Living with diverse culture in Virtual Projects


Hello! This short video from Scatterwork focuses on living diverse culture in virtual projects and presents three survival hints.

The first is to recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch between, for example, people in different offices in different countries or different parts of the world is very, very high.

I’ve got here seven features that you might have which are different between two different offices, for example different delays between speaker and response.

In some cultures, when you speak you have to wait until the other person is finished and then you answer. And if you don’t they get a bit annoyed. But in other cultures the response comes and people talk at the same time. If these response habits don’t match, then you can have an uncomfortable situation.

Or maybe they use different dialing codes for telephone for international codes or different ways of writing the number down with plus and zero and so on.

May be different times of the year for changing between winter and summer time (that’s between winter time and daylight saving time). If it’s not at the same time of year you have a chance that meetings will not work properly because the time coordination wasn’t good.

So I’ve got seven features that may differ between two offices. Just imagine that there were five options for each of these, then we have have seven times by 5, that is 5 by 5 and so on combinations that could occur between these two offices, 78,000.

The point is that there are so many different options that you’ve got a good chance of hitting one of them and of course you always hit it by mistake.

So then the next survival hint is if this happens not to react immediately to an unexpected response. If you get something you don’t expect and you react immediately then you have a good chance the other person will not be very comfortable. But if on the other hand you delay your response,, they might think “why isn’t he answering?”. A delay is less likely to end up in a conflict situation.

And I remember one time long ago presenting an unexpected situation to a friend of mine and instead of reacting, he just stopped for a few seconds and then he said “…………..O.K.”.

By doing it that way you avoid the row.

And then the third survival hint is to introduce extra process steps for improved reliability. For example don’t just rely on an email
“please send me so-and-so” but then follow it up with a phone call and read through the email together and listen.

It may be that was said or what was written down wasn’t exactly what you thought or maybe maybe the right thing was written down in you misinterpreted it. So by having two steps you have a
better chance of compensating for this complexity.

So there you have it: three things:

one is recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch are very, very, very high;

and then if you get some sort of funny response or something you’re not expecting, wait give yourself a bit of time before reacting;

and then the third one is to introduce extra process steps for reliability. Don’t overdo it but don’t assume that what works in the single culture environment will actually also work in a multicultural environment.

So if you’re interested in discussing your own project issues, please connect with me by any of the usual methods: through the website at, newsletter, LinkedIn, telephone, email and so on.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.


Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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