National culture: differences in teams

Can you spot which of these three international software teams is the bioteam?

Fortune Magazine, November 28, 2005 reports on research by Leslie Perlow of Harvard Business School on teams of software engineers in India, China and Hungary. But which of the three teams was most like a bioteam?

The Indian Team

The engineers reached out directly to the other specialists on their team anytime they had problems. The sense of mutual commitment however led to very long hours as everyone felt they had to always be available to their colleagues.

The Chinese Team

All requests for help had to be channelled through the project leader which made them a bottleneck for the whole team. When the leader was not there none of the issues could be progressed directly by the team members.

The Hungarian Team

When a software engineer had a problem they would just go directly to whoever happened to be free at the time.

Which of the three teams was most like a bioteam

Perlow observed:

  • The Indian approach leads to team member burnout

  • The Chinese approach puts the boss in sole control of progress

  • Only the Hungarian approach allows the team members to be in control of their own destiny

The Hungarian approach resonates best with the key principles of bioteaming such as:

  • Every member is a leader

  • Whole team communications and transparency

  • Personal 'win-wins' for all team members not just the leader

  • Contingency against 'single leader bottleneck'

Which of the three team is closest to how your organisation's teams operate?

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