Elisabeth Plum event Event Title 001

PMI Event on September 20th, 2017

Speaker: Elisabeth Plum

Written by Elena Farnè & Amit Singh

Cultural differences and Team culture was the main theme of the PMI Chapter Denmark event on September 20th, 2017. Elisabeth Plum led the event and brought together about 40 participants who met at Rambøll's office in Ørestaden.

In short about the speaker, Elisabeth Plum, PhD in Cultural Sociology from Copenhagen University and a Diploma in Gestalt Psychology, specialising in organisational psychology. Furthermore, she is trained in systemic consultation, conflict resolution and appreciative inquiry. She is an authorised Myers Briggs Type Indicator user. Elisabeth is the programme director of a global programme in cultural intelligence 'Vital Differences' arranged by Middlesex University Business School, London. She has expertise and experience in a number of areas helping management teams to work more efficiently across cultural boarders and personal differences; facilitating processes in companies to deal with the uncertainty of transitions and designing and leading management training programmes. Since 1986 she has been involved with Human Resource Development and Organisational Development, both as an internal consultant with the Danish Railways and as an independent consultant running her own consultancy, working with a broad range of organisations.

The event started with a quick run through on national communication patterns and comparison across different negotiation strategies.Elisabeth divided -broadly in 2 categories

  1. Different cultural challenges
  2. Different generations of team building

The speaker emphasised that teams have 2 ways of working. One which is a "Classical team", characterised by clear goal, pre-define tasks, stable group of experts, members of only one team and the Project Manager has overview and full coordination. The other is "Teams in complexity", characterised by moving development of tasks during the process/goal, members change according to the tasks, members are part of several team-constellations, members contribute with overview and network and where members shall be empowered in this scenario.

Elisabeth further stated that team culture is the factor enabling the individual members to deliver value adding performance. Research on high performing teams shows that an important factor for creating high performance is a team is the way the team communicates, which is their “team culture”. The team culture has the ability to affect the team's performance. 

A company/project is united in a common “we” and at the same time separated by many "differences", e.g. functions, education, professional experience, geography, locations, national background, hierarchy etc. A team leader has to balance this paradox, i.e. "We" vs "Differences".

A team is a culturally complex entity and each individual in the team is a leader of this cultural complexity. Team stereotyping never helps and that they are showstoppers and do not help in overcoming disagreements.

Elisabeth also explained that team differences have to be managed and addressed because differences affect the bottom line and could lead to

  1. Potential problems, misunderstandings, conflicts and lack of contact=unused opportunities
  2. Potential for synergy, development and new solutions

1 & 2 are not due to the differences in themselves but in the way they are seen and managed. A project manager needs to lead differences in a professional way.

Lastly, Elisabeth talked about different generations of team building and focused on the 3rd generation team building. She said that "Team Culture" is an example of 3rd generation team building and that

  • The team culture decides whether the team will deliver value adds.
  • The team culture must fit and support the team’s actual tasks.
  • The ability to perceive and use differences ia a key to high performance and innovative solutions.

After the session, the forum was open for Q&A and the evening ended with a fine networking opportunity for the speaker and the attendees. 

PMI Chapter Denmark would like to thank Elisabeth Plum and the attendees for an engaging evening and a special thanks to Rambøll for supporting this event.

You can access other publications from Elisabeth Plum at: