Dear PM Advisor. Sep 30, 2013

Dear PM Advisor, I like your assessment of different personality styles and how they affect the leader and team members. What are your thoughts about dealing with people from different countries?

Ugly American in Ohio

Dear Ugly American,

There are two leading authors on the subject of how national origin affects handling of different scenarios. Their names are Hofstede and Tompenaars. They have both conducted extensive research in this area. Their results can assist you in dealing effectively with global teams.

They each did research within global organizations into how people from different nations act in different scenarios. Hofstede's Power Distance Indicator, for instance, looks at how comfortable people are in confronting their superiors. In the US and Australia there is little discomfort here while in South Korea, co-pilots would allow an airplane to crash rather than question the judgement of the senior officer.

According to Hofstede, the other differentiators between countries are:

Individualism versus collectivism
Masculinity versus femininity
Uncertainty avoidance
Long-term versus short-term orientation
Indulgence versus Restraint
You can imagine that people in China would react differently to Australians in collectivism and long-term orientation but similar in masculinity. But Swedes and Saudi Arabians will act differently in this latter category.
Tompenaars has seven categories:
  • Universalism versus particularism.
  • Individualism versus communitarianism.
  • Specific versus diffuse.
  • Neutral versus emotional.
  • Achievement versus ascription.
  • Sequential time versus synchronous time.
  • Internal direction versus outer direction.

The idea is that one cannot always use the same techniques that work in your own country when you are working abroad.

Just as I don't recommend changing your personality, I don't argue for changing your culture. It won't work anyway. But remember, there are times when you need to influence someone in authority to wield their power for the benefit of your project. When you are in that situation, you need to be aware of their personality so that your words, actions and dress don't prejudice that person against you. You should also be aware of their culture and avoid acting in a way that is obnoxious to that person.
REad their books and take their classes. They are very useful to global Project Managers.
Good luck,
Dear PM Advisor.
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