As someone who has worked with cross-cultural, remotely based teams for many years, I think the insights provided by Neeley are spot on.
In order to have mutual understanding, learning and teaching, team members must have a minimum level of sensitivity and of self-awareness so they do not fall into the mistake of thinking "my way of doing things is the 'normal' (read: correct) way". Being open minded and aware of the fact that people are just different, and not necessarily wrong, are the key to getting cross-cultural teamwork right.
In short, companies thinking about or in the process of expanding internationally should be extra careful when selecting people to work in their international teams. This is a case where the personality of teammates is as important as the processes used to manage the international side of the business.
Tsedal Neeley via blogs.hbr.org
People struggle with global teamwork, even though it’s essential to success in multinational firms. Despite their efforts to nimbly manage differences in time zones, cultures, and languages, cross-border collaborators often fail to reach shared understanding or common ground. They face conflicting group norms, practices, and expectations — all of which can cause severe fracturing along cultural lines.
So how do you negotiate those differences and discover common ground?