Does culture really matter?

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If you don’t put effort into understanding the organisational culture in which you’re trying to deliver a project, you’re asking for problems.  However with constant pressure to deliver more with less, and to do so quicker, how much time can you really spend on thinking about culture?

At the end of the day isn’t ‘culture’ just another way of identifying a group?  A way to pigeon-hole, pre-judge, and assume things about other people? Aren’t ‘Group-think’ and ‘Conspiracy of Optimism’ a result of culture? After all, it’s an individual that completes the work...

I’m dealing with others in the organisation on a one-to-one basis and we’re both adults; hopefully we’ll be able to make a mutually beneficial agreement to help improve the chances of delivery.  Regardless of where you’re from (even in the widest possible meaning) what matters most is how you manage and deliver, and it is essential that we trust each other to do our bit. 

But I believe that a mutual trust stems from a common cultural understanding. Having an idea of values and beliefs that we may share, or knowing where we may be in conflict (leading to frequently described cultural risk) helps anticipate behavior and supports effective communication – and because of this, understanding the culture of any and all stakeholders, including your wider organisation, is essential.


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Posted by Alastair Smart on 20th Jan 2012

About the Author
I'm a full member of the APM and was previously a People SIG committee member. I am also a PMI member and certified PMP, and a Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) Practitioner. I have supported MoD Project Teams within the Submarine and Land Equipment Operating Centres, including work to improve project management culture as part of a major change management project; and am currently working in Ottawa supporting the Canadian DND (Maritime Equipment Program Management) organisation.

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