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Case Studies

Leading Across Borders and Cultures

After a series of acquisitions, the CEO of a global engineering firm effectively melded new team members, from different geographic locations, into an aligned senior management team.

To expand their global reach, an engineering firm located in the United Kingdom had grown through a series of acquisitions. Melding the acquired companies required the CEO to form a top team that was aligned with the strategic direction of the company as well as move the corporate headquarters to Mumbai.

The top team had three new members: the owners of the acquired companies, who now had to shift their roles, lines of authority, levels of responsibility, and work effectively with their peers.

The CEO wanted to integrate the new team members and create a high performance team as quickly as possible in order to i) collaboratively craft and implement the global strategy, and ii) as a result of the synergies between products, maximize the cross-selling opportunities.

The teams were culturally mixed, with each team member based in a different geographic region, many of whom had had no prior face-to-face contact with each other. The CEO needed to role model and set the tone for an organizational culture of mutual respect for different skill sets, styles of leadership, and ways of approaching work processes. He also needed to foster the teams’ ability to work collaboratively towards joint strategic thinking.

A co- facilitated three day off-site in Mumbai.

Prior to the off-site, each team member completed a 360-degree feedback assessment as well as a survey of their perspective regarding the opportunities and challenges facing the organization. During the off-site, team members participated in a range of live-action exercises, focusing on specific tasks. Data from the 360 feedback reports and surveys were discussed. The team members began to develop a personal relationship with each other, leading to trust. They gained insight into the dynamics of how they worked as individuals and as a team, identified problematic areas, and began to work on ways to address them.

By the end of the three days, the team had more familiarity about each other’s strengths and unique added value. Working alliances were established and they began to work more collaboratively and less as a group of individuals. They developed a set of agreed-upon behavioral guidelines for future interaction and a commitment to meet as a team once a quarter. Different variations of off-line meetings were initiated with different combinations of membership. Opportunities for new market opportunities were identified with a plan for execution. The team also changed its name from senior management team to senior leadership team, denoting a different level of functioning.

Pre-work and planning is critical to the success of the off-site. It is important for the facilitator to meet one-on-one with each team member prior to facilitating the group as a whole. By knowing each person’s perspective in terms of his or her cultural lens and his or her needs and concerns, the facilitator is able to design an off-site that ensures that each person’s voice is heard and that barriers to effective communication and planning are anticipated and addressed.

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