The culture and values competence element describes the individual’s approach to influence on the organisation’s culture and values and the wider society in which the project is situated. It also includes the acknowledgement by the individual participating in or leading a project of the consequences of these cultural influences for the project and how to incorporate this knowledge in the management of the project. Culture may be defined as a set of related behaviours within a community and the importance that individuals within the community attach to it. Values may be defined as a set of concepts on which the individuals in the community base their actions. Explicit definitions of values might include codes of ethics. Many organisations also describe corporate values explicitly in their strategy.
The purpose of this competence element is to enable the individual to recognise and integrate the influence of internal and external cultural aspects on the project approach, objectives, processes, sustainability of the outcomes and agreed outcomes.
Organisations are social systems, where personal behaviour is embedded in a social context of shared values, visions, norms, symbols, beliefs, habits, goals, etc — in short, a culture. This culture has formal, explicit origins and aspects (such as the organisation’s explicit mission and corporate values) as well as informal, more implicit aspects (such as beliefs, common practices, etc). Moreover, every organisation operates in a society, which also has a specific culture (and possibly subcultures) including values, norms, symbols, beliefs, habits, etc. All these cultural aspects affect the way the people within that society, organisation and project interact with each other and all other internal and external stakeholders. Projects are often integral parts of the parent organisation(s) and at the same time projects are temporary organisations, which need their internal culture to be aligned with external cultures (external adaptation and internal integration). In the domain of project management, the individual may be called upon to align the project with the organisational culture and values. In a multi-cultural project, the individual may need to navigate multiple cultural and value norms.
Culture and value alignment is even more crucial for projects that extend across different societies, organisations or groups, thereby forming a multi-cultural environment. Before starting a project, and periodically after that, the individual needs to acknowledge the relevant culture(s) within the internal and external context of the project and the organisation. The individual has to align (and periodically re-align) the project’s culture to these in order to reach the goals and objectives in the most effective and efficient way. If available, results of researches, internal or external standards, regulations or guidelines (e.g. governance principles, codes of conduct) for aligning the cultures may be used. Projects are sometimes explicitly set up to change organisational culture and value sets. Lessons learned at the end of a project could be used to improve the culture alignment in future projects.
Key competence indicators
Assess the culture and values of the society and their implications for the project
All projects are embedded in a society (sometimes even in more than one). The society’s values and unwritten rules can deeply influence the way in which communication is executed and decisions are made. It can also influence how transgressions from the common norm are judged and dealt with; it can define or influence working hours and how, when, where and with whom information, office space and meals can be shared, etc. The individual needs a working knowledge of the cultural basis, values and norms of the society or societies in which the project takes place. The individual should be able to discern the relevant implications of these cultural aspects for the project, take these into account in the approach and periodically review them.
- Knows and acknowledges the cultural values, norms and demands of a society
- Knows, acknowledges and understands the implications of cultural values, norms and demands for the project
- Works according to societal cultural demands and values without compromising personal values
Align the project with the formal culture and corporate values of the organisation
All projects need to be aligned with the values of the organisation and have to follow the formal cultural rules and demands of related functional departments or support units and the culture of superordinate projects and strategic decision-making bodies. Sometimes the espoused values are written down in one or more documents (for instance mission statement, quality policy, or corporate values). The individual should be able to discern the relevant implications of these cultural aspects for the project and take these into account in the approach. Moreover, the individual needs to be sure that the project supports the sustainable development of the organisation, which also includes corporate social responsibility (CSR).
CSR is a lever of control in complying with legal and non-governmental regulations, professional standards and other ethical and international norms. Through CSR an organisation encourages a positive impact on its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the society.
- Acknowledges and respects the organisation’s formal norms and demands
- Knows and applies the organisation’s corporate values and mission
- Knows and applies the quality policy of an organisation
- Acknowledges the implications of formal norms, demands, corporate values and mission and quality policy for the project
- Acts sustainably by practising corporate social responsibility
Assess the informal culture and values of the organisation and their implications for the project
All projects are linked to an organisation (or more than one) with its own informal culture. While the formal aspects of the organisational culture can have a significant influence, many more aspects also influence an organisation’s culture or subcultures. These include its architecture, furniture, dress codes, office jokes, etc. Assumptions are deeply embedded, usually unconscious behaviours, such as the way people address and treat each other (including subordinates and managers), how problems and challenges are dealt with and the tolerance for mistakes or irregular behaviour, all resulting from the history and cultural background of the organisation, its employees and its management. The individual should analyse the cultural basis of the organisation(s) for and in which the project takes place. The individual should be able to discern the relevant implications of these cultural aspects for the project and take these into account in his or her approach.
- Acknowledges, analyses and respects the informal culture and values of the organisation(s)
- Identifies the implications of the organisation’s informal culture and values for the project, in conformity with the organisation’s informal values and norms