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CROSS CULTURAL COMMUNICATION: WHO IS RIGHT AND WHO IS WRONG?

AutoErste GmbH is a large multi-national Automobile design and Manufacturing company headquartered in Germany. In Global Shared Service (GSS) organization of AutoErste, German and Indian teams work together to support Account Payable and General Ledger processes of one of the Business Units of AutoErste.

Rajiv, from India team, was working hard on a particularly difficult issue which did not have a very straight forward solution that has been tried before. While German team was not very keen to accept such issues and advised that GSS sends it back to the internal client for more data points, Rajiv wanted to try out a different solution approach.

Frieda from the German team, who was recently promoted to a lead position was getting rather impatient to know the status of this ticket. She set up a meeting with the Indian team: her first one with the Indian colleagues.

Frieda opened the meeting by right upfront asking the Indian team why they were still working on the issue, what were the problems that they have encountered, what was hindering their progress and what was their plan for the resolution. Indian team who was interacting with Frieda for the first time was rather silent facing such a barrage of questions from someone who they were meeting for the first time.

Looking at the silence of his team, Indian team lead Arun, asked Rajiv who was working on the problem, to explain the issue.

Rajiv gave a broad overview of his plan going forward and concluded saying “In any case I am still investigating and should be able to crack it. I will get back soon”

Frieda was not comfortable with Rajiv’s answer, she was not sure if the problem would get addressed at all in the first place but had no means to probe further. The meeting ended without further exchange of dialogues.

After a day’s effort, Rajiv successfully resolved the issue and sent a mail to all concerned, including Frieda, detailing the proceedings of how he had spent one full day in the investigation and resolved the problem.

Is the scenario described above an example of a seamless cross border team? Well far from it. All of us know that. But what really went wrong? Was Frieda right in her approach to the Indian team. Should Rajiv have communicated things more precisely? Could both sides do things differently? Clearly this is a case of lack of Intercultural Competence. So, who was right and who was wrong? Interestingly in the cultural context neither party was wrong? They acted the way they have been culturally programmed. Each one saw through their Culture filter being completely oblivious of their tinted Culture lens.

Hofstede-culture-lens

We are generally not aware of the lens we wear. Hofstede 6D model of National Culture provides the tool and the language to understand this National culture filter all of us carry by virtue of our social upbringing in our first 12 -15 years formative life. Hofstede 6D Model of National Culture explains how national culture shapes our emotional relationship to fundamental
social dilemmas.

Behaviours of Frieda and Rajiv can be explained by the following chart where all 6 Dimensions of National Culture of Germany and India are compared. We are generally not aware of the lens we wear. Hofstede 6D model of National Culture provides the tool and the language to understand this National culture filter all of us carry by virtue of our social upbringing in our first
12 -15 years formative life.

Hofstede 6D Model of National Culture explains how national culture shapes our emotional relationship to fundamental social dilemmas. Behaviours of Frieda and Rajiv can be explained by the following chart where all 6 Dimensions of National Culture of Germany and India are compared.

 

Country comparison chart

For explanations of the country culture characteristics of Germany and India follow the link below

Country Comparison

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