Document Type

Closed Project

Publication Date

Winter 2011


Robert Dryden

Course Title

Communication and Team Building

Course Number

ETM 522


International task forces are becoming increasingly common in the professional, government and academic communities to solve the tough problems facing business and society. It’s possible that we’ll all participate in an international task force at some point in our careers. The dictionary definition of task force is a good starting point for understanding the concept: TASK FORCE (NOUN) a group or committee, usually of experts or specialists, formed for analyzing, investigating, or solving a specific problem. ("Definition task force - noun," 2011). For this paper we are defining an international task force as a group of experts brought together from throughout the world to solve a specific problem. Some of its key attributes are the members are from many different companies, the team exists for a limited time to solve a problem and there is no formal leader of the team; the team is self organizing and decides on its own leadership and processes. Examples of international task forces are the IEEE committee that defined the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard (technical), the Doha round of GATT that refined free trade rules (government) and the International Obesity Task Force trying to reduce worldwide obesity (societal). The benefits of these task forces are obvious -they bring together the top experts from throughout the world to focus on solving a problem. This diverse set of professional, educational and cultural backgrounds brings multiple points of view together to solve the problem. In today’s globally interconnected world with inexpensive international travel and nearly free global communications it’s cost effective to use the best people available to solve a problem. But the problems of these teams are equally obvious – people from many different backgrounds with limited experience working together trying to operate effectively as a team while separated by time, distance, language and culture. These differences impact the team’s ability to communicate, build trust, solve problems and work effectively as a team. Teams need to address these challenges or be at higher risk of failure (Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004) This paper examines the existing literature to provide an overview of the impact of these cultural and other effects on teams, both positive and negative, and to highlight some of the solutions applicable to task forces.


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