International companies are said to have a very strong culture. In fact, this is mandatory not only to motivate employees but also for offsetting cultural differences coming from different countries.

Even in Europe where cultural differences are supposed to be smaller, bridging cultural differences is important. As an illustration although it may appear as a cliché, different cultures such as Italian and German do not have the same approach regarding work. For example, efficiency is favored in Germany, spending less time at work whereas commitment is measured in Italy through long hours. Another example is the way work is organized: in Germany structured plans are preferred whereas they are viewed as a lack of creativity in Italy. Management is also perceived differently: considered more like a coordination role in Germany opposed to a leading role in Italy. If no one tries to bridge these differences, a mixed team will soon be impacted by these divergent views.

Cultural differences are influencing the way a company is organized and run. These differences are impacting companies on all levels: on the entire company, on managers, on teams as well as on projects.

Company wise, the company’s culture must be very strong to be able to offset cultural differences coming from various countries. If not there is no common ground for basic things like work hours, signs of commitment, …

Even if a strong corporate culture is in place, on a managerial level, managers have to understand and respect those cultural differences otherwise, they will be less efficient or fail. There is a limit to what you can force people to do. Respect is not straightforward in heterogeneous environments: a common behavior is to reject what is different.

From a team management perspective, diversity is a constraint but can also be a clear advantage if managed smartly. The art of management is using resources in the best possible way; in an heterogeneous environment this is made even more difficult as differences among people are wider. Therefore, identifying the best fit between people and tasks is more difficult but can be truly rewarding if a manager pays sufficient attention to differences.

Cultural differences also influence politics and consequently projects and project governance: depending on the culture, visibility is not always given to the same projects. In some organizations, business cases will be the main driver trying to maximize the value/cost ratio. For others strategy and long term plan may play a stronger role, for others a country can also be in the driving seat, …

Managing diversity does not mean that there is no common ground: vision and strategy are key to motivate teams: even from different backgrounds, understanding together what we are aiming at has been a powerful lever for success. Of course diversity is making this exercise more difficult as the vision and its implementation have to be translated and adapted to each culture.