Rather than making positive or negative conclusions about a culture, project managers need to build awareness and understand that cultures exist relative to each other. The challenge is to determine the actions that will enable them to successfully manage projects and reconcile the relative differences.
Project managers should consider the five W's to successfully work collaboratively on a global project.
Who: Who is working on the project? Everyone. It is rare to find a stakeholder or team member working on a project that has little or no contact with people from a different culture of their own.
What: What skills do project managers need to develop that will make them credible in another culture's eyes?
A project manager may be fluent in one or more foreign languages, for example. While that will help him or her communicate with others, it will not give the project manager the understanding on how a culture understands deadlines or other aspects of business. Project managers must listen and observe while working in a global setting to learn these things.
Where: Where is there opportunity to learn? Project managers should interact with people of different cultures inside and outside of the business world to navigate through unfamiliar cultures. Next time an intercultural opportunity arises, seize the moment to observe, reflect and learn.
When: When is the best time to collaborate with a multicultural team? Select an activity where all or most of your team members participate, such as a project status meeting. Does every culture respect a set meeting time, for example? In some cultures, there are no written rules of time etiquette, and a single event can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.
Why: Why should you care about multicultural traditions? As a project manager, you will have to manage teams that are partially collocated and across time zones. You should be somewhat comfortable in foreign environments and cognizant of local customs to continue learning and effectively conduct projects.
As a global project manager, how do you apply the five W's?