Cross – Cultural Differences and Managerial Implications
Effective use of cross cultural teams can provide a source of experience and innovative thinking to enhance the competitive position of organizations. However, cultural differences can interfere with the successful completion of projects in today’s multicultural global business community. To achieve project goals and avoid cultural misunderstandings, project managers should be culturally sensitive and promote creativity and motivation through flexible leadership. This paper describes the most well known and accepted cross cultural management theories. These theories consider relations between people, motivational orientation, orientation toward risk, definition of self and others, attitudes to time, and attitudes to the environment. We discuss motivation and training of multicultural project teams and relevant implications for project management. We provide examples of success and failure in international, multicultural projects. The paper concludes that global project management can succeed through culturally-aware leadership, cross cultural communication, and mutual respect. Without them, it is destined to fail.
CROSS CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Managers in today’s multicultural global business community frequently encounter cultural differences, which can interfere with the successful completion of projects. This paper describes the most well-known and accepted theories of cultural differences and illustrates them with examples from international project management. Two leading studies of cross-cultural management have been conducted by Geert Hofstede  and Fons Trompenaars . Both approaches propose a set of cultural dimensions along which dominant value systems can be ordered. These value systems affect human thinking, feeling, and acting, and the behavior of organizations and institutions in predictable ways. The two sets of dimensions reflect basic problems that any society has to cope with but for which solutions differ. They are similar in some respects and different in others. The dimensions can be grouped into several categories:
1) Relations between people. Two main cultural differences have been identified. Hofstede distinguishes between individualism and collectivism. Trompenaars breaks down this distinction into two dimensions: universalism versus particularism and individualism versus communitarianism.
2) Motivational orientation. Societies choose ways to cope with the inherent uncertainty of living. In this category Hofstede identifies three dimensions: masculinity versus femininity, amount of uncertainty avoidance, and power distance.
3) Attitudes toward time. Hofstede distinguishes between a long-term versus a short-term orientation. Trompenaars identifies two dimensions: sequential versus synchronic and inner versus outer time.
Two additional categories called socio-cultural dimensions were proposed by Aycan et. al.: paternalism and fatalism . In a paternalistic relationship, the role of the superior is to provide guidance, protection, nurturing and care to the subordinate, and the role of the subordinate, in return, is to be loyal and deferential to the superior. Fatalism is the belief that it is not possible to fully control the outcomes of one’s actions and, therefore, trying too hard to achieve something and making long-term plans are not worthwhile exercises.
In what follows we provide a brief description of the most relevant dimensions and consider some cultural problems that might arise when managing an international project.
Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The basic problem involved is the degree of human inequality that underlies the functioning of each particular society. In Hofstede’s research, power distance is measured in a Power Distance Index (PDI). The values and...