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How can Cultural Diversity impact the performance of Project and Project manager ?

How can Cultural Diversity impact the performance of Project and Project manager ?
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Shadav great topic! I am sure that it will attract a lot of contributions!
I my opinion we have 3 separate issues;
1 - Cultural Diversity in the Team / Company should be address and treated! It is absolutely fundamental to have a clear and shared project team / company culture (it is in my option a key success factor) so cultural diversity is not an option!
2 - Team Members Cultural Diversity! I believe that diversity is a plus in any team but it is then up to the PM to ensure that all the different cultures and experiences are aligned with the project objectives and culture!
3 - Stakeholders Cultural Diversity! Quite common challenge that will require the best of your Stakeholders and Risk Management skills and capacities! In this one I would quote S.Covey 5th Habit "understand first and then try to be understood!"

It really matters. one of the most important factors is communication. Cultural diversity may or may not affect the quality of your communication. No need to talk about the importance of communication.

Shadav -

A PM should welcome and encourage that there is cultural (among other kinds of diversity) within their team as diverse teams can be more creative and perform better IF the PM and the team are successful at leveraging diversity as a strength and not trying to enforce conformity.


The impact on the project manager is that you will need to pay attention to cultural differences and you might have to coach some team members on how to interact appropriately, while avoiding stereotypes. For example, having worked with teams from several other countries, there are a couple of countries where I expect team members to make verbal commitments to work that, it would seem, they have no intention of keeping, but not everyone from these countries performs this way. Or they say they understand the requirements, but what they deliver indicates otherwise. There are other cultures where it seems that most individuals are more direct/abrupt in their communication styles. This can create challenges when they deal with someone from a culture that is traditionally more soft-spoken. Another example would be cultures where saving face is critical; individuals from these cultures may over commit or not speak up when they make a mistake, and you may not find out until you think you are ready to test.

On a project where we were implementing CRM, overseas, for the last two months before go live, most of my communications included the admonition that we would see some errors during go-live, and while it was important to test thoroughly before go-live, something always goes wrong. More important than experiencing issues was how we responded to the issues and recovering quickly. It took a while, and a couple of projects, but we were eventually able to reduce the stress the foreign team experienced in response to the idea that the implementation might have issues.

On a personal level, I've enjoyed working with people from and learning about other cultures. The experience has helped me grow as a person and project manager. But, if all you're focused on is project performance, I wouldn't call out cultural diversity as something that will always add value. Diversity of experience and thought, among qualified people, are greater factors for success. Cultural diversity can lead to diversity of experience and thought, but does not guarantee someone is qualified to do the work.

Thanks to all of you for sharing details on this . I got good points ,hopefully which will be very helpful to manage the diversity in team.

As Aaron noted I enjoy working with people from and learning about other cultures.

However isn't different having a divers team than having an inclusive team. During the last years, I realized that is easy to promote diversity in your team, and have team members from different backgrounds, cultures...however are you a inclusive leader?

Your job as a project manager is to get the best out of your team members. You have to look for potential in individuals then expose them to opportunities to grow and become stronger and better.

Your project should not just deliver products, services or results. You should also be delivering improved team members.

Don't worry about cultural diversity. Worry about each individual.

Shadav, Interesting topic. Cultural and gender diversity in the teams, across the teams, across various internal and external stakeholders are gaining good traction and it must be welcomed. This is again a required skill for a project manager to maintain a balance between people from different cultures and gender in order to succeed.

For me cultural diversity has two impacts. One relates to communication and levels of understanding, which will differ between cultures. This could be because of language differences and ways of interacting with team members and authority figures, which the project manager may be seen as.

The other impact is that it brings different skills and skill levels together which can have a positive affect on the project and it's outcome.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with culturally diverse teams in both Europe and the US, even to the extent of having 15 countries represented in business workshops on varying subjects. I’ve seen the positive influence of culture, and unfortunately the negative influences as well. Project Management impact is inevitable when you have international projects, especially if the purpose is obtaining harmonization on processes or systems. However, it’s even true in development team dynamics when you have purposed participation from different regions on a shared objective.

My experience has taught me that more time needs to be spent on “level setting” all parties on the cultural concerns before engaging in specific project details. The assumption that bias or negative opinions have been “set aside” because you are dealing with tenured professionals may be an assumption that will cost the project precious time. Example areas of concern for me have been:

- Risk tolerance differences
- Tolerance for challenge-based discussions
- Historical animosity / Trust

However, all these areas improved when I took the approach to bring these concerns into the open in the beginning. When I started this practice, the level-setting greatly improved collaboration and allowed me to more properly focus on managing, versus “trying” to put out political fires 24x7.

My experience in simply having diverse cultural resources on a non-international project have been great. Issues have really only related to the international variety of projects.

Great topic!

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