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There are two cultural risks: one negative and one positive. The negative cultural risk boils down to miscommunication. The positive cultural risk is the diversity of perspective and thinking you can bring to bear on a problem or issue.
I would add that the miscommunication risk is true but could be greatly mitigate by simple clear communication. It can become a plus. Often we take for granted that people will understand with too limited information. Multicultural context impose communication that are more clear, in order to avoid misinterpretation, that is good for all team member.
I will add that many things are related to culture, the obvious one is religion but that should not be a problem since that is known. Language is one, the lunch break could be a surprise
For the Unknown-Unknown there should be one general for the project to include all unknown.
Not understanding the other culture and how conflicts are perceived, decisions are made, collaboration is done, communication is conducted, etc. all introduces significant risk to the project.
This came across my inbox today. I thought the participants on this post would appreciate it.
MIT psychology professor Edgar Schein claims "culture determines and limits strategy" in his 1985 book "Organizational Culture and Leadership". Having had the privilege to work the last 16 years on humanitarian and development projects in a number of countries across Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and face the challenges that arise from cultural differences...I couldn't agree more!
Good topic for discussion, Rami and thanks Stephane for the interesting link.
An example that comes to mind is defining a proper communication process upfront. A positive 'yes' stated at team meetings over the phone need not necessarily mean the work will be carried out as specified, it might be more 'yes, I understand or follow what the speaker is stating, but might not agree with the proposal'. It is important to follow up with a written communication to obtain approval. This simple aspect is sometimes realized at a later phase of the project and may lead to significant delays/risks.
My previous organization would provide several weeks of cultural training for anyone who would be taking an overseas rotation in order to help with the initial transition and decrease percentage of expatriates from returning early. Specifically, the program was designed to help an employee better understand the culture and values of the host country improving their chances of assimilating during their stay.
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