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Impact of Culture on
Project Management
August 22, 2011
Tim Porter
[email protected]
School of
Management
Background
• My perspective on multi-national projects
– Managed multi-national software outsourcing projects
– Taught project management at the university level in China (Zhejiang
University) and the USA (GMU, GWU)
– Implemented new or improved project management business
practices at a Chinese company (Hundsun Technologies)
– PM for various internal projects for a major Chinese corporation
– Currently provide consulting services related to USA-China projects
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Culture
• What is culture?
– The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices
that characterizes an institution, organization or group
• How do we manage the differences?
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Value Differences
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Individualism
Achievement
Equality
Pride
Respect for Competence
Directness
Informal
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Collectivism
Modesty
Hierarchy
Saving Face
Respect for Elders
Indirectness
Formal
Understanding and Capitalizing on Chinese
Culture Traits
• Confucianism and the Collective play
important roles
• Relationships and “guanxi”
• 爱面子 – Face
• Concept of time
• Respect for traditional values
• Contracts and the Law
• Soft “yes”
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Culture of Information Protection and
the Master
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“shifu” – father, teacher, master for life
The need for self-sufficiency
Transfer of knowledge
Acquiring someone else’s secret and IP
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Knowledge Area: Project Communications
• Communication – Communication – Communication
• Language
– Many study English in China but ….
• Producing quality English documentation
• Translators and Interpreters
• Having multi-lingual staff on your side is essential
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What Issues Do Chinese PMs Worry
About With Western Clients?
• Project Direction
– More not less, detailed
– “in the west, everything can be discussed”
• Some things should just be decided
• Requirements
– Lack of specificity
• Communication
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Language and startup time
Does “not talking” mean not working?
Flat organizational structure in USA vs hierarchical in China
Many Chinese won’t readily initiate a conversation with a foreign boss
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Any Questions?
Thank you
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