Our special guest was George Offord (Ericsson) who shared his thoughts and experiences about Cultural Diversity. In the last 30-40 years George has worked in several continents and countries eg. in Asia (China, India), in North America (USA), in Africa and also in Europe (Sweden, UK, Spain, Hungary etc.). He has met professionals and many local people with different cultural background and behavior so he had the opportunity to “examine” and learn cultural aspects and differences.
People think about many things in their lives but culture is a factor you do not think about in your everyday actions. This is why culture and cultural diversity is an issue or “thing” we have to deal with during meeting and collaborating with people with different cultural backgrounds.
In the first part of his speech George talked about some “culturally different things”. Here are some examples:
• Blowing the nose: in some countries people “hide”, steer away when blowing the nose (Sweden), in some countries people just sniffle (India, China).
• Sleeping during work: in China it is acceptable to have a short break during working time.
• Taking off shoes: it is natural to take off the shoes entering a room or a house in Sweden, the same situation is a bit strange in the UK.
• Kissing: meeting with other (well-known) people, Americans don’t kiss each other but French do it.
• Africa: in some areas people introduce themselves by singing a song.
• Hands and legs: in some cultures it is offensive to use the left hand (India) or show the foot / sole (Asia).
• Physical proximity: don’t be too close to others in Europe, in India it is quite impossible to stand away from other people during having a conversation.
• Talk to others: in Hungary people don’t cross the boss (decisions), in Sweden you can talk to the royal family as well (if you want).
Management is one of the biggest issues during working with people with different cultural backgrounds. In some countries the timeline / project plan is only a “piece of paper”, in other countries the given word is like a signed contract. Working with different people, one of the most important things is to ensure conscious working process. Managers should show respect to team members and pay attention to the tiniest factors to warrant the most effective team operation. Group leaders must find the “golden key” to have the perfect communication in a culturally diversified group. Having problems with collaboration or communication, George advised the following tools and techniques:
• Know your team and team members – project managers should know why colleagues behave the way they do (in different situations);
• Trust your team – by ensuring trust project managers / leaders can achieve effective team operation;
• Escalate if needed – identifying the problem (with the communication or collaboration within the team) leaders should involve other people responsible for team members’ behavior and work;
• Create smaller groups in your team – find the suitable roles and places to your team members;
• Have a good time with your team members:
o Discuss the problems together with your team,
o Do non-business related activities together (eg. cook together).
In the name of PMI Budapest Chapter we would like to thank George for coming and sharing his thoughts in PMPub!
We would like to remind you that the next PMPub will be in May and the Art Of Projects 2016 conference will be on 10th November!