Monday, February 27, 2006

Culture shock


Managing Projects with Cross Cultures is one the challenging areas in Project Management. But I have always found it interesting and challenging.

Today I came up with these articles in Jerry’s Blog which made me write this

I think the success of a Project manager who manages projects with the stakeholders of other cultures will play a major role on how much they respect other cultures. Remember.. No matter how educated or qualified or professional we are , the nationality and the religion is a very sensitive topic when dealing with people from other cultures. My experience is based on working as a project Manager as well as a General Manager – Project Management Office for a company which deals with outsourced projects around the globe, from small 1 month 1 person projects to projects which goes over years with more than 20 IT professionals.

No matter which part of the globe we are located. As PMs we face same kind of issues every day, Time overruns, cost overruns, team delivery issues., technical issues.. of course we can talk about endless list of issues., Our interest are the same., May be our qualifications are the same.. Then what is different ….??? The difference comes with our cultures, the way we do things, though the problem is the same.. our approaches will be different., the way we deal with the problem will be different.. And this is what it makes interesting.

When you get a customer /Project Owner /or a team from another country, as the Project Manager, you are the key person to understand each other’s culture and the way they do things very carefully. Once I had a customer from Europe, Who used the “F” word when ever his project was in trouble and he was in presure .. Coming from an Asian country, in the beginning this was very hard for me to deal with. I felt its really harsh.. But I tried to ignore those extra words and read the other part (Which was quite sufficient to understand what he said). Then I found that other than those words , what ever he said, everything looked fine and true and reasonable. so I got used to it .. But in the same time I mentioned to him that in my country,. we do not use this language in Business.. He sincerely accepted it.. so it created an environment for us to work with a better understanding and better respect to each other..

Recently I was managing a project for one of the biggest multinational companies in Pakistan. When I went there.. I found that things will not be the same (Specially me being a woman, I was advised from various people that it will be very hard for me to deal with Pakistanis).. But after few days.. Everything turned totally opposite.. Not only they were corporative with me, I was touched by their hospitality. Some of their client companies who didn’t even have 1 woman working for them were totally corporative and supportive to me and my team. Rule No 01.I respected their culture., I totally changed the way I normally dress to office. I even learnt to speak few words of their language.. With few extra things.. All my hard work was paid off. Both our teams worked together as 1 team for 1 goal. It became one of the most successful projects in my life.

Coming from this part of the world., the way we deal with our teams may be different from the way a PM from a western country will deal with. Some times we need a very indirect approach to sort out certain things. Specially handling with female team members... ( ok I will not talk much on that As Im a female too : -)

At last..this is something which I have observed.... I think PMs from India and SL have low rate of project failures compared to the PMs in western countries.. Anybody wonder why??? When I talked to some of the Project managers living in other part of the world… I found that they are very methodical (Pardon me Im not saying we are not methodical). They work with defined tasks, Budgets.. resources….. If any of these parameters are not in balance.. They close the project as a project failure.. But we…. Coming form a Outsourced Project environment.. …………. Even if the developer is absent,, Project Manager by himself will write the code and deliver.. Because one simple reason that we cannot afford a project failure… Im not saying this is a good practice though.. This is something which I will discuss in another post in the future….

I just started a separate section in my blog to share the blogs of other project managers around the world. Hope this will be interesting…

A smart project manager will always get the maximum benefit of the culture difference when dealing with the Stakeholders from other cultures.



Very useful resource:

http://www.pmi-netherlands-chapter.org/pdfdocs/Culture24novNL.pdf

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