Global OD-Lesson 22: a very diverse group of 11 people working together meets face to face once every two years. Here is what I suggest to do.

The 11 Participants:

Larry from London, Francois from Paris, Som from Thailand, Jean Marie from Montreal, KT from Bangalore, Paresh from Singapore, Mark from Vladivostok, Inbal from Israel, Oya from Tokyo, Corazon from Manila;  Gordon from Dublin manages the team.


The team develops and deploys real time software products for financial services. The team has business analysts, architects, software developers, sales and pre sales folks. The team has severe trust issues, unclear roles and responsibilities, infighting and their communication vacillates from guarded to flaming.

Team leader Gordon got budget for a 2 day offsite in Singapore to “straighten things up”. The team has not yet met face to face because until now, HR/Training had been deploying short webinars on team work, which had had no effect whatsoever.

Suggested content of the first meeting:

  • 25% relationship building

Relationship building is critical in a team in which cultural differences and geography drives such a wedge between the ability to cooperate. Relationship building is done by longer meals together, lots of time socializing with loosely and semi structured activity to encourage people to get to know one another.

  • 25% focus on  understanding how cultural differences impacts the specific tasks at hand

For example…Such a group much gets their hands around how they share risks instead of blame one another. Risk taking is deeply  impacted by culture. All folks must understand how each culture views risk taking and how people guard themselves against shame of failure.

  • 25% identifying a shared list of problem definitions

While Sales may define the issue as “lack of transparency” as to when the product is to be ready, development may define the problem as “too much wasted on reporting as opposed to working”. The shared problem definition of   “we need to improve how we plan” is a shared version which moves the group one step forward.

  • 25% building a set of ground rules relating to trust and communication

Examples: we call one another and discuss hard to solve issues instead of creating an email chain; we assume good intent before we react, we talk one on one before embarrassing one another…all may serve as a useful platform.

What to avoid during the meeting?

  • Struggling with defining roles and responsibilities makes so sense since that changes all the time.
  • Solving problems  that need to be managed and not solved.
  • Too much open debate which makes things worse in such a group

Worst mistakes a facilitator can make in such a meeting:

  • Too much or  too little  task focus
  • Lack of one on one preparation
  • Lack of understanding of cultural restraints and capabilities leading to poor design,
  • Poor control of meeting.
  • Too much feigned civility and niceness
  • Too much unstructured and personalized conflict

Critical facilitation decisions:

  • When to ask for input and when to present input,
  • Balance between expert and facilitator
  • Balancing the need between discretion and openness.
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