MELTING POTS AND MOSAICS IN MOTION: THE DYNAMICS OF MULTICULTURAL TEAMS
Maznevski, M., IMD International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland
The basic formula for describing team effectiveness asserts that performance is a function of a set of structural characteristics - such as membership, task, configuration, and organizational context - and processes - such as communication, conflict resolution, and decision-making. Structural characteristics affect processes (e.g., diversity in composition tends to lead to higher levels of personal conflict), and the processes most associated with high performance depend in part on structural characteristics (e.g., brainstorming is an important process for innovation tasks). While this approach has facilitated great advances in organizational team performance, we have reached the limits of its usefulness. Today's organizations operate in a world of greater complexity and flux. Interdependence, ambiguity, uncertainty, and diversity are high and continually changing. In this world, the structural characteristics that play such an important role in the basic team formula do not remain stable - they become dynamic terms. The next advances in helping teams perform will come from a greater understanding of the processes of flow or flux in teams. In this session, the dynamics of multicultural teams will be explored from the perspective of flux. Specifically, I will argue that multicultural teams should focus neither on developing a single team culture (melting pot) nor on emphasizing the diverse perspectives of members (mosaic), but instead should orchestrate a dynamic flow between these two states using multiple configurations and processes. Implications for research and practice will be discussed.