulgaria), Moses (Denmark), Judith (Germany) and me (Italy), a nicely balanced group from different origins.
During the time I didn’t spend with my group I though what I could offer my team, and I started to think towards my potential assets that they could benefit from. One task that helped me realize what I could offer involved in completing Belbin’s team roles self assessment by looking toward contribution, shortcoming events, involvement in projects, characteristic approach towards work, satisfaction, difficulties that may arise, and problems that can be dealt with. With all this taken into consideration, the final verdict showed that I exceeded towards being an implementer and team worker. Another way in which I understood that I was starting a general development of my life towards a working life was due to understanding wide-ranging points of view and concepts of cross-cultural management from Francesco and Gold, Thomas books that gave me a great deals to think about how my performance would affect the group and how I would interact with fellow members.
Unfortunately I couldn’t learn anything from the group meeting as I was absent, but I read the case study and was ready to share my views and opinion on how to come about answering the questions that were given to us. Also I was informed form other member to meet my new group on the following Monday to review question 1 and 2 of the case study, to bring my ideas and thoughts to the next session.
THEORY INTO PRACTICE:
The cross cultural factor that were influenced in this session were that the group might have thought that I was unorganized and not willing to work as I did not attend and hoping that this would not happen again.
Additionally by being and implementer it meant that I would be reliable , disciplined, conservative and efficient and mainly to turn ideas into practical actions and work successful in a team with a smooth flow, knowing that I could bring these positive attributes to my team the following week and for the rest of the semester to complete the task given to perform a presentation on possible ways of developing the case study of “The Floundering Expatriate” by looking towards the:
- Cross cultural issues that arise
- Action plan to develop Bert’s Team
- Steps in which Bert need to take into account to develop his interaction skills
- Finally followed by our groups performance in completing the task
Date: 19th of October 2009
Event/Activity: Second group meeting: Presentation of task 1 and 2
The group decided to review question 1 and 2 on Monday at 12.00 with a meeting point in the library in Wheatley campus, so we could discuss and review the work done the week before for the tasks and see if any progress was made since their last meeting.
SECOND Experience: 22nd of October
This week’s class of IMC was divided in two parts; the first one had a guest lecture who talked about coaching and mentoring and the second one was about leadership.
During the first part we did a test called ‘International Coach Federation Professional Coaching core Competencies’ to get a view about our coaching abilities.
Also an article about coaching was distributed in class, titled “ Accessing cultural orientations: the online Cultural Orientations Framework Assessment as a tool for coaching” by Gilbert and Rosinski (2007).
The second part was about Manager as a leader where we discussed the characteristics of global business leadership and cultural influence on leadership in different counties.
I was happy this week to learn about mentoring across cultures and leadership which are essential needs for an international manager to learn the basic skills for managing its organization successfully and create a working environment that can develop its skills and training through time, as managers are faced with one of the biggest tasks to motivate and lead individuals to different cultures by understanding their behaviors, as motivation has the need to achieve and dominate in its class (Mc Cleland’s, 1981).
While on the other hand leadership has the ability to inspire individuals to influence organizations members towards goals and targets that need to meet.
As the lesson progressed I was thinking what kind of role would I seek to pursue during a managerial task, and when reflecting I was brought to understand that I would have a great ability to be a leader by having the ability to see members potential assets for the team and task in hand and by leading them to enhance their skills gradually by making them feel comfortable with what their achieving.
After the past experiences I started to realize that I might want to develop my leadership skills in my team, but as time progressed we noticed that Shirley took the role of leader right from the start by organizing schedules and giving out tasks to perform on a weekly basis and found myself in the situation to comply with her demands as she was very organized and everyone had the opportunity to collect and deliver any ideas that may be relevant for the case study. Also during the lectures I learned all the different styles that a manager can adopt or operate on, that can bring a wide variety of solutions.
THEORY INTO PRACTICE:
The cross cultural factors affected form this session and that concerned me the most were:
- A leader was found and had to deal with the of being a team worker
- Time constraint arose and found ourselves to rush through some of the work
- First sessions were formal and members from the group felt discomfort
- We need to establish a greater bond to flow in an organized way
- Different styles for expressing their ideas
- Different approaches to understanding and exploring ideas
DATE: 26th of October 2009
EVENT/ACTIVITY: On Monday we had our third group meeting. On Tuesday, IMC class, where we had a guest lecture about International Careers and Development.
This group meeting took place at the same time and place as organized and decided, were it was productive and we kept on expanding our ideas and development for the project and started to become more organized and coherent.
DATE: 29th of November 2009
EVENT/ACTIVITY: On Monday we had our forth group and on Tuesday’s we had IMC class where we discussed “Problem analysis and decision making in an international environment”.
As every Monday we had our usual group meeting in the library the difference this week was that I was the only one to show up on time. During this class we discussed a case study “Pinpoint executive toys; the culture is important and can be said to be structured!” where we should put ourselves as managers of this organization and make some crucial decisions. While we were discussing the case study and try to find a solution to all the questions we found ourselves to work perfectly and in harmony together.
The guest lecturer gave me more insight into what my future plans would be and preferably were I would like to take my knowledge and skills into which sector of work, this gave me an insight into thinking more deeply into where I would like to work, where to stay in England or go abroad, working in an organization or company, and also what sectors would I be interested in.
This week I was slightly de-motivated as I felt that I had to catch up with other modules and the work started to load on me, therefore I noticed that I was lacking towards generating new ideas and completing tasks, but I found the will and strength to study more, which showed I was gaining more insight into enhancing my personal skills as I wanted to achieve greater benefits to apply in future jobs or personal
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