photoAuthor: Dr. Lucilia Caramelo, PMP

Subject: EVENT REPORT: A tale of two cultures: Can you manage a project in a different country and knowledge area? (September 1st, Lausanne)

Categories: Event Report; Newsletter Content

Keywords: Lausanne

URL: /regional/index.php?show=164

Published: Wed 28-Sep-2011 21:37:32


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Are project managers limited to their knowledge areas? Can a Swiss IT person manage a construction in Senegal?

Marcel Schuppli and Jean Binder tried to answer this dilemma using a real life case. What happens when you are one of the few foreigners in a country with a completely different culture? And, to add another twist, what if most of your project management experience was acquired in another field? Is it still possible to successfully deliver the project?

Indeed, it is... and during this lively presentation, the audience could hear in first hand how a Swiss IT person successfully managed a large construction project in Senegal and what lessons could be learnt. Jean, author of award winning book Global Project Management: Communication, Collaboration and Management Across Borders and Marcel, who has lived and worked in 6 countries and managed projects in multinational/multicultural environments for the past 15 years, offered a review of the extensive and thought provoking material amassed during years.

The conference was not just about two different cultures. It covered three main areas of discussion: cross-cultural perspectives, dealing with multiple organizations and what happens when multiple organizations are involved in the project. Marcel walked the audience through his experience of building the new headquarters for a large multi-national company in Dakar and the particular challenges that being outside of his area of expertise posed. Jean explained the theory behind cross cultural communications and the models that explain cultural differences, backing Marcel's real life case with data obtained in recent studies. For example, why some cultures feel more comfortable with exact planning, how can risk and fate be interpreted and the meaning of past, present and future in different cultures. Both speakers made excellent points and illustrated the presentation with humorous anecdotes - even when the facts were frankly disheartening. Like, how long does it take to transport a brick to the top of the building, what happened when a few days away from the planned moving the ongoing construction around the building caused massive floods.

The audience was familiar with the challenges of working with teams whom do not share the same culture, values andwork styles. A quick survey showed most of the attendees have worked and lived in different countries (only 1/3 of them in places outside the EU, United States or Canada though). This was instrumental for the animated debate that followed the presentation, with attendees and speakers sharing experiences and bouncing questions. The last question of the day summarized to perfection the spirit of the day: What does it take for a project manager to do this? Four things, answered Marcel in a heartbeat. Experience, passion, openness and instinct.

Report by Lucilia Caramelo, PMP

More information about this Special Evening Event is available here