A team is a group of two or more individuals working towards a shared goal as defined earlier in this paper. Therefore, there is already a mix of more than one culture. To better understand how culture impacts project teams, let us start with the definition of culture. Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another as defined by Hofstede (1982). This by itself impacts the morale, behaviour and productivity of a team.
Before you dive into a deeper analysis of the team’s culture, it is important to understand what structures are there as I shared earlier in the 3 Team Structure Each Manager must know, and what motivates teams in the Cycle of Motivation.
This is the third and last of the series of Team Management for this year.
Some of the cultural differences that impacts behaviour is observed between two different cultures of colleagues in the UK and India. It is believed that snorting and spitting in public is frowned upon in the UK, whereas in India this behaviour is part of a norm. So when this happens during a virtual meeting set up on video, you can identify peoples’ reactions when such a behaviour takes place. Such difference, no matter how small, impacts the team’s interaction. This is why company’s always develop a corporate culture which is usually the result of the massive pot of diversity that one company consists of. It usually brings to the surface all the shared values that employees have.
Hofstede conducted a research in the twentieth century and determined six cultural dimensions: Power distance, individualism vs collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity vs femininity, long term orientation vs short term orientation, and indulgence vs restraint. Table 1.0 explains the differences of each of the six dimensions as defined by Hofstede.
Table 1.0 Hofstede Cultural Dimensions
So what does the above table illustrates?
Someone operating with a low PDI means they believes in more equal rights than the team members who have a higher PDI. This set up could mean that it is unlikely that the team will face a conflict of authority and responsibility when it comes to sharing the work load.
Let’s translate this into a simple example.
When tasked to lead a meeting, team members with low PDI are most likely to come prepared. Team members high in uncertainty avoidance should encourage a leader to deal with them in a clear and structured approach. An immediate change in a process would highly impact their productivity.
But if we look into the masculinity index, Members with low masculinity index can be counted on them to mitigate and listen in times of conflict. And finally, looking at the long term orientation, the team scoring highest in this index will be the least contributor to any change suggestions. While providing an incentive to motivate the team to come up with innovative ideas that would change the flow of a process for the business, they would be the ones providing the least drastic change. With all these variances, how does the team communicate with each other and ensure that there are no barriers, and messages are always understood?
Project Team Communication
Understanding team structure, motivation, composition, and culture are not the only variables that impact the team’s cohesiveness and performance. Day to day communication, whether verbal, written or in person, adds another layer to collective performance and interaction. To start, communication, in its basic model, consists of a sender and receiver. The sender is responsible for the transmission of the message, in a complete and clear manner. and confirming the communication is correctly understood. The receiver is responsible for ensuring that the entire information is received, understood correctly, and acknowledged or responded to appropriately (PMI, 2013). Figure 1.0 represents the basic communication model.
Figure 1.0 Communication Basic Model
Understanding this basic model helps in ensuring that team members put some effort into their communication. What is also important is for them to understand who their stakeholders are to even communicate better. There are several researches and models established to ensure stakeholders management and communication is enhanced and improved. One methodology is known as the Stakeholder Identification model, and another is known as the DISC model.
Stakeholder identification breaks down the different types of stakeholders into the role they play within a project or a work environment: actor, client, provider, facilitator, governing body and a bystander. The DISC model; however, breaks down personalities into four categories: dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. These four categories have certain behaviours and communication style preference to them. Both models combined can enhance the communication by understanding the requirement of the stakeholders involved and the preferred method of communication. Figure 2.0 shows both models visually.
Figure 2.0 Stakeholder Identification vs DISC Profiling
In an exercise to improve team communication internally and then externally, the team participating in an activity inspired by DISC profiling to give them an indication on their preferred method of communication can prove very helpful. The outcome can always explain the behaviour of the teams communication amongst themselves. It can also shed light on the areas in the organisation they find it difficult to deal with.
Hofstede, G., 1982. Culture’s Consequences, Abridged ed. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA
PMI, (2013) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)–Fifth Edition. US – Kindle Edition, Project Management Institute.
Personality Profile Solutions, 2010. Everything DISC www.discprofile.com