V IE WPOIN TS
In today’s global environment, it’s up to project managers to build
teams that thrive on cultural diversity.
BY SHEILINA SOMANI, FAPM, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
n the March Feedback section of
IPM Network, Howard W. Stolz,
PMP, wrote about the importance
of courtesy and communication
when dealing with multiple cultures:
“As the world gets smaller each day, the
subject of cultural sensitivity and appreciation becomes ever more crucial.”
I agree with him wholeheartedly.
As professionals who lead and manage others, project managers have an
opportunity to establish cohesive and
productive global teams through strong
leadership and cultural awareness.
But project managers must first
understand that a group of individuals
does not automatically create a team.
You have to establish a range of approaches that reflect the
communication styles and behaviors of each person on
your team. Although this is always a good practice, it
becomes even more critical for cross-cultural teams
because the project manager’s own norms of behavior and
contributions are challenged. For example, you may expect
everyone to voice both positive and negative opinions, yet
in some cultures this would be considered bad manners in
a team forum.
Project managers must also appreciate that a team
member may employ a different approach that may be just
as suitable—and sometimes, the variation may even be
better. By maintaining some flexibility, project managers
can encourage team members to engage more readily and
Although it can take some work, project managers must
facilitate communication that enables all team members to
contribute by taking steps such as rotating ownership of
meetings and polling for individual opinions. And we
mustn’t forget to respect time-zone differences.
Make the Effort
The pressure to perform across time zones
and with multiple constraints—along
with broad (and sometimes erroneous)
assumptions we make in interacting with
one another—can contribute to increased
anxiety, mistrust and low morale.
In working with cross-cultural teams,
project managers must make the extra
effort to ask more specific questions as
well as pay close attention to the vocabulary, tone, nuance, pace and pitch
A good project manager should provide leadership by offering support and
encouragement. By adopting an inclusive
style of management, we can foster the
values that many of us hold dear: respect, courtesy and
Offering regular feedback, encouraging questions, providing encouragement, and acknowledging both effort
and achievement can all help sustain globally disparate
And although we must acknowledge cultural differences,
we should also seek out similarities. The current uncertain
financial climate provides a common thread across the
globe. Although the crisis is undoubtedly challenging, it
also provides a foundation for team unity. The tough
economic environment may be driven and sustained by
other parties, but project managers can serve as pivotal
leaders of change and evolution in processes, practices
and behaviors. PM
Sheilina Somani, FAPM, PMP, is the
appreciate that a
may employ a
that may be
just as suitable—
the variation may
even be better.
owner of U.K.-based Positively Project
Management, providing consulting, men-
toring and development services.