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Managing Difference

The Challenge of Difference

Managing difference will be one of the major problems you'll experience as a Project Manager.

Many people involved in the project will take the view that a project is geared towards meeting their requirements, or will benefit from the approach that they bring. And to a large extent this is true. However, it is incredibly difficult for people to realise how different things look from someone else's perspective.

Your challenge as Project Manager is twofold:

  • To be able to step out of your own perspective and understand how others see the project (and there may be many different perspectives you have to understand)

  • To build an appreciation amongst those involved in the project of all the different perspectives held by everyone else!

Sources of Difference

There can be many sources of difference on a project, such as:

  • Personality
    eg: likes plans - vs - goes with the flow

  • Work culture
    eg: quality focus - vs - suck it and see

  • Responsibilities
    eg: matrix management demanding different things from individuals

  • Expectations
    eg: team members may have been "sold" the project for particular reasons, such as career development

  • National culture
    eg: different nationalities may approach work in different ways
  • Values
    Team members may have differing views of what is important
  • Experience
    There are many different skills and backgrounds in the team, which influence how team members approach the project
  • etc..

Managing Difference

To manage difference in the project team, you need to:

  1. Make them aware of difference
  2. Encourage them to appreciate difference
  3. Resolve differences constructively for the purpose of improving team performance and increasing creativity

You can often achieve (1) and (2) on team workshops. It is often worth getting an experienced facilitator to help you plan and deliver a workshop focusing on the types of differences discussed above.

Resolving differences constructively - 3 - is an ongoing process that you may need to manage in meetings with the the whole team and/or two or more individuals within the team.

The next article in this online course is:

Project Management Training:
Soft Skills Part 12: Communication Techniques
Project Management Training: Soft Skills Tools

Project Management Training



Trust and Rapport


Winning Commitment


Using Power



Small Teams

Group Conflicts

Team Development

Managing Difference


Team Islands

In/Out Groups

Building the wider team

Large Projects

Project Culture

Putting it all together

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©2013 Team Technology. Further articles/resources that may be of interest include: Personality Test, Personality Type Descriptions, Myers Briggs overview, The Basics of Team Building, What Career is Right for Me?, and Career ideas.