Comprehending the effects of cultural disparities among the members of the project team is gaining prominence in the purview of project management. Given this era of heightened globalization, people are increasingly interacting with other people from different cultural backgrounds. Each organization has its unique culture, which is defined as
“A system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations” (Anbari et al., 2014, p. 2).
The organizational culture has overly influenced the organization’s staff and dictated the manner in which they perform tasks. In other words, the organizational culture provides the members of the organization with guidelines on how to behave and boundaries (Eberlein, 2008). This fact increased globalization manifestation in many international projects, which involve personnel from different organizations. Thus, cultures and project managers ought to consider the challenge presented to them, which is in terms of disparities in organizational cultures within the project team.
Many cultural factors affect the manner in which projects are managed. One of the factors is control, and organizational cultures can be internalist or externalist. Internalist culture's view nature in mechanistic terms, that is, the environment is likened to a complex machine which can be controlled if the right expertise is present. Conversely, externalist cultures view nature in organic terms that is, human beings are part of the forces of nature, and thus, ought to work in concordance with the environment. Externalist organizational cultures feel that they ought to be controlled by the project manager. On the contrary, internalist cultures involve the individuals looking to themselves for behavioral rules, rather than the project manager (Anbari et al., 2014). The project manager should be aware of such disparities when undertaking a project.
The other important organizational culture factor is member identity. It can be in the gender consideration of the member of the project team and the distribution of project duties among the genders. A masculinity organizational culture involves a clear distinction of the roles that should be undertaken by the project members based on their gender. Conversely, femininity organizational cultures champion the overlapping of roles among the genders, without a distinction of the duties (Anbari et al., 2014). This disparity is very important to the project manager his bid to eliminate stigmatization of the team members when executing the project.
Risk tolerance is another vital cultural issue that needs to be considered. It shows how a culture structures the thoughts of its members to feel either comfortable or uncomfortable is situations that involve uncertainty. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) measures risk tolerance (Anbari et al., 2014). Various cultures have differing UAI scores, and the project manager needs to embrace this fact when considering multicultural project management.
Group emphasis and unit integration emerge as other characteristics of organizational culture that affect the manner in which the project managers conducts their duties. They involve the extent to which the project members are required to be integrated into groups and look after each other. Organizational cultures can either come out as individualistic or collectivistic. Individualistic cultures are characterized by loose ties between the team members, whereas collectivistic cultures entail strong ties and cohesive in-groups made up of the group members (Anbari et al., 2014). Once the project manager realizes this disparity, a case of victimization is avoided.
Another factor to be of primal importance is power distance. It describes the degree to which the subordinates of an organization expect and accept power to be unequally distributed. The distribution of power is very elemental to the culture of an organization and differs from one organization to another. Power distance is measured through the use of Power Distance Index. Cultures with low PDI scores are referred to as open-system cultures while those with high PDI scores are referred to as closed-system cultures (Anbari et al., 2014). This feature can be very vital in managing a project involving members from different cultures.
Means-end emerges as a viable feature of organizational culture that can influence the management duties in the project. It shows how a culture programs its members to begin solving problems. Some cultures support that in the starting point of the problem, solving ought to be the envisioning of the eventual end of the project. Secondly, it involves determining the suitable strategies to solve and achieve the objective, and such cultures are referred to as converges. Conversely, diverges opt to view situations from varying perspectives and champion working on ill-defined and vague problems, in cases where there are alternative approaches (Anbari et al., 2014). It is overly salient to be aware of such differences when managing a project.
An organizational culture can also be long-term or short-term oriented. This feature involves the way in which an organization’s culture programs the members to admit the delayed satisfaction of their needs; economic, social and emotional. The Long-term Orientation Index (LTO) is used to measure this property in different cultures. Cultures with high LTO scores are not people focused, whereas those with low LTO scores are people focused (Anbari et al., 2014). This factor is imperative, and it is necessary for the project manager to consider it.
Additionally, reward criteria in different cultures are not homogenous. Status is accorded to individuals differently in various cultures. In an achievement culture, the judgment of people is grounded on their accomplishments and achievements. Conversely, in an ascription culture, the judgment of individuals is based on factors such as interpersonal connections, age, gender, kinship, birth and educational records (Anbari et al., 2014). The grounds of judging people are used to reward them, which is a significant factor to be considered.
Finally, conflict tolerance differs from one culture to another. The members of a paternalistic culture believe that conflicts are only solved by leaders since they have the role of protecting, providing guidance and nurturing the subordinates. On the contrary, a fatalistic culture programs its members to appreciate the fact that it is impractical to control all outcomes and therefore each member ought to solve conflicts when they happen (Eberlein, 2008).
The project manager should apply contingency plan to overcome these cultural adversities. The project manager should embrace the value of cultural diversity and view it as an opportunity to be competitively advantageous. Cultural disparities are deemed to be points of difficulty, but the project manager needs to think beyond this baseless notion. The project manager should build cultural awareness and understanding among the project team members. Moreover, the project managers can embed the development of teams (Messer, 2014). Planning in advance is will enhance the management of the project, and hence, its success.
Anbari, F.T., Khilkhanova, E.V., and Romanova, M.V. (2014). Managing Cross Cultural
Differences in Projects. Washington, DC: The George Washington university Press.
Eberlein, M. (2008). Culture as a Critical Success Factor for Successful Global Project
Management in Multi-national it Service Projects. Journal of Information Technology Management, 14(3), pp. 27-42.
Messer, H. (2014). How to overcome cultural differences when managing offshore or nearshore
teams. Amsterdam: 7write Publishing.