Celebrating cultural differences

By January 29, 2008 December 22nd, 2015 Posts

The software architecture workshop in South Africa has come to an end. Spending a few days in a beautiful game resort close to Sun City, I worked closely with a tiny group of new and old friends from different parts of the world. As in previous editions, we used the open space organizational framework.

bakubungAs usual, we voiced our opinions, listened, tried ideas and shared stories, occasionally challenging but also consistently helping each other.

On the closing comments at the end of the workshop, Jimmy tried to identify the main theme that seemed to emerge from the dialogs and suggested “cultural differences”. I can’t agree more. I was particularly touched by some extreme stories of titanic struggle while working with certain teams and customers due to differences in attitude, values, ethnic group and gender.

At first, I was vividly shocked. In the past, particularly while working as a consultant, I have been deeply involved in some seriously complex projects, where hostile customers, uncooperative teams and blaming cultures seemed to preclude any chance of success from day 1. Yet, I’ve somewhat always managed to reverse the “natural” course and helped teams succeed well beyond anyone’s expectations.

But these new stories forced me to dig deeper and question my own abilities once again. I thought over and over about what gave me strength in those situations. Why didn’t I just quit? Where those new stories all that different from mine?

Maybe. But, at the risk of sounding extremely preachy, here is a thought. There are no quick-fix solutions to these problems but there is a definite path. To get all the support you need, you have to lead by example, respecting each other’s skills and talents, fully trusting everyone and expecting them to meet that trust. Show integrity and passion, be determined to do what’s right and help others to get there as well. This has nothing to do with being nice. It takes a lot more than “being nice” to develop the will, knowledge and skills to move people for the greater good. I know now, more than I ever knew, that my strengths come from the inside, from being (or, rather, trying to be) principle centered.

When I mention how profoundly “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” helped me throughout my personal path, I often hear “Oh, yeah, I read that book” (btw: get the cd first, it is much more effective, imho). But I think most people may not reflect on the hundreds of hours I spent listening to the audio tapes, over and over, learning, teaching to others, and fundamentally reprogramming my behavioral scripts.

I am eternally grateful to those who shared their stories at the workshop; I really wish I could help. I hope to see you again next year, at the latest.

5 Comments