Skip to main content

Successful management of international projects: Well prepared is half the battle!

Cultural differences not only present challenges but also great opportunities for companies. However, managing international projects requires thorough preparation.

In June 2024, I was invited to the Austrian Interim Manager Community (DÖIM) regional event in Vienna to share my experiences managing international projects. Regarding strategy development in global corporations, there are many pitfalls that you might not even think about at first glance.

Identical, similar… and yet different!
We humans can’t help it, but if you look closely, not even one lemon is like another! So beware of stereotypes! Stereotypes condense information into generalizations and thus lag behind reality.

„Culture eats strategy for breakfast.“

Peter Drucker

In international companies, women and men from different cultural backgrounds come together in teams. Different perceptions of norms, values, behavior, traditions, and communication styles usually characterize them. Three examples:

Direct communication is valued in many Western countries, such as Germany or Austria. Criticism is expressed openly, meetings are goal-oriented, and efficiency is a top priority. In Japan, however, more emphasis is placed on harmony, and criticism is communicated between the lines.

9 o’clock is not 9 o’clock everywhere…
Time is different everywhere. In Germany and Austria, punctuality is a virtue. 9 o’clock means sitting at your desk at 9 o’clock. In other countries, 9 o’clock is more of a rough guide.

In countries such as China, company hierarchies are extremely pronounced compared to the flat organizational structures in European countries such as the Netherlands. Due to the strong hierarchies in China, decision paths are shorter. In the Netherlands, long coordination processes must be completed to reach a decision.

What is the best way to prepare for an international management project?

My advice: Prepare as thoroughly as possible! Good preparation is essential for project success. Intervention techniques can encourage you to reflect on and change ingrained thought patterns, emotional processes, and action routines. Interventions can initiate solutions, prevent negative processes, and facilitate recovery after crises, but this is only possible if you know your employees and colleagues.

Five tips for managing companies with different cultures

  • Before starting a project, learn all you can about the culture and background of your project partners.
  • Take a close look at the culture and its influences.
  • Develop an understanding of your project partners‘ different cultures of origin and take responsibility.
  • Communicate the need and your role in a way that encourages a willingness to change within the company.
  • Continuously monitor your initiated processes and adapt your approach if necessary.

Be prepared to avoid or quickly clarify cultural misunderstandings to promote harmonious collaboration.

Especially in complex projects, having a person who understands and can mediate between different cultures can be helpful. Cultural differences not only present challenges but can also offer great opportunities for companies. The diversity of perspectives leads to more creative solutions and a deeper understanding of global markets. In the end, we are all pursuing the same goal: to be successful!

I am happy to support you with my expertise in international corporate management.

Gemeinsam neue Wege finden
Mutig denken – Wandel wagen
Alexander d´Huc