Keys to success in multi-cultural project work

Seminar Paper, 2010

15 Pages, Grade: 2,3



List of figures

1. Introduction

2. Characteristics of inter-cultural projects
2.1. Purpose and benefits
2.2. challenges

3. Defining project success
3.1. Universal definition
3.2. Alternative definition

4. Cultural studies
4.1. The concept of culture
4.2. Cultural dimensions

5. Managing cultural differences in projects
5.1. Aligning projects and partner
5.2. Leadership requirements

6. Conclusion


List of figures

Fig. 3.1. Objectives of project management

Fig. 3.2. Alternative understanding of project success

1. Introduction

In modern economy, companies and industries face more complex challenges than ever before. Globalized markets offer great opportunities for their players, but operating successfully in this complex environment requires different approaches than in a domestic environment.

Making best use of the availability of resources like goods, employees and services from abroad on the one hand, but managing challenges like increasing competition, pressure on costs and innovation and the high dynamic on many foreign markets on the other hand are sophisticated tasks an international company nowadays has to deal with.

Global interaction requires a company to cooperate with partners in the different countries. Due to many reasons, cooperating successfully on such international level is very difficult. Explaining the requirements and challenges of cross-national projects, emphasising the importance of cultural differences and their consideration in inter-cultural project work and determining how such projects can be managed successfully is subject of this paper.

2. Characteristics of inter-cultural projects

2.1. Purpose and benefits

Today's economy is shaped by globalization with market conditions changing rapidly and growing competition in many areas.[1]

In order to stay competitive and to bring themselves into a better position, companies try to gain benefits from working with companies in other regions of the world by e.g. either selling their products on new markets or by profiting from the goods and services foreign companies can offer. Companies may seek for example to rearrange their value chain by outsourcing some internal services to a provider in a foreign country that is cheaper and allows the company to benefit from scale effects.

Finally, the competitiveness of a company that seeks to go global is expected to improve by building up a network and profiting from the conditions in the foreign market either on the supplier's or the demander‘s side.

Additionally, cooperation between partners from different areas of the world does offer not only monetary advantages but also great learning opportunities for the involved members of staff. Offering staff the possibility to work in an exciting international environment improves a company's attractiveness towards highly qualified professionals. People working in an international and multi-cultural environment get in touch with other cultures, deal with highly diversified problems and gain experience that their employers can benefit from in other international projects.[2]

2.2. challenges

"When project management is already a sufficient challenge in its own right, multinational settings bring additional complications into the equation."[3]

Managing multi-national and multi-cultural projects successfully requires to master numerous challenges: In general, the unique legal and political environment, security issues, economic factors, and infrastructure limitations of every potential partner country have to be taken into account and be evaluated to avoid negative effects on project success.[4]

International projects appear more abstract because they require different communication forms than for domestic projects. As partners cooperate that are situated in different regions of the world, such cooperation is mostly a virtual one with team members not being connected as strong with each other as they may be used to from domestic project experience. These challenges require technical solutions which are relatively easily available by electronic communication media. Nonetheless, due to this mostly electronic communication approach and due to possible prejudices or opinions towards other cultures, finding a suitable communication environment may be very difficult especially at the beginning of a project.

One of the most obvious challenges in this regard is of course the language barrier that team members with different mother tongues have to face. When team members have to communicate in a language that they are not confident in, this may lead to a different behaviour than as if they communicate in their mother tongue. Also information can get lost more easily due to a wrong understanding. Alternatively, professional translators would cause a lot of costs.[5]

Moreover, organisational decisions within multi-cultural projects require ambitious leadership personalities to coordinate the virtual and heterogeneous team, set goals, delegate responsibilities, supervise progress and to develop a set of rules which are binding for all parties to ensure that the cooperation will be successful. Finding agreement on such rules is a very difficult task because this strongly affects the working habits and behavioural patterns every team member got used to in his or her cultural environment.

3. Defining project success

3.1. Universal definition

To determine keys to success in multi-cultural projects, success itself has to be defined first.

With a project being "any series of activities and tasks that have a specific objective to be completed within certain specifications, have defined start and end dates [... and] consume human and nonhuman resources", [...] successful project management can then be defined as having achieved the project objectives within time, within cost, at the desired performance level while utilizing the assigned resources effectively and efficiently, accepted by the customer."[6]

The main objectives of project management are therefore "to manage or control company resources on a given activity, within time, within cost and within performance."[7] If the beneficiary of a project is an outside customer, then good customer relations are another constraint on the project. These objectives of project management are illustrated with figure 3.1.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fig. 3.1. Objectives of project management

Project success can require more conditions to be fulfilled which are also widely accepted e.g. "minimum or mutually agreed scope changes, without disturbing the main work flow of the organization [and] without changing the corporate culture."[8]


[1] Cf.


[3] Walter Sumetzberger (29.03.2003): Virtual Cooperation Within Intercultural Project Teams, p. 1

[4] Cf. Sue Freedman, Ph.D. and Lothar Katz (2007): Critical Success Factors for International Projects, p. 1

[5] Cf.

[6] Harold Kerzner (2009): Project management - a systems approach to planning, scheduling and controlling, pp. 2-3

[7] ibid., p. 5

[8] Kerzner: loc. cit., p. 7

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Keys to success in multi-cultural project work
University of Applied Sciences Berlin
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
511 KB
inter-cultural projects, multi-cultural projects, international project, success factors, virtual teams, leader
Quote paper
Stefan Sabrautzki (Author), 2010, Keys to success in multi-cultural project work, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Keys to success in multi-cultural project work

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free