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When the Team and the Organization Approach Business Differently

Catherine Mercer Bing’s book, Many Cultures One Team: Build Your Cultural Repertoire, contains many real-world examples of teams she has worked with and helped to understand and avoid situations that detract from team effectiveness.

Following is an example of a team that was forced to change the way it served customers.

Clashing Approaches to Business

When the style of the team leader and or team members does not match the organization’s, there will likely be tensions between the team and the rest of the organization. Team members may feel like the work of the team does not fit into the work of the rest of the organization. Team members may also feel that they do not have sufficient support from upper management.

Below is an example of a team that lost face with their existing customers due to differences between the team and the organization as a whole.

Forcing a Team to Change the Way it Serves Customers

In an effort to globalize, an American company acquired a company in Korea. The approach of the Korean team before acquisition had been “customer intimacy.” They accepted small orders and were willing to customize orders. This approach to serving customers helped develop strong customer relationships. This approach established their credibility and increased the likelihood of larger future projects.

But the approach of the executives at the headquarters was different. The US American executives wanted the newly acquired Korean division to conform to the headquarters’ ideal of “operational excellence.” For headquarters this meant that the Korean division should stop accepting special orders.

A Team in Trouble…

The Korean division’s approach to serving customers was not aligned with how headquarters would have handled the business. Their Korean customers continued to expect the kind of customization that they had received in the past from the acquired Korean company.

Impact on the Team

Forced to adopt this new approach from headquarters, the Korean division experienced an erosion of reputation and a loss of customers.

Concurrently, the senior executives in the headquarters became dissatisfied with the Korean team’s failure to acquire new customers and larger orders from their existing customers.

What Can Be Done for this Team?

The executives in the headquarters are considering an intervention. The intervention should include asking basic questions such as:

  • Do the team members feel their work “fits” into the larger organization?
  • Do they get the opportunity to tell others outside the team how and what the team is doing?
  • If others don’t ask about the work of the team, can situations be created to provide a venue for team members to tell others about the work of the team (e.g., presentations or reports)?


Stay tuned for more excerpts from Many Cultures One Team: Build Your Cultural Repertoire, a new book on teams by Catherine Mercer Bing.  Future blogs will provide examples of team issues and ask readers to comment on what is happening and to discuss possible mitigations.  We hope you join the group of readers/responders.

Click here to order your copy. Enter promo code OneTeam to receive 20% off from Technics Publications website,

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