Hello, hola, hallo, bonjour….

We have studied many of the technical parts of a project that make it successful. Good leadership, organization, and communication skills are ideal qualities for a project manager. With the growing diversity in different countries and the coordination of projects with global members, it is important to keep in mind the cultural differences which are unique to each person. Having a good understanding of the people who make up the project can make the project run more smoothly. Tensions sometimes arise when people misinterpret body language or the way that people say things. Misinterpretation of ideas and opinions can lead to project delay and/or poor quality product delivery. According to the article, things like accent, silence, gestures, and eye contact can mean different things for people in different countries. For example, not giving eye contact can mean a sign of respect for people of certain countries whereas in others, it is disrespectful not to look at someone when they are talking.

Not only are project managers dealing with people from different countries, they are also being thrown into a workforce where there are different age groups. There are currently 4 generations in the workforce today. These include veterans, baby-boomers, Gen. Xers, and Nexters. The last two generations are more diverse and flexible because they grew up in a more diverse society.

Although it is important for project managers to have effective communication and be able to balance the differences in their groups, it is also very important for the people forming those groups to be open and flexible as well. They have to be conscious that the people in their group are different from them and that not everyone sees the world the way that they do. This is true even when people are from the same culture. A good PM will get to know every person individually in order to better understand how to effectively communicate with the entire group.



9 thoughts on “Hello, hola, hallo, bonjour….

  1. Thank you very much for posting this. I wholeheartedly believe that being aware of cultural differences is very important when managing projects. I have been part of the project management team on construction projects across America, and I was surprised to see even the cultural differences at play across different regions of the United States. Many of my projects have been in the Gulf Coast and coming from a northern Midwest and I had learned quickly what differences there were between the two cultures. Altering my management style was necessary in order for me to come across in the fashion I desired and to understand the actions of the other employees of the company.

  2. Great post, Denise!

    Cultures are one of the few things in the business world where no matter how much it is study one small gesture can be misconstrued and destroy a relationship. I think it is important for PMs to consider how different personalities will interact, but sometimes it is about putting the most talented people on a certain project. As we all know the most talented people do not always get along. Even though individuals are from different backgrounds cultural differences must be put aside for the betterment of the company. Understanding different cultures and backgrounds is imperative, but I believe most PMs will put a successful project ahead of personal relationships.

  3. Denise, enjoyed this blog as I find this near and dear to my daily job. On large deals for clients, I get to work with individuals from across the globe. Not only is time zone a challenge, but cultural norms and personalities play a part in managing the proposal internally. Since this is all done over phone calls and e-mails, I do not get the luxury of eye contact or body language. Having a project manager across the globe as played out as the best solution to keep everyone on the same page. Additionally, if the client is based in the states rather than Europe or Asia, we need to trailer the proposal towards those culture norms and language style.

  4. Very interesting post Denise, thank you. Like many others in the class I am sure, I have dealt with the cultural differences when working on projects with my current company. I am consistently on calls before 6 am local time to accommodate our European business partners and early on in working with them there were numerous frustrations and miscommunication with our projects. It was not until I was over there meeting with them in person for an extended period of time that I was able to understand some of the differences and solutions to these frustrations. For instance, on almost every initial call-in meeting our U.S. based team would dial in on time and wait, sometimes up to 10 minutes before our European teams would join. At times I would need to send an email letting them know we were on and waiting before they would join, sometimes not even apologizing for being late to the call. When I was over there for meetings I joking said it was easier to start on time since I could see when they were in the conference room and ready to meet. That’s when one of the analysts mentioned they typically did not join meetings right away to allow us (the U.S. based team) to finish other projects and meetings we had, since they ‘understood how busy we were’ they did not want us to feel bad for being late to the next meeting, so they would join late just in case. The U.S. team was a little stunned, and slightly embarrassed since we were always thinking how selfish they were for keeping everyone waiting on those calls. I think the post makes great points about how the cultural, and time differences have to be something that have to be acknowledges, not as a negative but as a reality, to successfully manage and coordinate projects with global partners. Great post again, thank you.

  5. Denise, thank you for sharing this blog post.
    I can relate to your post on culture differences to consider within the corporate world. In fact, I recently went from a company where most of the employees were recent college graduates to a company where most of the employees were close to retirement. The difference in age played a major role in the differences in corporate culture between these two companies.
    When I was at the first company, the recent college graduates were new to the industry. They were unfamiliar with how the company had operated in the past and they were most-likely less resistant to the changes made throughout the company. This was due to their unawareness and unfamiliarity in how the company had previously operated.
    On the other hand, the company where I am currently working is full of employees that have been there twenty years or more. They know how the company has been operating for the past twenty years. In my experience, it has proved to be more of a push for them to accept the changes made within the organization. They are not always as willing to work outside of their comfortable zone in order to make necessary changes to improve the overall efficiency of the organization.
    As long as this remains common knowledge, companies can work around the cultural differences. Companies must be sensitive to things like the differences in age and experience on top of other cultural differences. If this is kept in mind, a company is guaranteed to be more successful.

  6. Great post! I like the way that you acknowledge that there are different age cultures in a project that may lead to confusion as obviously as differrent language and nation culture can. I wonder if people also recognize how different cultures within America also lead to this confusion? Sometimes are preconcieved notions about reactions and body language affects team building and task completion within project groups.

  7. Thanks for sharing the article, Denise. I agree with everything you wrote in this post. I think being sensitive to others’ background and personalities is not only essential to project management but to everyone in the workforce. Body language is a form of interaction between two people. If one understands where his colleague is coming from, there is a sense of teamwork. Many industries and departments benefit from that comradery. It makes things run smoother when people are willing to cooperate and share ideas, especially in project management where projects have strict deadlines.

  8. Great post! Cultural differences are very important topic for project managers that deal with variety of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures. I have learned through the years while dealing with people from different cultural that they are very sensitive to their cultural and believes and project managers should understand where others within his organization coming from to eliminate misunderstanding and frustrations. One of my previous jobs, the CEO of the company had to hire a Chinese designer to assist the chief designer to solve any language barrier and cultural differences dealing with Chinese factories to create our products. This was a great success to the company and it added millions of dollars worth of increasing productivities and profits.

  9. Denise, I couldn’t agree more that having a good understanding of the people who make up the project can make the project run more smoothly. I was born and raised in Poland and I still have a little accent. There were many situations where I felt like I was treated differently because of my background. I felt that I was assigned different roles on a project because I was viewed “not as smart” because English is not my first language. Bottom line is that everyone should be treated with the same amount of respect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *