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Importance of Cultural Awareness When Managing Distributed Teams

SERIES ARTICLE

Program Management Commentary

Importance of Cultural Awareness When Managing Distributed Teams

By Russ Martinelli, Tim Rahschulte & James Waddell

Program Management Academy

Oregon, USA


As an organization embarks on a strategy of growth, it often employs various tactics to expand beyond its current national boundaries.  Some of the most common tactics include acquiring or merging with companies, forming strategic partnerships with other companies to share and distribute portions of the development delivery system, and expanding operational components of its business into other geographical regions of the world.

Regardless of the strategy and associated tactics, one of the results is common – the organization expands its pool of resources to include people from other cultures, thus becoming a multi-cultural entity. When doing so, it therefore must undergo various forms of transformation to effectively and efficiently create a new organizational environment that embraces, encompasses, and leverages its new cultural diversity.  This will require changes in the organizational values, norms, assumptions, and how individuals within project teams interact with one another.

The job of blending and aligning national, company, and functional culture many times falls upon the project team leaders. Successfully managing and completing product, service, or infrastructure development efforts likely will become significantly more complex and difficult as one begins to manage over widely dispersed company sites.

People from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences will bring different behaviors, routines, values, and ideas about the work of the team.  The team leader must embrace this diversity of people on his or her team as individual members that make up a collective work unit, and act as a coach and role model for the rest of the team to help them embrace the value of diversity.  What the team must learn is that there is great benefit to having differences in personality, values, opinions, and ideas working toward an optimal business solution.

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About the Authors

Russ Martinelli

Co-Author                    

Russ Martinelli is co-founder of the Program Management Academy and co-author of Leading Global Project Teams and the comprehensive book on program management titled Program Management for Improved Business Results.  As a senior program manager at Intel Corporation, Russ has many years of experience leading global product development teams in both the aerospace and computing industries.  Russ can be contacted at [email protected]

Tim Rahschulte

Co-Author

Tim Rahschulte is co-author of Leading Global Project Teams and an executive director at the Program Management Academy. Tim is also responsible for international management and leadership studies at George Fox University in Oregon.  He consults with state governments in the USA on matters of organizational change as a business transition architect.  Contact Tim at [email protected].

Jim Waddell

Co-Author

Jim Waddell, former director of program management for Tektronix, is a co-founder of the Program Management Academy.  He is an experienced management consultant in his fields of expertise: program management, mergers and acquisitions. He has held a variety of management positions, has been a speaker at numerous conferences, and is a co-author of Leading Global Project Teams, and Program Management for Improved Business Results.  Jim can be contacted at [email protected].