Critical Success Factors for the Management of Projects in Multicultural Environments

Author: Fourie, Stephan
Supervisor: Professor Erik Schmikl
Date: September 2006

The successful completion of projects has traditionally been measured against three fundamental project management principles, namely adherence to time, cost and quality requirements and was based on the assumption that project teams always reside in one location and consist of members from similar cultural groupings. Over the years these assumptions have become invalid as globalisation became an increasingly significant driving force of many organisations in their attempts to achieve their business goals – one of which is the ability to execute projects beyond national borders and local time zones. Project teams are subsequently fast becoming culturally more diverse and are no longer restricted to a single geographical location. Advances in Information and Communications Technology have made it possible for project teams to execute projects from anywhere in the world. As a result, other factors have started to impact the traditional criteria for project success. The objective of this study is to determine the extent to which cultural diversity (within the project team and among project teams and customers) affects the successful completion of projects and subsequently to formulate critical success factors for the execution of projects in multi-cultural environments.

The research was undertaken by means of a questionnaire, and project managers from all Dimension Data regions worldwide were invited to share their experiences in the management of multi-cultural projects.

Based on the findings of the research undertaken the following critical success factors have been identified: An awareness and recognition of cultural diversity as an emergent reality within the realm of modern-day project management, comprehensive knowledge of specific cultures relating to the performing organisation’s multi-national projects, extensive due diligence studies of all organisations in foreign countries earmarked to operate as local partners (representatives) of the performing organisation, cultural diversity training for project managers, adequate language proficiency in the selected project language, carefully planned logistics, properly defined project communication policy, properly formulated dispute resolution policy, the identification and involvement of suitable stakeholders and decision makers (at management / executive level), clearly defined project roles and responsibilities (at project level), and advanced Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure.