Studies on completed projects indicate that most of the projects fail to meet their intentional outlay and duration. The failures of the projects are attributed to the cultural diversity of the organization within which the organization originates. Most of the project managers as well as the management scholars agree that cultural diversity has an impact on the projects performance.
The major goal of this report is to identify the extent to which cultural diversity affects the projects execution. The paper will be focusing on the attitudes and some of the factors connected to the project top and line managers’ attitudes in connection to the internal set of laws as well as with respect to the project managers’ prescribed influence.
In essence, the paper will seek to answer the question of whether cultural diversity has an impact on the project management and how cultural diversity can become a barrier to the attainment of the project goals.
The paper will focus on the advantages of multi-cultural teams within the project and how such multiculturalism can be applied to provide solutions to the challenges of working within the dynamic environment where uncertainties are ever increasing. Secondly, the paper will examine how cultural diversity becomes a barrier to the attainment of the project goals.
The advantages of multicultural teams on the project management
Managers of international projects are capable of applying innovations to move away from the normal forms of projects management and obtain competitive advantage as well as improve the chances for accomplishing the projects goals. The current concept in managing cross-cultural teams is the crossvergence.
Crossvergence is a concept that combines management practices of several cultures in such a way that performances applicable to the varied culture can be attained.
Lee, Roehl and Choe (2000) assert that global teams are capable of providing a wide array of essentials required for successful combination of dissimilar project management practices. People originating from various companies and country cultures have enhanced diverse experiences and management skills that can be applied by the project managers for the attainment of the project goals.
Another concept that can be applied in the cross-cultural management within a project is the hybridization. Hybridization is the application of the common cultural knowledge augmented with successful practices from the countries where the project is supposed to be carried out or may be drawn from the original culture of a team member.
Project managers should also expect diverse behaviors even when working with team members from the same country (Poon et al., 2005). The fact is that cultural norms and values are determined by many factors and not only by the team members’ nationality.
The experiences, gender age, education levels and job functions shape the individual beliefs and practices that can be displayed during the project implementation process. All these beliefs and practices can be combined together to form a coalesced part that enhances the project performance.
All these factors should be taken into consideration when undertaking a global project for the first time. In circumstances where a team member have a cultural origin that is unique, Hofstede cultural dimension can be applied to understand the general mind set as well as cultural patterns that are likely to be practiced in their home country.
In addition, more information about the country where the project is implemented need to be gathered to understand the common practices as well as the main sources of economic and cultural affluence that can be applied to enhance the project performance (Lee et al., 2000). The most important step for the project managers is to be much more concerned with the team members’ behaviors.
In addition, the project managers should understand and respect the values of team members particularly those that are practiced during their informal conversations. While understanding and respecting the team members cultural values are critical, the project managers should also allow their opinion be known by the team members.
Jolly (2008) argue that team members should also be able to understand the project communication standards as well as the important project norms that must be adhered to attain the project goals. These common understandings are critical in merging cultural diversity during the project implementation. The consequence is the enhanced project performance.
While developing cross-cultural management skills may be difficult, project managers are expected to have effective skills cross-cultural project management. These skills can be attained through understanding the presence of cultural diversity across countries and how individual values are shaped by traits such as age and gender (Poon et al., 2005).
The project managers should also apply some of the practices that indicate respect of cultural diversity particularly during the decision-making process. Finally, the project managers should take advantage of multiculturalism within the team. The project manager should built on the cultural diversity among the team members to identify and mitigate risks as well as look for the best option to attain the goals of the project.
The impact of cross culture in the project management
Communication within a project is critical for the attainment of the cross-cultural managerial skills. According to Jolly (2008), individuals within the project are encouraged to meet face to face to enhance cross cultural relationship and communication as well as common understanding among the team members.
While cultural diversity among the team members can be great, the timing and procedures of project communication would play a critical role in bringing together the diverse team members to work towards a particular goal. Cultural differences always have a greater impact on the favored approaches applied in project management communication.
However, communication is not the only aspect of project management that is being impacted by culture. Studies by Lee, Roehl and Choe (2000) indicate that there are major elements of culture that directly affect the project management strategy as well as the processes in the project team development.
These elements includes material culture, which are the physical objects that results from technological advancement, language that is critical in enhancing common understanding among the project team members, aesthetics that promotes both open and casual communication , and education that enhances problem solving techniques.
The other aspects of culture that influence project communication process, team development and management strategy includes values, mind-set and religion. According to Rausch, Halfhill, Sherman and Washbush (2001), beliefs, attitudes affect the broad-spectrum of work moral principles.
The social organization is also another aspect of culture, which is critical in networking within an organization. The political life is the final element of culture, which includes the set of rules and regulations that govern the management process and all the operations of the project.
Project management have moved away from face to face environment where all major stakeholders were assembled jointly in one room (Shore & Cross, 2005). Due to complications and dimension, modern projects consist of virtual teams. Therefore, in current projects culture influences the virtual teams. Poon, Evangelista and Albaum (2005) identified four critical points about cultural effects on virtual teams.
The first is how all cultures including national, organizational, and functional as well as team culture are foundations of competitive advantage to the projects virtual teams. In other words, project managers must use cultural diversity among team members to create synergy. Jolly (2008) argue that in a team where cultural diversity is understood, outcomes that are more robust can be produced.
Differences in culture are capable of producing distinctive advantage through proper understanding and positive utilization. Managers are expected to create a team culture in which issues that arises are openly discussed in a more respectful and productive manner.
Most importantly, project managers should understand issues that may arise because of cultural differences as well as those that are based on performance (Shore & Cross, 2005).
Hofstede dimensions of national culture its effects on project management
The study conducted by Hofstede (1997) on the impact of national culture on projects’ performance and leadership style is considered supreme and extensive cross-cultural scrutiny of cultural values in the context of management. Hofstede (1997) established numerous scales naming them national culture dimensions.
These included (LTO) the long-term orientation, (MAS) masculinity, (IDV) independence, (AIA) ambiguity averting, and (AD) authority distance. A blend of these proportions proffers all single nationwide culture their inimitability in facet and rareness to impact on project leadership styles and managerial output.
Thus, nearly all investigative studies on culture denote the extent at which the control of nationwide culture impact on project leadership techniques, activities, conceptions in addition to managerial productivity.
The first dimension measures the degree in which low influential individuals within the project acknowledges and recognizes that power is distributed according to the way the project is structured. Hofstede arranged countries according to the power distances.
Countries that experience low power distances, authority within the projects are distributed among the superiors and the subordinates (Richardson & Smith, 2007). Little consultations take place among the seniors and their juniors and as a result, there is little emotional distance between them. In such scenarios, subordinates easily approach and consult their seniors.
On the other hand, power within the project is centralized in countries that experience high power distances (Richardson & Smith, 2007). In such countries, there is considerable dependency among the managers and the junior employees within the project.
Subordinates have the obligation of rejecting or accepting the dependency from the superiors. In these countries, the patterns of polarization are exhibited between the counter-dependence and dependence among the employees in a project (Richardson & Smith, 2007).
In the second dimension where individualism vs. collectivism is considered, individualism exists in societies where there are little relations between the individuals (Ybema & Byun, 2009). The binds between individuals are loose fitting and each individual is expected to care for the immediate family.
Conversely, collectivism exists in societies where the individuals are bound together in well-built and unified communal groups. In most cases, the communal groupings are interrelated and protective of each other (Ybema & Byun, 2009).
The two dimensions power distance and individualism vs. collectivism are indirectly related. Collectivism is likely to be found in countries where there are power distances while individualism is likely to be found in less power distant countries.
Personal practices are common in places where power influence is spread. On the other hand, people tend to be collectivist in the circumstances where power is centralized (Richardson & Smith, 2007).
In the third dimension, masculinity and femininity looks at the degree in which the societies perceive the roles and responsibility of women and men. In societies where people value the roles of men, there are high levels of competition, people tend to be assertive and in most cases ambitious.
The masculine society values material possessions that culminate into huge accumulations of wealth (Ybema & Byun, 2009). On the contrary, feminist societies value quality of life and cultural relations. In these societies, there is communal caring, sympathy for the less fortunate and quality of life is highly valued.
The dimension influences the behavior of project managers particularly where the attainment of the projects’ goals is highly valued. Project managers in masculine countries tend to be more assertive decision makers. The managers also tend to pay much attention to performance and value competition (Labianca et al., 2000).
On the other hand, project managers from feminine countries are discerning instead of being influential for consent. The feminist project managers tend to build consensus and work with the group suggestions (Tang & Koveos, 2008). Once these characteristics are known, it becomes easier for the project managers to deal with cultural diversity among the team members.
The last dimension is the long-term vs. short-term orientations. The dimension of culture can be said to be important in relation to the time horizons. In other words, culture can be important in the future in comparison to the present and the past (Jolly, 2008).
In this context, societies are categorized as long-term oriented and short-term oriented. In long-term oriented societies, diligence and determination, frugality, arrangement of the society in relation to the status, and shame are the dominant characteristic values (Richardson & Smith, 2007).
On the other hand, short-term oriented societies value normative proclamations, individual dependability and firmness, high opinion for their customs, has face value, favoritism and reciprocations (Labianca et al., 2000).
Employees from short-term oriented countries value norms and favors. There is reciprocation of even greetings. Project managers from short-term oriented counties are firm in their decision-making and have high opinion for good public relations (Welch & Welch, 2008).
On the other hand, project managers from long-term oriented countries values perseverance and hard work as well as efficiency. Such project managers have high rewards for hardworking employees as well as those with long-term experience in the project (Labianca et al., 2000).
Understanding cross-cultural diversity according to Hofstede cultural dimensions is critical for the success of the organizational projects.
In addition, the knowledge of cross-cultural diversity according to Hofstede has significant influence on how managers handle their diverse employees particularly in projects that are to be implemented in a global scale. In essence, Hofstede provides a wide array of factors that should be considered while managing cultural diversity within an organization.
How cultural diversity can become a barrier in the project management
Welch and Welch (2008) argue that diverse cultures influence the interaction between people of dissimilar identity within organization projects undertakings. How culture affect the project internal communication are categorized into the management style and the behavior of the project team members.
The implication of the management style is how the superior part of the project communicates with the junior staff or how communications trickle from the top to bottom. On the other hand, the behavior of the staff implies how the communication is influenced at the junior level. Communication barrier exists within these levels because of the cultural differences among the project team members.
Barrier to communication also exists between these levels because of the gap between the positions. In addition, barriers also come about at the stage of conduction of messages and information (Welch & Welch, 2008). In cultural diverse projects, these barriers are eminent. Projects utilize their information systems to unite their employees and enable them work towards the realization of the organization project goals.
The understanding of cross cultural diversity and its management tends to create an encouraging environment that boosts the employees’ work performances and projects’ success. In the circumstances that cross cultural diversity within the project are encouraging and supportive, clients and employees become satisfied as acknowledged by most of the project managers.
Thus, proper management of culture has influences on workforce performances and projects’ success. Project cultures facilitate individual employees’ innovativeness. Good management of cultural diversity creates an encouraging environment for the workforces to boost their work performances and the project success.
On the other hand, culture can become a barrier to the organizations projects success. For instance, bureaucratic cultures negatively affect workforce productivity as well as the success of the project. However, in competitive culture, people within the project adhere to the company mission; change programs, and facilitated the staffs’ operational growth.
Projects that assume community cultures tend to increase the level of staffs’ performances and managerial competencies. Finally, an encouraging organizational culture enables the project implementers to remain committed towards accomplishing the project goals and objectives.
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