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Report
International cultures and project
work
Difficulties and possibilities
The Stages of Internationalization
Stage 2: Export Operations The firm
expands its market to include other
countries, but retains production
facilities within domestic borders.
Stage 1: Domestic
Operations The
firm’s market is
exclusively
domestic.
Stage 3: Subsidiaries or Joint Ventures
The firm physically moves some of its
operations out of the home country.
Stage 4: Multinational
Operations The firm becomes a
full-fledged multinational corp.
(MNC) with assembly and
production facilities in several
countries and regions of the
world. Some decentralization of
decision making is common, but
many personnel decisions are
still made at corp. headquarters.
Stage 5: Transnational
Operations Firms that reach this
stage are often called transnational because they owe little
allegiance to their country of
origin. Operations are highly
decentralized, with each business unit free to make personnel
decisions with very loose control
from corp. headquarters.
What is a Project?
Attributes
– Temporary
– Unique product, service, or result
– Progressive Elaboration
Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK, 2000)
…a project is about implementing change!
Why is change so difficult?
• Comfort Zones
• Complacency
• Fear
i.e. culturally dependent
aspects!
What is Culture?
• Definition – “A pattern of shared basic
assumptions that the group learned as it
solved its problems of external adaptation
and internal integration, that has worked
well enough to be considered valid and,
therefore to be taught to new members as
the correct way to perceive, think, and feel
in relation to those problems” (Rogers,
1995)
Levels of Culture
• Cultural differences can exist in any setting
involving varying groups:
– Inter-organization
– Intra-organization
• Organizations include any grouping of people
(corporations, societies, etc.)
7 Dimensions of Difference
• Universalism vs. Particularism – (Rules vs. Relationships)
• Individualism vs. Communitarianism (Self interest vs. Group interest)
• Neutral vs. Effective (Reason vs. Emotion)
• Specific vs. Diffuse (Compartmentalization versus Depth in relationships)
• Achievement vs. Ascription (Doing vs. Being)
• Synchronous vs. Sequential (Time is circular vs. Time is a race)
• Inner Directed vs. Outer Directed (Control Nature vs. Align with Nature)
Trompenaars, F., & Hampden-Turner, C. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding
Diversity in Global Business. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Recognizing Differences
• May be:
– Explicit (easily observed)
– Implicit (hidden, requiring more effort)
• Both are potential barriers
• The key is to quickly and efficiently identify
both types
How can we identify
Cultural Differences?
• Interviews
• Questionnaires
• Direct Observation
These require time and should, therefore, be
implemented early in the project life cycle
Communication leads to
Conflict Resolution
• Engage all parties
• Look for hidden dilemmas
• Communication is the first step toward
reconciliation
You cannot “over-communicate”!
• Be consistent and accurate
• Rumors and/or lack of information can erode
support
• Don’t miss opportunities to praise positive results
and/or milestones achieved
• Bad news
– Gets worse with age
– Reveal it as early as possible to allow for recovery
– Dilute it by providing information on recovery plans
How do we change the organizational
culture to conform with our project?
• “WE” don’t!
• Only time and the shared experience of the members will
change the culture
• We must first seek to understand the cultural differences
…then, establish an environment for change
So what do we do as
Project Managers?
• Realize that we are cultural “change agents”
• Learn how to identify cultural differences that may
impact our projects
• Learn how to resolve these cultural differences
How are cultural differences
resolved?
• “Reconciliation”
– Maximize the strengths of each position
– Minimize the weaknesses of each position
• The resulting position is synergistic
• Cultural reconciliation greatly simplifies project
implementation (fewer people fighting the effort!)
• This is NOT a compromise, which can erode BOTH
positions
Forces Shaping Individual
Culture
Urbanization
Nationalism
Colonisation
Migration
Minority
Experience
Industrialization
Personal
Culture
Values
Crosscultural
Adjustments
Education
Social
background
World-views
Ethnic
background
Beliefs
Behaviours
Profession
Religion
Gender
Language
Dangers!
• Stereotypes
• Prejudice
• Ethno-centric perspectives
Managing an offshore project
• Ethnocentric Approach
– Top management and other key positions are filled by
people from the home country
• Polycentric Approach
– International subsidiaries are managed and staffed by
personnel from the host country
• Geocentric Approach
– Nationality is deliberately downplayed and the firm
actively searches on a worldwide or regional basis for
the best people to fill key positions
Discussion questions for April 22nd
• Each group shall make short summaries of the literature
and be prepared to present this summary in class (about 4
pages)
• List the main messages, the main advantages and the main
problems of the three IJPM articles in the readings.
• The project work form, to which national cultures is it best
suited, and to which is it problematic?
• There will also be a short groupwork during the seminar
that does not require preparation, but (of course)
familiarity with the readings.
• All summaries and answers/reflections to questions shall
be handed over to Johann in paper format at the beginning
of the seminar. Use the standardised cover form!!!

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