Succeeding in Cross Cultural & Cross Geo Projects

In 2014, I facilitated a session on #OzHR on “Succeeding in Cross Cultural & Cross Geo Projects”. This topic was never discussed before on this forum, which gave me an opportunity to engage thinkers from across the globe to share their insights. In this 30-45 minutes tweet chat, we discussed some key questions that would ultimately enable people to tackle and perhaps succeed in cross cultural and cross geo projects.

  1. Do cross-cultural & cross-geo projects require special skills as opposed to normal project & change management practices?
  2. What are the signs of failure?
  3. Is sponsorship the key ingredient of leading successful projects?
  4. What makes change stick? Is there a magic formulae/ingredient?


Globe hands


I’d love to share with you a summary of the key insights I gained that you may find useful:

  1. Communication, patience, cultural-awareness and open mindedness were all cited as key skills to succeeding in cross-cultural and cross-geo projects. However, interestingly enough, they’re no different to skills required in normal projects. BUT people need to be much more efficient in exercising these skills in cross-cultural and cross-geo projets given the lack of physical presence and differences in cultures. Implementing communication platforms and channels are of great importance with their success dependent on minimizing redundancy and duplication, maximizing discoverability and ensuring zero barriers to usage.
  2. Rude behaviour, lack of engagement, cultural impatience, skepticism, resistance, geo-isolation, demotivation, reduction in productivity were all called out as usual suspects. So no surprises there, but interestingly enough, it was noted that it was easier to ‘hide’behind communication platforms like ’email’ for passive resistance.
  3. Leadership is of great importance to ensure success however in these projects,usually there are multiple leaders which can cause confusion and chaos. So it is of utmost importance to set common goals. Another key to success is self-awareness and understanding of differences in cultures. Establishing a trusting relationship with leaders, and leaders showing humility by understanding the cultural differences can make or break a project.
  4. Change only sticks if people really want it. It also important to remember that change happens at it’s own pace. However, Without a shared purpose, there is always a fear of going back to the way things were. Project teams need to create mini-cultures or sub-cultures to beat the natural and man-made barriers of cultural differences and geography.
  5. Lastly culture is more than geography, country of origin or nationality. Culture is everywhere. 


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