Cultural Differences in Project Management


Cultural differences in international project management are very important. A project manager who works aboard has to take these differences in consideration if he wants to succeed. Global project team are confronted with balancing Western project management practice with local business custom to deliver high-quality result.

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In an interview with The PM Channel, Bill Young recent past president of AIPM (Australian Institue of Project Management), who work and lives in China declare that “50% of joint-venture project between Western companies and Chinese companies fail”. Understanding cultural differences is one key to the success.

Cultural differences are perceived by an international project manager to be the biggest challenges in China. Additional problems relating to project management in China reflect poor quality, workers hiding problems from management; weak team ethic, corner-cutting, poor internal communication and inadequate involvement by middle management (Wong, 2008).

Paul-Hesselman

Understand these cultural differences will help you to work around them and articulate the issues. Paul Hesselman advises to gather the maximum information about the culture of the country beforehand. That will help you to understand: what type of people you have to deal with and how people will react to you?

John Saee declares that communication and good relationship is very important especially in China. For Chinese people building a solid relationship in business and with the Chinese government is very important. That is why Western companies have to understand and work around cultural differences to be successful.

John-Saee

But Bill Young also advises people to understand their own culture first and to get critical about it. He also gives three useful tips for a project manager who would like to work aboard:

  • Understand the business culture of the country. Every country has a different national culture and different ways of thinking about business.
  • Encourage project managers who work with a side partners to understand and respect these differences.
  •  Be careful with stereotypes, people have different ideas and perspectives.

The PM Channel interviewed three international experts about cultural differences (Bill Young, John Saee and Paul Hesselman), who share their own experience and give advise on how to work within a different culture.

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