Cultural Differences in Decision Making in Project Teams

Topics: Decision making, Decision theory, Decision making software Pages: 50 (10355 words) Published: January 17, 2013
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Cultural differences in decision
making in project teams
Ralf Muller
Umea School of Business, Malmo, Sweden, and


Konrad Spang and Sinan Ozcan
Received 18 June 2008
Accepted 4 September 2008

Faculty for Project Management, University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to report on research in cultural differences in decision-making styles in project teams composed of team members from different nationalities. Differences in decision making in mainly German teams vs mainly Swedish teams was assessed. Design/methodology/approach – A sequential mixed-method approach was used, starting with interviews to develop a grounded theory, followed by survey to test the theory. Factor and regression analyses allowed for identification of the cultural antecedents of the identified differences in decision making. Findings – Locus of control differences in decision making were identified, together with factors for differences in decisions, namely decision-making style, process, and involvement. Correlated cultural antecedents to these factors, in the form of personal attributes, were found. Research limitations/implications – Although the research design provides for some credibility of the results, the scope of the study is limited mainly to the engineering and construction industry in the two countries.

Practical implications – The study helps team members and project managers to understand the impact of their cultural differences on decision-making process and style. Through that the study helps to minimize the potential friction when working on multicultural projects. Recommendations for practitioners are provided.

Originality/value – The idiosyncrasies of decision making in multicultural projects are researched using the example of Sweden and Germany. A model is built which extends existing project management theory. The paper also provides insights into the lived experiences of practicing project managers in multicultural teams and gives hints on how to overcome cultural barriers. Keywords Multicultural management, Decision making, Modelling, Project management, Sweden, Germany

Paper type Research paper

International Journal of Managing
Projects in Business
Vol. 2 No. 1, 2009
pp. 70-93
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/17538370910930527

In this era of globalization, there is a need to understand how national culture influences work on multi-national projects, particularly as these influences relate to decision making. In an increasingly interdependent world, it is common for products to be designed in one culture, manufactured in another, and sold in yet another. This is why companies are increasingly using transnational project teams, that is, teams with members working in several countries; between or beyond national boundaries, made up of several nations or nationalities (Wiktionary, 2008). Improved transportation and communication systems are enabling companies to realize this type of projects across national borders, such as between countries like Germany and Sweden. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the PMI Research Conference in Warsaw, 2008.

Germany and Sweden – a business partnership
According to the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Germany is Sweden’s most important trade partner. In 2004, Sweden’s export business into Germany represented 10.2 percent of the total Swedish export. In comparison, Sweden imported 18.9 percent of its foreign goods from Germany. The Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s annual survey on Swedish stakes in Germany indicated that 658 German subsidiaries and affiliates of Swedish companies operate in Germany. Their turnover amounted to e38 billion. Swedish companies currently employ about 144,000 people in Germany. Those figures imply that a number of these...
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