Web, mobile and software development projects involve global and multi-cultural teams. Each culture and individual has their own uniqueness and way of doing things. From spoken language to body language, messages can be interpreted differently across cultures.
PECS’s own journey of working on global projects has brought about continuous learning of being aware of cultural differences; appreciating them while at the same time turning these differences into team strength. While some may view these cultural differences as reasons for low productivity and not meeting customer expectations, when managed properly different cultures become a pillar of team strength that will result in higher productivity and better software products and solutions.
To understand how to convert these cultural differences into strengths, we should first understand some of the key cultural differences. We state below some key differences that we have experienced over the years:
1. Communication Style
A “yes” in one culture could mean a “yes” or a “no” or even “maybe” based on the context. Another culture where “yes” and “no” are interpreted literally, would process the replies and set expectations accordingly.
2. Difference of Opinion
How does culture play a role where there are differences in opinion? Whereas democratization of ideas, openness, and difference of opinion are welcomed in some cultures, in others silence is preferred over open voicing of different views or disagreement. Any interpretation which comes out as negligent or simply not knowing the answer to a legitimate question asked by a colleague or boss is considered “losing face.”
3. Orientation to Authority/Power
In some cultures, if the manager is present at the meeting, all other team members often stay quiet until they either get a head nod of approval from the manager to speak. In other cultures, the expectation might be to contribute actively and speak their mind without worrying about hierarchy.
4. Orientation to Time
In most western cultures, the stated business and meeting time is THE time. In other cultures, meeting times and deadlines may be viewed as somewhat flexible especially when other priorities arise. In social settings, it may be acceptable to show-up two hours later than the time on the invite!
5. The Break Routine
Many cultures follow the fixed meal and break times while not providing flexibility. Whereas, others encourage Flexi times and managing the day’s tasks based on one’s personal circumstances and work patterns. In some cultures, longer break times are more used for physical activity or indoor sport, while in others the time may go towards general chit chat or web surfing.
PECS’s long international project experience involving several multi-cultural teams means we understand the need to first acknowledge and accept the cultural differences and work practices. The focus thereafter is to get the team to understand the key cultural elements, set expectations, and manage them. Setting project principles including behavioral norms early allows team members to align better and build a project culture where everyone understands and supports each other. Robust project management, frequent communication between team members, and empathy subtly but surely brings the team together. All this helps to get the team to focus on the main goal: the project and its success.
The focus on better infrastructure facilities, customer service values and the need to align to the customer team and organisation culture are again important elements that allow individual team members to work better. This results in ONE team that has high trust, high productivity and that churns out quality software time after time.