Herb Nestler offers some compelling evidence on...

The Statistical Case for Global Integration Training

Intercultural preparedness must not stop with learning the customs and behaviors of a foreign culture. Putting that information to work in your daily contacts with colleagues and customers from another country often requires some practice in the safe environment of a workshop.

Let's take a simple example: the role employees see their managers as having in different cultures. Andre Laurent of the world-renowned Insead School in Paris surveyed thousands of employees in different countries. The results of his survey appear below. He asked:

"Is it important for a manager to have at hand precise answers to most of the questions that his subordinates may raise about their work?"

People in agreement see the boss as a seasoned expert in the same field as the subordinate. Those responding negatively see the boss as a specialist in management, a leader who did not necessarily rise through the ranks of an organization.

Perhaps even more important to us is the result of a follow-up study laurent conducted which focused on a French-US joint venture which conducted no intercultural team-building. He wanted to see if working together would automatically cause a "meeting of the minds" between the French and Americans. After five years of working side by side, did the Americans adapt to the attitudes of the French and vice versa?

Andre Laurent, "The Cultural Diversity of Western Conceptions of Management".
Based on a study he did at the Insead School, Paris.

To the surprise of most everyone who sees these results, the attitudes did not become similar; instead they become more disparate.

But just how serious are these behavioral differences to global venture success? Another study analyzed the reasons that international joint ventures failed. Quite surprisingly only 30% of the failures were attributable to problems of planning, technology, finance, etc. -- the so-called "hard" issues of business. Fully 7 out of every 10 failures was directly traceable to the behavior patterns of those in management positions.

From Evka Razvigorova and Gottfried Wolf-Lauden,
"East-West Joint Ventures: The New Business Environment", 1991 Blackwell Publications

If we can conquer the interpersonal communications barriers, multi-national companies have a significantly greater chance for success. I have had the opportunity to work together with some intercultural teams and help them develop a system for improving their internal and external communications. It can be the difference between failure and success.


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