Understanding the culture of an organization is critical throughout the duration of the project. The culture of the organization must support the four basic values of project management – cooperation, teamwork, trust, and effective communication. First we must understand that there at least two sets of cultures – the project management culture and the organization culture.
Dr. Kerzner, world-renowned PM expert, has identified five project management cultures. Cooperatives based on internal and external communication and on trust. In non-cooperatives, the interests of the team, company, or customer are placed second to the individual personal interests. In competitive cultures, project teams compete with each other for company resources. The project manager requires more loyalty to the project than to the line manager. Large organizations that allow units to develop their own project management culture are isolated. Projects that have sub-teams in separate geographical locations are fragmented.
There are four common prototypes of corporate cultures: clan, market, hierarchical, and adhocracy. Each of these cultures has their own individual character traits.
Clan cultures use an internal resources to data collecting, and is flexible in its decision-making. They are team-oriented and more focused on accomplishing team goals rather than individual goals. Knowledge sharing is encouraged between managers.
Market cultures are oriented towards the external environment. They emphasize completion, achievement, and quality (Pinto & Trailer, 1998). These cultures use decision-making processes that are highly structured and analytical.
A hierarchical culture follows a bureaucratic form. It has a complex administrative systems set in place to monitor and control operations. Team members follow decision-making processes based on information obtained internally. A few individuals at the top of the hierarchy have control and power over policy and decision-making. External information usually comes from the bottom or middle of the hierarchy, and is filtered as it moves upward.
In an adhocracy culture, decision-making is flexible and based on instinct. Management processes information as a response to external environments. Adhocracy cultures are innovative and successfully introduce new products to the market. They are loosely structured and adapt quickly to changing environments.
As a project manager entering a new culture, you should have an open mind. Past experiences and intuitive perception should used be to gather information about the culture you are in. When you know what type of culture you are working in — both PM and organization, you will know what to expect and can govern yourself accordingly.
Pinto, J. K. & Trailer, J. W. (Eds.) (1998). Leadership Skills for Project Managers. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.
Kerzner, H. (2006). Project Management Best Practices: Achieving Global Excellence. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.