Global and Diversity Issues in Project Management

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  • 00:00 Sensitive Issues in Culture
  • 1:15 Global Issues in…
  • 2:16 Breaking Down the Issues
  • 4:10 Balancing the Issues
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

In a global economy, companies in one country often set up operations in other parts of the world. This means issues involving the culture like customs, etiquette, and language barriers may arise while managing projects abroad.

Sensitive Issues in Culture

Imagine how excited Perry was when he was recruited to work on the building of a new manufacturing plant in Japan! As Perry counted down the days until his flight left Kansas, he shopped for new clothes, jotted down his favorite sushi roll combinations, spent endless hours bragging to his friends, and even practiced karaoke. What Perry did not do was learn about the Japanese culture. Culture is the beliefs and customs of a particular group of people.

So, why is this so important? It is for many reasons. For one, a project manager should consider that the practices in his Western culture might differ vastly to the culture in far-away places.

Here are a few examples:

  • Bowing at a meeting means you are honoring the host.
  • The highest-ranking person sits at the head of the table away from the door, so wait to be seated.
  • Always present a business card - it's part of the formal introduction.
  • Always dress formally for a business meeting.
  • Don't forget dark socks - you may have to remove your shoes.
  • Never raise your voice or appear too rambunctious - a soft voice is best.

With these basic principles in mind, let's talk about what it takes to actually manage a project overseas.

Global Issues in Project Management

So, Perry is all set to board his flight. Let's follow him as he works his way through the project.

The first thing to consider is what project partnering means. This is when people collaborate on a common project, and there are a lot of good reasons to pair up for a project in other parts of the world. It may cut costs and provide a stronger, more capable pool of talent.

But there are a few things to consider:

  • Geographic regions do not share the same culture.
  • Religious beliefs are different.
  • There may be language barriers.
  • Culture shock can be an issue.

For Perry to be successful, he must recognize the differences. One common mistake project managers make is coming to the table with an air of superiority. This is called ethnocentric perspective and is the belief that one's culture is more dominant than that of another culture. Whether it's an attitude toward being on time or a work-life balance, one must be attuned to what the host country defines as a cultural norm.

Breaking Down the Issues

Consider that in Japan, the work-life balance is nearly non-existent. With 22% of the workforce working over 49 hours per week compared to the 16% of Americans and an even lower percentage for Swedes, embarking on a project in Japan may mean working longer hours.

Religious differences must also be considered. Shintoism is the most popular folk religion in Japan. When a new business opens or a new project begins, a Shinto priest is invited to bless the project. With this blessing comes gift giving. No problem? Well, not unless the gift you are giving has any reference to the number 4. That's right! In the Shinto religion, this digit means death! Yikes!

Most Japanese claim two religions, Shintoism and another. Buddhism is the most commonly connected with Shintoism and has its own set of workplace beliefs. For instance, it is very common for work relationships to extend beyond the shop. In fact, co-workers often enjoy their after-work meals together. As an American, this may take Perry aback. We tend to go home and enjoy time with our friends and family.

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