Don’t jump to judgment when working with
multinational teams—instead, consider the context.
By Sheilina Somani, RPP, FAPM, PMP, contributing editor
ing cultural diversity. It starts with acknowledging
any personal bias we each have and then choosing to
go into the situation with an open mind.
Typically, in preparation for any meeting or
engagement with a different stakeholder group,
regardless of location, I’ll phone or video chat
ahead of time to discuss dress code,
meeting etiquette and other business
drivers that may impact time availability.
Setting a detailed agenda with outcomes
beforehand can help all stakeholders gain
insight to the expectations of participation in a supportive and consultative way.
To start your meeting more smoothly,
observe the basic greeting etiquette of the
country or culture you’re visiting. At the
outset, it’s worth reiterating its purpose
and clarifying desired outcomes and any
concerns. It’s also good to express appreciation for the team’s support and assistance
in preparation. Early engagement can build
understanding and contribution. During
meetings, be conscious of your normal
physical reactions (even natural facial
expressions) to what is said and done.
Our behaviors and perceptions are shaped by
our varied backgrounds and experiences. When
working with teams in less familiar cultures, project managers with consummate flexibility and
awareness have an advantage. PM
A s project managers working in a diverse and dynamic world, we have to remain aware of opportu- nities to evolve our approaches and behaviors. Flexibility is especially
important when working on projects that involve
multiple countries. In such projects, cultural differences can impact communication, stakeholder
relations and overall project success. These differences can make it easy for project managers or
stakeholders to perceive offence or insult when no
malicious intent exists.
For example, a project manager could be in a
meeting in another country where local team members are talking among themselves or checking their
phones; or people arrive or depart casually. It’s very
easy for a visiting project manager to negatively judge
these behaviors based on his or her own values and
preferences. In my experience, often there are good
reasons for these. The local team could be accessing
their phones and discussing with teammates in order
to better understand or translate what’s being said in
the meeting; the casual arrival and departure may be
completely normal for the environment.
It’s important for project managers to not make
hasty judgments that lead to abrupt or disconsolate expressions. Each moment of apparent
cultural dissonance should prompt the project
manager to consider his or her own perspective,
the context, stakeholders and outcome orientation.
PLAN TO UNDERSTAND
In my experience, project managers can take multiple
steps to prevent adverse reactions when encounter-
or her own
Sheilina Somani, RPP, FAPM, PMP, is the owner
of the U.K.-based consultancy Positively Project
Management, a senior project and product manager,
a speaker and a mentor.