Factors that Enable and Challenge International Engineering Communication: A Case Study of a United States/British Design Team

By Marcus Andrews

Student ID Number: 862060884

May 14, 2018


Executive Summary





























General Questions

Were the interculture mistakes presented in the case study deliberate, due to technology, caused by communication issues, or the result of external or other mitigating factors?

Technology was one source of intercultural mistakes because they could not videoconference. They could only use teleconference and WebEx. There were no visual cues that the engineers could follow. The rest of the problem was caused by external factors such as time zone differences and distance.

What assumptions were being made in the case study?

Due to the UK engineers cross cultural training they expected the US engineers to always follow the meeting agenda. Megacorp shattered this stereotype by not always following the agenda. Also, the managers assumed there was a fast way to minimize the cross cultural communication. They did not realize that it always takes time to compensate for cross cultural differences. Author was not expecting any second language issues, and, there did not turn out to be any.

How did individual communication styles or management styles influence the outcome of the case study?

Everyone had a good attitude towards adapting to cultural differences. This made the things easier for everyone. Both DTBM-US and DTBM-UK engineers felt in the dark when it came to MegaCorp’s role in coordinating the project. Management styles differed which lead to communication challenges. UK engineers where unclear as to who was supposed to make decisions. Decisions were sometimes delayed, reversed, or not communicated to all sites. Also, The UK engineers were unsure as to whether or not to make decisions before a meeting or in a meeting. When it came to persuasive presentations both sides attempted to adapt to one another’s communication style. For instance, a US engineer would start an email with personal greeting so that he will not come across as brusque. Also, a UK engineer would phone his counter part before a big meeting to let the counterpart know information so there would be no surprises.

What intercultural assumptions or intercultural mistakes due to company culture impacted the outcome of the case study?

There was a conflict over work life balance. The UK engineers had poor attendance by US standards. They would miss some virtual and face to face meetings that took place on Friday’s. The US and UK groups had a different understanding of the word “yes”. UK thought it would be rude to day “no”. US engineers became frustrated when promised deadlines were not met. UK engineers gradually adapted to this problem by saying “no” or negotiating.

IEEE Case Study #1 Questions

How is a virtual team defined in the case study?

A virtual team is a team that is not collocated. They are not sitting in the same room together, but, instead connected through information technology.

Based on the study, what factors enhance communication for multi-cultural virtual teams? What factors undermine communication for multicultural virtual teams?

Factors that enhance are as follows: Cross-cultural training, appropriate communication technologies, opportunities for face to face interaction, trust in or respect for partners, regularly scheduled meetings and coordination, common discipline and field, diversity of skills in team, and understanding the value of collaborative work and negotiation.

Factors that Undermine communications are as follows: differing cultural assumptions, differing culturally formed communication styles, time and proximity issues, and differing levels of perceived power.

How does cross-cultural training impact multi-cultural communication? Does cross cultural training benefit multi-cultured virtual teams?

Cross-cultural training helps more than it hurts cross cultural communication. It allows unconscious cultural patterns to come into awareness. However, it can promote stereotypes which could be inaccurate. It helped engineers communicate successfully with international colleagues. So, yes it benefits multi-cultured virtual teams.

How did differing cultural assumption impact the multi-cultural virtual teams? What was the biggest common issue among the virtual teams?

Differing cultural assumptions complicate communication. People need to be aware of unstated principles that guide behavior for each culture. Differing cultural assumptions was the biggest common issue among the virtual teams.

After reading this study, how would this knowledge impact your management style in working with other cross-cultural virtual teams?

I would be careful not to assume anything and learn as much as I could about the other culture.