How culture impacts perceptions of performance

This post will document how cultural differences can create a huge gap around the issue of what is the appropriate way to fulfill one’s role.

I have chosen one case study, one Israeli, one German and one American.


An Israeli project manager overseeing the deployment of an infrastructure project in the field of telecommunications now realises that part number 43 has not been ordered; the part will cause a huge delay in “go-live” and negatively impact total project revenue by 5% due to penalties.

All procurement goes through a very well regulated purchasing process, totally controlled by IT technology. “Procurement by the book” of part 43 will take 6 months. Part 43 is needed in two months.

Shai, the Israeli project manager will order  part 43 “outside” of the procurement process (from the same vendor always used)  and issue an email ok’ing to the supplier that the supplier will be paid in full. The Israeli project manager must avoid having a “rosh katan” (small head); avoiding rosh katan means “it is not only important to do YOUR OWN piece, you need to see that the entire job gets done. Obeying orders and following process is a poor excuse”

Johanna from Dusseldorf is Compliance Officer on site. Her role is to ensure process compliance and contract fulfillment. Johanna sees a conflict between process compliance and contract fulfillment, so she has emailed her American boss, asking for his guidance. Johanna has provided a very detailed description of the problem, along with a recommendation of sticking to process at all costs  and having those who erred “face the consequences”. Johanna firmly believes that process compliance is more important than any specific project. Johanna believes that she must only do HER job.

Kevin is the American who managers Mr Cowboy Shai and Ms Rigid Johanna. Kevin believes in process, tainted with pragmatism. He certainly does not like the way that Shai operates, but Shai always delivers. He is glad he has a watchdog like Johanna, and he does not want to demoralise her. Kevin will ensure Johanna that he fully supports her, and “at the same time” ask her to sign off ex post fact, promising this will be the last time. Shai will be publically castigated and yet, he will get a bonus for delivering. Kevin believes in pragmatism.Doing one’s role means being mature, pragmatic and expedient. He does wish Johanna and Shai would have talked between them, but he has given up on this long ago. He does wish all parties would adopt his pragmatic view of doing the job and moving on.

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