Hi, I’m Zacharias Beckman, President of Hyrax International. We get a lot of questions about how business culture affects business on a day to day basis.
Sarah, a project manager here in America, is very successful at what she does. She’s got a lot of successful projects under her belt. But right now she’s having problems. It looks like the project that she is working on is going to ship late. There are lot of quality problems with it. It’s over budget, it’s behind schedule, and Sarah is very frustrated. All of the techniques that she’s been using in the past aren’t working for her now. She feels like she is not getting the feedback from her team that she’s used to getting. For example, she proposed some changes to quality assurance system and instead of getting feedbacks, there’re silence, delays and then finally the team agreed to implement what she had proposed.
In a typical Western style, she is expecting very clear communication from her team. Direct, critical feedback on the project and on the proposed changes that she is making. The problem is, her team is in Asia and they don’t think that she knows she is doing. She asks too many questions. She doesn’t demonstrate the authority and the wisdom necessary for the team to feel like she’s in charge of the project. They are not accustomed to this kind of management.
Sarah’s run into a couple of business cultural preferences. She’s experiencing power distance, which is the separation between a boss and a subordinate, and how they ‘re allowed to communicate because of cultural constraints. And she’s also experiencing differences in communication style — the low context, direct communication of the West versus the very high context, rich and subtle communication of the East.
Sarah’s solution in this case is to get business cultural training and understand how her management style differs from what her team is used to and then adapt her management program, her project management technique, to work well with her team is Asia.
Check our website for more information on both of these business cultural preferences. I’ve blogged about them quite a bit in the past.
And if you are managing an International multicultural team, it’s really important to understand how much business cultural preferences will affect your project and your management style. You need to be sure that the project management methods you’re putting into play, are going to work with your multinational team.