Project Management

3 Ways Program Leaders Can Cultivate Their Cultural Expertise

Robert Carlson is currently a Portfolio Manager at the Mission Systems Sector of the Northrop Grumman Corporation in the United States. Before working at Northrop, he served over 30 years in the U.S. Army. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Keller Graduate School of Business and a Master of Strategic Studies degree from the U.S. Army War College. He is currently a Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL) student at Regent University.

Nearly 20 years ago, Thomas Friedman argued that the world is flat, providing a metaphor for globalization and suggesting that people are more connected than ever in a playing field leveled by technology[1]. Advancements in communication and transportation enabled the world economies to overcome the traditional limitations of global operations. What is often overlooked about Friedman’s work is the cultural impacts of globalization.

In 2022, the world became even flatter, and organizations became more culturally diverse thanks to the global pandemic. The two years of lockdowns and empty offices forced individuals and organizations to adapt to a virtual environment. We learned that it didn’t matter where you were located, you could still do your job. Employees rented homes on the beach hundreds of miles from their offices because all they needed was an internet connection and a computer to effectively perform their job.

The role of the program leader became filled with opportunities and challenges. The opportunities included a talent pool not limited by geography and 24/7 accessibility to the workforce. The challenges amplified what was already tricky for leaders—knowing the team well enough to provide adequate and appropriate leadership. This “knowing” includes understanding who they are and their cultural DNA. This cultural DNA includes the …


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