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Breaking The Ice: Cutting Through Geographic, Cultural, And Time Zone Barriers To Effectively Lead In A Global Environment

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Frontiers in Engineering Management Education

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.287.1 - 14.287.21



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Paper Authors

author page

Lenisha Gandhi IBM

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Breaking-the-Ice: Cutting through geographic, cultural, & time zone barriers to effectively lead in a global environment


Global integration is now a reality in every industry. But what exactly is global integration? One of the most common thoughts about it is that global integration is synonymous to outsourcing. But it is much more than outsourcing. It describes a new model of business where the focus has shifted from local economy to global economy.

However, along with the benefits of globalization, come the challenges of leading in a global environment. Besides the obvious issue of time differences, there are several other barriers prevalent in a global team, especially during the initial phase of it. These include communication differences, cultural differences, different expertise levels, different work styles and schedules, and most importantly, trust issues. It is these barriers that commonly form the ice in a global team and can create a very challenging management experience. As a leader of a global engineering team, it is not only essential to break this ice immediately after the team is formed but even more important to lead the team in a manner such that it prevents the ice from forming again.

Developing effective global leadership skills is a challenge for even the most experienced engineering managers. However, offering proper (in)formal education in the area of global engineering management can significantly help train emerging and current leaders and can enable them to identify and overcome the barriers in a global team. This paper takes a look at key concepts that must be taught to and understood by managers seeking success in global markets. The material presented in this paper can be formally integrated as part of a core course in a MBA global management program or can be offered as an elective towards an undergraduate business management degree. Informally, it can be used as part of an executive coaching program and/or an internal educational course that most companies make use of to educate their engineering leaders and executives. Or it can simply be a chapter in a textbook on global management.

Specifically, this paper will provide insight into several key areas. After starting off with a brief discussion on how this material can be used to educate engineering managers, it will proceed by first describing the IBM core competencies required in a globally integrated team. This is followed by a discussion on the initial team barriers, “ice”, that arise when a new global team is formed along with effective ways of breaking through these barriers. This discussion will be supported by examples drawn from practices and experiences of senior industry professionals’ as well as the author’s personal global business experiences. Next, the paper will offer tips on how to leverage the barriers such that it can actually help the team become more effective along with a summary of modern techniques to increase team bonding and collaboration. It also includes a brief literature review on global management educational resources. To highlight the do’s and don’ts in a global team, the discussion will end with two case studies drawn from industry to help realize the good and bad practices in leading a global team. Upon conclusion of this paper,

Gandhi, L. (2009, June), Breaking The Ice: Cutting Through Geographic, Cultural, And Time Zone Barriers To Effectively Lead In A Global Environment Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4934

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