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Cultural Intelligence & Project Management: Do You Recognize Your Expectations?

One of the most vital areas where the cultural intelligence difference plays out in the area of project management is around managing expectations.


Expectations are often assumed as they are culturally embedded and therefore less easy to identify, understand and openly discuss across multicultural teams.


Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working with team leaders across several industries in Taiwan and the APAC region with varying pain points, leading to heartfelt questions (often asked indirectly or over a long period of time) in search of actionable solutions, for example:


- Why does my boss at global headquarters get annoyed when I present a long, detailed report of all the steps that I’ve taken throughout the project?


- Are my North American teammates lazy? If not, why do they have so much time for social talk and why does the boss allow it?


- Why do the North American and EMEA teams keep changing the plan instead of just following what was decided from the start?


- We've got our execution down, but why is it so hard to contribute when it comes to a less structured creative brainstorming process?


- Why do our Western coworkers need to speak up and share their ideas all the time instead of just focusing on getting the strategy and timeline down?


The solutions that we've explored around these have varied depending on their industry, professional experience, and international exposure. One common point is this:

✨ Begin with an understanding of your own cultural values, and how they may impact the reactions you’re having to your own project management expectations. ✨


💡 Two questions that are very helpful to ask yourself when starting off with revolve around strategy & action in Cultural Intelligence:


1. Can you plan for differences before interacting with a team or leader from a different corporate or national culture? (CQ Strategy)


2. What’s your level of flexibility when encountering cultural behaviors and preferences of these teams, leaders, or organizations? (CQ Action)



🌊 When approaching a body of water, some people will simply take a look and jump right in. Others will evaluate carefully and take careful steps before entering or ask questions and need detailed information before making a decision.


The ‘best way’ will be obvious once the results are clear, so in the meantime, the most culturally - and emotionally - intelligent response to these varying approaches is to understand, respect, and be flexible in accommodating them as well as explicitly talking through and deciding upon expectations. After all, '條條大路通羅馬'/ 'All roads lead to Rome.'

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