How Cultural Awareness – or Lack Thereof – Can Make or Break Your Global Project

Maria Antonietta Marino Date: 2019-06-20

An introduction to Mudita Consultancy’s work.

How many of us can genuinely claim to be aware of the main cultural differences that may sink a globally managed project?

According to the results of a survey carried out by the NOA (National Outsourcing Association) and the Kingston Business School in 2009/2010 on the impact of both national and organisational culture on outsourcing contracts:

  • “Assessment of cultural match is often recommended as part of an outsourcing contract yet there is little advice on how to achieve this (e.g. Corbett, 2004). The people managing the bid from the outsourcing supplier are rarely the ones who will manage the project, meaning that advice to ‘analyse the match with people’ (see e.g. Bray, 2009) can be problematic.”
  • “Differences in Culture may be important as they can lead to misunderstandings and lack of trust, poor communications and perceived low service levels (e.g. Johnsen et al., 2006)”
  • “Although a number of studies on offshoring have indicated national culture as an issue (see e.g. Avison & Banks, 2008; Cobb, 2009), very little attention has been paid to this aspect and in particular how to reduce any issues that may arise”

Organizational strategy does NOT drive individual or group behavior, culture does: people working together achieve the best results when they understand each other’s motivations, driving factors, learning and thinking patterns. How can consistency of purpose be achieved if  there is a mismatch between the values of “in-house” and outsourced teams? between the different players involved in the supply chain?

How many Western leaders, for instance, are familiar with the concept of “saving face”, common across Asian cultures and especially pervasive in the Chinese society, where “face” – intended as “mianzi”, social position, status –  is seen as “an embedded aspect of an individual’s relations within a social system” (Earley 1997)”? Have you ever considered that seemingly harmless (for Western standards) actions such as politely disagreeing with someone’s ideas, giving feedback in front of others or pointing out a minor inaccuracy may spoil the relationship with one of your key stakeholders?

Mudita Consultancy aims to help people gaining a better understanding of those often underestimated factors that may delay or sink outsourced/globally managed projects: in June it will  run its first cultural-awareness program that will provide:

  • An introduction to the concept of TQM (Total Quality Management) and to Deming’s 14 Points on Quality Management 
  • An overview of the main cultural dimensions/differences and their impact on globally managed projects and multicultural teams (e.g.: do members of polychronic and monochronic cultures share the same understanding of deadlines? Do members of high- and low-context cultures adopt the same learning methodologies? How likely are members of culture ranking high on the Power Distance Index to report an issue or to question a potentially incorrect decision? Etc)
  • Suggestions on how to improve processes and workflows according to the previous points

More posts/articles on the subject will follow.

Stay tuned!

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