Applying Cultural Intelligence in International Project Management


By Prof. Dr. Ruta Ciutiene
Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania

Prof. Dr. André Dechange
Fachhochschule Dortmund – University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Germany

Jolita Kiznyte
Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania




In order to succeed and stay competitive in globalized business environment organizations started to incorporate cross-cultural management competencies into project management. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is an ability to proceed effectively and efficiently in culturally diverse situations when the main focus is differences in cross-cultural behaviors. This skill is increasingly becoming beneficial for project managers, as those who have high CQ can quickly adapt their management style in order to handle issues raised from multicultural background (concerning customers, suppliers, associates, etc.). Overall, there are four CQ capabilities: Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. Project managers have to improve all four capabilities in parallel because focusing on only one can cause deeper cultural ignorance instead of leveraging CQ. This paper aims to introduce Cultural Intelligence as an approach for successful cultural differences management in international projects.

Key words: Cultural intelligence, cross-cultural management, international project management

JEL code: F23, M16


International projects comparing to local projects often have a higher level of complexity and uncertainty. Some of specific characteristics have to be taken into account in order to successfully implement projects in global environment: global stakeholders, cultural diversity, cultural differences, etc. It is becoming a norm that project managers have to develop intercultural skills for smooth interactions with internal and external stakeholders and project team members (Köster, 2010, pp. 8). According to Livermore (2010, pp. 3) Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is a set of skills that facilitates effective cross-cultural management. Instead of learning the intricacies of the culture and practices of every nation, CQ provides a broad-based model that helps to emphasize an overall understanding of other cultures, and it does not require comprehensive knowledge of specific information about every individual culture. The goal of this paper is to introduce Cultural Intelligence as an approach for successful cultural differences management in international projects. Main method to investigate the topic is to analyze theoretical sources (books, articles, research reports, essays, etc.) and gather insights in order to define how Cultural Intelligence can be incorporated into international project management. To reach the goal following topics are being discussed: Cultural Differences influence on International Project Management; Cultural differences and project team challenges; The concept of Cultural Intelligence; Actions which can be taken into account to apply Cultural Intelligence in international project management.

Cultural Differences influence on International Project Management

Project management has to foster global approach, be flexible enough in order to succeed working with stakeholders, team members from different cultural horizons. Binder (2009, pp. 18) defines international projects as projects with team members from the same company working in different countries. And expands definition of international project by adding global project concept: “Projects managed across borders, with team members from different cultures and languages, working in various countries around the globe”. Roux-Kiener (2009, pp. 10) emphasizes that nowadays globalization of projects has become a common phenomenon in project management. Some years ago projects were mostly implemented on local basis with direct contact with stakeholders.

Brünnemann (2013, pp. 4) states that project managers usually have to deal with versatility of cultures at the same time as international project might be set in a specific country or it may be part of a large program spanning across several countries or the project team consists of members from various countries or cultures. As project management face cross-cultural issues it is important to review on what extent culture influence project management. Hall (1976, pp. 16) notes that culture consists of ideas, values, attitudes, norms and patterns of behavior. It is not a genetic phenomenon and it cannot exist without society involved because culture is shared between members of society. Hofstede (2001, pp. 21) defines culture as “The collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group from another”, what means that culture is learned through generations but it has a tendency to change as external environment changes. Scientist states that core element of culture is system of values. Fischer, at. all (2009, pp. 189) agree that culture is a collective phenomenon and that people learn it but not transmit genetically. According to them: “…culture is passed on through socialization processes within specific groups, which require communication of key symbols, ideas, knowledge and values between individuals and from one generation to the next”.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; original copyrights retained. This paper was originally presented at the 4th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.


About the Authors



Prof Ruta Ciutiene, PhD

Kaunas University of Technology



Ruta Ciutiene
 holds a PhD in Management and Administration. Since 2001 she has been working in various positions at Kaunas University of Technology, where from 2012 she is a professor at Department of Management and Manager of the Project Management Master Degree study program. From 2014 she also is a Product Development Director in the Executive School of Economics and Business School. She teaches several courses in project management not only for economics and business, but for engineering students also.

Human resources management in projects and engineering projects issues are her main scientific fields of interest. She has practical experience in working with business and public sector development projects. She also trains and consults businesses and the public sector in project management processes. At the same time she coordinates, manages and participates in local and international studies and business development projects as well as scientific. Further, she works as an external evaluator on international projects.

Ruta Ciutiene can be contacted at [email protected].


pmwj35-Jun2015-Ciutiene-AUTHOR2 KIZNYTE

Jolita Kiznyte

Kaunas, Lithuania



Jolita Kiznyte
has a Bachelor degree in Public administration, during bachelor study’s author did research on public diplomacy, country branding, cultural diplomacy. At this moment the author is finishing double master degree studies in Project Management and works as a research assistant in Fachhochschule Dortmund. During the years of master studies Jolita did researched on cross-cultural differences management in international project teams, cross-cultural management. Recently the author started the establishment of her own Start-up company and does the research on possibilities of applying project management methods to raise the success rate of early stage Start-ups. Main publications: The Role of Public Diplomacy in “selling” European Cultural Identity and Values Globally (2012), Shaping the Image of Lithuania in the Global Arena: Challenges, Tendencies, Opportunities (2013), Contemporary State Image Forming Using Public Diplomacy and Developing Nation Brand: The Case of Lithuania (2014) and Applying Cultural Intelligence in International Project Management (2015).

Jolita can be contacted at [email protected]


pmwj35-Jun2015-Ciutiene-AUTHOR3 DECHANGE

Prof. Dr. André Dechange

Dortmund, Germany



André Dechange
, born 1967, studied electrical engineering and business administration and made his PhD at the Technical University in Dortmund. He worked as a consultant and manager in different international companies for more than 20 years. He was responsible for more than 4 years for a Project Management Office (PMO) in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Since 2008 he is working as a trainer and consultant for project management. He is a PMP and a professor of project management at the University of Applied Science in Dortmund.

André can be contacted at e-mail: [email protected].