Have you ever thought about the similarities between a pot of yogurt and an ERP project? Surprisingly, they both share a common factor: given enough time, they both grow a culture. In the realm of global Microsoft Dynamics deployments, understanding and respecting diverse cultures is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a crucial pillar for success.
Creating a Project Culture
In the vast discipline of Organizational Change Management (OCM), project leaders face numerous decisions:
Stakeholder Engagement: Identifying and engaging stakeholders is key.
Management Styles: Choosing effective management and meeting styles is critical.
Training and Support: Implementing the right training and support for seamless integration.
While these aspects are essential, our focus for this blog is on the cultural intricacies of global projects, where Dynamics projects often originate from an organization’s headquarters and extend into subsidiary countries.
Assessing Cultural Diversity
Early in a project, it’s vital to gauge the cultural diversity within the organization. A project spanning the U.S., Brazil, Vietnam, Belarus, and Japan would be highly diverse, while one from the U.K. to Denmark and South Africa might be less so. Understanding and managing this diversity is paramount for success.
Understanding how well an organization navigates cultural dynamics is crucial. For instance, a project within a behemoth like Microsoft is likely to encounter fewer internal cultural hurdles. Organizations often adopt ERP systems to streamline processes across subsidiaries, especially those acquired recently or operating in different markets, brands, or lines of business. In our ERP implementation experiences, we frequently find ourselves at the forefront, introducing novel processes to an organization. This integration becomes intricately tied to the organization’s politics, with Organizational Change Management (OCM) playing a pivotal role.
When dealing with a relatively diverse project and an organization that hasn’t extensively managed such diversity, investing even a modest effort can yield substantial benefits. Some organizations may already have established practices, such as travel guides or individuals adept at accommodating visitors. In cases where such resources are absent, designating a member of the local team as a cultural ambassador or tour guide can serve as an invaluable point of reference, covering various essential aspects.
Bridging the Cultural Gap
Assuming a project is culturally diverse, and the organization doesn’t already manage it effectively, investing a modest amount of effort can yield significant benefits. Here’s how:
Research the Basics:
- Learn common greetings and communication styles.
- Familiarize yourself with language basics to show effort and respect, e.g. handshake, bow or introducing yourself, please and thank you.
- Check the internet or AI for cultural considerations of the countries concerned.
- Understand local food preferences and dietary restrictions, including those of belief (e.g. Kosher).
- Respect different meal times and eating habits.
Working Hours and Beliefs:
- Adapt to local working hours and holidays. Here is a handy meeting time planning tool and there are others similar. Meeting Planner – Find best time across Time Zones (timeanddate.com)
- Be aware of cultural beliefs and norms, including dress codes. It could also be worth speaking to the business host about what applies in the Organization you are working with.
Meetings and Travel:
- Align with acceptable expense policies.
- Consider local transport options and accommodation preferences.
It can be surprising what is considered normal in some countries is different in others. Some of the more surprising stand out differences we have seen are below.
- Transport Management (especially outbound)
- Sales Invoicing and debt collecting norms both legal and local
- Regulatory compliance
- Vendor payment frequencies and processes
- On a special or first visit it can be worthwhile exchanging small cultural gift items.
- Some cultural differences are not country or faith bases, but simply respecting the individual’s personal preferences.
Conclusion: A Little Goes a Long Way
In the world of global Microsoft Dynamics deployments, acknowledging and adapting to diverse cultures is not just about being courteous; it’s a strategic necessity. Whether you’re the visitor or the host, a little effort to understand and respect cultural nuances can pave the way for smoother collaboration and project success.
Understanding cultural nuances for large project deployments is our DynamicsPacts and our members specialty and have teams across the world. Our tried and tested methodology of Dynamics project implementations coupled with our diverse teams gives us the edge in this area of expertise.