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Topics: Agile, Change Management, Communications Management
The Cultural intelligent project Manager - Challenges ?
Today's teams are global and virtual.
How important is it for a project manager to be culturally intelligent ?
Would love to know your thoughts !
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Priya -

It is rare that a PM would have sufficient cultural savvy to be comfortable with the nuances of cultural differences in a large multi-national team. As such, how we approach such a situation is more important than the knowledge we possess of any given culture.


think a project manager who wants to succeed in international projects has to be culturally savvy. Not sure this is the same as intelligent.

There has to be a general attitude towards cultures and we all have it, as we already live in diverse cultures, in families, schools, work environments, communities and so on. But yes, we can become better in this attitude by developing the ability to change perspectives, accept uncertainty, become empathic, humility and more (what some call wisdom, see also

And then, if you know you will work with people from a certain nation or culture, learn about this in detail, identify surprises for you and be respectful about the heritage.
If you live in Europe or India, you find many cultures in a small geographic area to do this.

It is also important to inject your team with these ideas and knowledge. That's why I tend to do cultural workshops with any international team. To make them aware about differences, and at best start to synergize.

The more, the better!
However, it may not be possible like what Kiron mentioned.
I think the key to any situation is respect. You can't know all the nuances of every culture you may come across when working in the international market but if you have genuine respect for people, and you show that respect, its hard to go wrong.
Even if you don't know all about a certain culture, the key is the understanding of the different customs, and respecting them as diversities present around the world.
It can be very important. Two things immediately come to mind: effective communication and different holidays.

In one instance, I quickly realized through observation that on the customer team, one person was the boss and spoke. The others sat in the back and only spoke when asked questions. They expected the same from my team. The boss only wanted to hear from me, not my own supporting cast.

Other times we have had to plan around different religious holidays, summer vacations in Europe, or deer hunting season in N. Carolina. If we didn't know that and plan accordingly, we could face a situation where things get very busy when nobody is in office.

In my own view, project managers needs to embrace cultural differences and leverage on it to improve the team performance. From being aware that there would be differences tat must tolerated, the intelligence to deal with different situations will grow with time.

Definitely, there would be some seemingly uncomfortable situations once in a while but the willingness to embrace would you through.
Good day Priya,

The topic is quite fertile ground for information exchange regarding issues of cross-cultural differences, especially in this era of heightened globalization. We live in a global village and differences in culture may hinder the successful completion and execution of project tasks. Culture is unwritten unlike policies or procedures and being culturally intelligent is a must-have skill for the PM working with team members from diverse cultural backgrounds. Like the leadership and management guru, Peter Drucker indicated that "culture can have your strategy for breakfast....", it is imperative that the PM, being a transformative agent be culture-savvy in this era.

Kind regards,
Years ago in my first assignment in Kuwait I decided to take my family. My wife, knowing it would be very hot in August, made sure we were all wearing colorful Ralph Loren shorts and shirts. I learned quickly that my failure to learn the culture was a big mistake. We felt like fools when we realized that everyone was wearing white disdashas. I never forgot the importance of knowing the culture of those I would be working with. Later, I actually wrote a book, "The Other Kuwait" that was given to expats by the Kuwait Embassy in the US before they traveled to Kuwait. Now I study the culture of every country I visit. It is key to my success in project management.
I quickly learned to ask others to help me in understanding them. Always remember that communications is not as obvious as it seems. (A "yes" may not mean what you think!)
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