The Cultural Reality for Project Managers

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

For many of us, managing projects inevitably means managing diversity—cultural and otherwise. Teams are frequently global, matching skills from different countries and continents to form the optimal mix to deliver success. Even if all team members are located in a single office, major employment centers in every part of the world are melting pots for different cultures, heritages, languages and backgrounds. This not only improves the ability for organizations to deliver results, it provides individuals opportunities to learn more about the world we live in through those different backgrounds.

But let’s not kid ourselves, that’s not an opportunity universally embraced by everyone, and not everyone views everyone else as an equal deserving of the same kind of respect they themselves expect.

As project managers, we must manage these relationships, recognizing that such challenges exist and dealing with them appropriately. However, we must also not allow a fear of political incorrectness to prevent dynamic collaboration between team members. If relationships are kept “sterile” by an unnecessary focus on “appropriate” behavior, then teamwork and productivity will suffer. It’s a fine balance the project manager must maintain, and I want to look at some of the considerations in this article.

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