Demography, Ethnicity, and Socio-cultural Factors in Project Management

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Demography, Ethnicity, and Socio-cultural Factors in Project Management
C.L. Kappagomtula, Professor, Malaysia

While there are volumes of books available on project management, very few discuss how demography, ethnicity and socio-cultural factors influence on projects outcome.
An empirical study recently conducted into this phenomenon in China, and comparing it with India, has shown that the profound influence of personal connection (guanxi), face (mianzhi), and ethnographic bonding (minzhu de jing mi jie he) all play an important role in determining the success outcome for their projects in China vis-a-vis with India.
Can these practices be be emulated in other countries to harness an increased efficiency in projects outcome?

The Role of Demography, Ethnicity, and Socio-cultural Factors in Project Management
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Dear Professor, thanks for sharing this truly interesting subject. Could you please add a short summary of each of these 3 Chinese practices and their relation with PM? Ideal would be if you could add one of them per reaction.
This will be the start of a collection of such demographic, ethnic, and socio-cultural project management practices here in this discussion...

Guanxi or Personal Connection
C.L. Kappagomtula, Professor, Malaysia
Guanxi, in simplified Chinese means personal connection.
- In western management concepts, this is not an issue dealt with significance.
- But for the Chinese, who are still under the influence of Confucian analects (teaching of the 'mythical' Chinese philosopher) for most of their management practices, this occupies an important position.

Guanxi to any Chinese is a precursor, before they can even think of any venture business. First build the rapport with the other party, before you can contemplate doing any business is their idea of initiating the business with the opposite party.
Chinese believe that for any successful venture, both heart and soul must be put by both the transacting parties in the deals.
If for any reason, one party fails to reciprocate in building this rapport, that venture / business will be dropped by the other no matter, what amount of financial loss or lost opportunity cost lies behind the deal.
Almost all the large ventures undertaken in China are based on the so called extensive build of 'Guanxi networks', which operate in a seamless manner amongst the Chinese society members.

Linked to Cultural Intelligence
Gwande, Project Manager, Zimbabwe
This issue is linked to Cultural Intelligence.
What Professor said is very true also in the African context and also for very religious nations like the Muslims.
If projects have an impact on their social being, their beliefs, and norms, it faces resistance.
In Africa there are churches which teach against eating pork. If in a social / humanitarian setting you introduce a pig rearing project in such a community, whether as a business, or for consumption, no one will like the project.
The red cross society in the Muslim countries had to change its name to red crescent society.

The Role of Demography, Ethnicity and Socio-cultural Factors in Project Management
Jacques Broquet, Project Manager, Australia
The sex of the project manager (PM) is a key determinant in some countries where men will not take any instructions from a female PM.
In addition, socio-cultural differences are playing a key role where anglo-saxons will be very result-focused whereas in other countries, people will take more time establishing personal connections, and analysing the situation and the options.
Socio-cultural differences are critical in successfully delivering projects as the PM needs to understand how his/her team members and sponsors will react and behave.

Culture Context in PM
Rakesh Gudur, Strategy Consultant, India
It is very important to understand the cultural context in which a manager operates. If not projects can fail. M&As can fail (80% of the M&A fail because of culture issues.
Dr. Geert Hofstede offers a five dimensional framework for cultural evaluation.

Culture Has Profound Impact on the Outcome of Projects
C.L. Kappagomtula, Professor, Malaysia
The book titled, "Multi currency savings - Culture and Society's impact on Projects Management: Chinese Perspective", ISBN 978-3-659-19458-0 by Dr. Kappagomtula, throws a great deal of light on the subject matter. The three core factors for Chinese Projects' spectacular successes can be attributed to Guanxi, the Personal Relations, Mianzi, the Face concept, and Minzhu de jing mi jie he, the Ethnographic factor.
All these three things are vividly explained with substantiation of literature survey on them, right from the era of Confucius. What is argued in the book is the core fact that for successful projects implementation apart from meticulous processes of projects life cycle, some other, cultural elements do play dominant roles. These cultural factors act as a cohesive force of the project team, and create a great deal of synergy, and bring out the 'pride factor' for successful 'finesse' of the projects. The author further suggests that these could be emulated by other countries in the world to get success.


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