Daily Archives: July 5, 2008

Culture Matters

Culture Matters. Especially when dealing with overseas suppliers whose native language is not your own. After all, you don’t want to accidentally call your best customer Mr. Stinky Fish Face, do you? (Unless, of course, you’re using UK SuperMarket Negotiating Tactics, in which case, maybe you do.) That’s why a recent article in SourcingMag titled Culture Matters: Communication and Culture Tips for Global Managers caught my eye because, as the article points out, whenever difficulties arise, it’s often due to “communication problems”.

The article had tips for global managers who needed to manage projects, communicate on a personal level, and deal with cross cultural boundaries.

When managing projects, a project manager should:

  • insure a first-rate project management information system is in place
  • integrate project management processes with those of business partners
  • train team members on all aspects of enterprise communication processes


  • Carrier Pigeons won’t get the job done
  • Parallel lines never meet
  • Leaving Bob alone with his trusty fax when the rest of the team has moved to e-mail is asking for trouble

In order to ensure the communication capability is there, a project manager should:

  • assess communication skills as part of the hiring process
  • identify gaps and provide remediation through training and coaching
  • develop team cultures that are self-reflective and self-correcting with regards to interpersonal miscommunications


  • If you’re communicating in English and the best a candidate can muster during the interview is “Me For Job, Yes?”, you’re probably going to have a problem
  • If one of your team members responds “Mr. Roboto” when your Japanese supplier says “domo arigato”, you’ve got a communication breakdown
  • If you have a team of Loud Howards … time for a new team!

To help bridge any cultural communication differences, a project manager should:

  • assure region-specific cross-cultural awareness
  • insure your partner is doing the same
  • involve everyone in cross-cultural training


  • Japan and China might use the same kanji character set, but they don’t speak the same language or have the same culture (and if you confuse them, calling your partner Mr. Stinky Fish Face might be the least of your worries)
  • Make sure they understand that American English is not the Queen’s English … ( unless you want a room full of blank stares if a British counterpart starts using local colloquialisms in a Dallas boardroom )
  • Don’t forget religion awareness if your overseas outsourcing partner has followers of religions with a lot of praying and / or chanting at regular times during the day (so your employees can understand and adapt)