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Project Management- a Social Anthropology Lesson for the Project Managers

Cygnet Infotech

You might have heard an environmental enthusiast saying “Think global, act local.” Well, the quote must not be limited to just environmental challenges. In a way, it perfectly fits the eligibility criteria of a project manager who is dealing with various entities from all across the globe.

Our project managers have learnt this social anthropology lesson with their experience. The world is becoming one single market but the minds of the people are still bound to their cultural grounds. There are lot of encounters where the word ‘cosmopolitan’ becomes a mythical term used in some fairyland.

For instance, imagine an American client taking a tour of the premises of a Japanese company before finalizing a project. He notices some employees taking a nap on their desks. Do you think the Japanese company will qualify as a vendor?

Or, imagine a Japanese client who has come for an industry visit to India asking for a “Delay Certificate” from the Railway Officer as his train was late by an hour.

The cultural differences are not just restricted to such corporate and social practices, but it extends to accents, tone, paralanguage and even the words used to communicate. So, while managing a project, project manager also has to step into the cultural shoes of the client and the multi-cultural team associated with the project.

To bridge the cultural gap between different parties, Cygnet exercises some of these principles: 

Identify, map and clarify the cultural differences

This is basically the first project task of our project managers. They calibrate the team and make them understand where each one of them stand on a cultural scale. This helps the team to understand the differences and adjust to the cultural differences of the stakeholders of the project.

This sounds tough, but for a project manager who is dealing with a CTO of an American ISV whose product designing part is assigned to a Chinese freelancer and development task to the Indian team while the resources allocated to the project manager in the development team are from different corners of the world, it is more like a daily routine to them.

Adapt rather than repeating the practices

Our project managers clearly understand that the practices or tactics that worked in the previous project, may not work in another project. They have to innovate and adapt according to the culture of the client and that of the respective teams. This is done with proper research and of course with the experience from the past encounters.

Never rely on “Gut Feeling” or “People Skills”

Project Managers can never rely on empathy or instincts. Because, empathy can itself become starting point of a cultural conflict. This can be explained by an example.

Imagine a Client who is an Englishman, has gone on a lunch as a guest with the host Asian team who have been assigned a project of his. Now, it is a tradition for the Englishman to clear the plate of the food offered by the host as a sign of courtesy, while the Asians would feel that the guest is questioning his generosity if the guest clears the plate of the food offered.  

So, our project managers know it is crucial to rely only on the cultural study to maintain a healthy relation with the client as well as the team.

Get formal training or keep an open mind

We don’t ask our Project Managers to hold a degree in social anthropology while selecting them. But, our project managers are trained well of doing some light reading or getting into the small talks regarding the culture of each participant of the project.

Keeping an open mind and a bit of curiosity to learn more about the cultural nuances helps them to blend in. While this may not seem as if it’s a big deal, it certainly goes a long way in ensuring a smooth working relationship between client and vendor.

For instance, while having a conversation with an American client, usage of words like “Please get back to me” instead of “Revert Back” or using “Vacation” instead of “Holiday” can be helpful in bridging the cultural gap.   

In a nutshell, a project manager is supposed to act as a “cultural glue.” Cygnet’s project managers work rigorously on the culture management so that the client and the team can focus on accelerating product development rather than worrying about cultural nuances.

Cygnet Infotech

Cygnet Infotech is a CMMi level 3 and is ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2008 certified, 18 year old global technology provider enabling ISVs & enterprises through emerging technology, software engineering, technology consulting, SAP Implementation, advisory & maintenance services. It’s proven 18-year track record boasts of successfully delivered 1400+ valuable software solutions to its diverse clientele across the globe using a global delivery model.

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