Toward an understanding of culture and the performance of teams in complex systems

Systems are becoming ever more complex and the practice of systems engineering is becoming more formalized. However, this formalization is aimed primarily at the technical and process components of complex systems and systems of systems. National cultural variations in the human components of such systems (typically functioning as groups or teams) are not typically included in the formal specifications and, as a result, the technical end products do not fully compensate for these variations. This paper provides an introduction to culture, its sources, its measurement, and its effects on team performance. It presents a summary of the research literature on culture and teams, and an overview of a set of pilot studies carried out by the authors. It then describes a methodology and software tool developed by the authors for the assessment of the cultural traits of team members and the estimation of the effects of team member culture on team performance. This paper concludes that despite some disparities in the results of research studies, sufficiently strong relationships between culture and team performance have been established to justify the development of culture-sensitive team performance prediction tools.