Project Management is defined by PMI as “

Project Management is defined by PMI as “…the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to
project activities to meet the project requirements” and they continue with the PMI specific description that
“Pproject management is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of 47 logically grouped
project management processes, …” (PMI, p. 5).13
The question of what makes a project successful, or even what “successful” means, is debated and varies
depending on the stakeholders’ perspective and cultural background. 14 15 According to PMI project success
“…should be measured in terms of completing the project within the constraints of scope, time, cost, quality,
resources, and risk as approved between the project managers and senior management” (PMI, p. 35). Project
performance on the other hand can be defined as the degree to which the project remains within these boundaries or
baselines.13 Success factors are those factors that contribute to the successful project completion within the project’s
constraints. Cooke-Davies identifies 12 success factors for project management in general. His ninth factor describes
the process of delivering benefits to the project customer as critical.16
The authors agree with Cooke-Davies’ view that success factors for project management are “…those inputs to
the management system that lead directly or indirectly to the success of the project or business…” (Cooke-Davies,
2002, p. 185). Building on this the authors would like to conceive impact factors as those inputs that either positively
or negatively influence the successful integration of project customers from diverse national cultures. For the
remainder of this article this will be the working definition of impact factors.

There is little agreement on a definition of culture among scholars and practitioners. For the remainder of this
article culture shall be defined according to Hofstede and Trompenaars/Hampden-Turner. “Culture … is the
collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from
another. Culture is learned, not innate. It derives from one’s social environment rather than one’s genes.” (Hofstede,
p. 6)18
This definition of culture, given by Geerd Hofstede, summarizes the major aspects of this complex topic. It may
be complemented with the following: “Our own culture is like water to a fish. It sustains us. We live and breathe
through it. … a fish only discovers its need for water when it is no longer in it.” (Trompenaars and Hampden-
Turner, p. 27)19 Trompenaars’ and Hampden-Turner’s complementary definition of culture displays how the cultural
predisposition of a person impacts on the overall perception of cultural differences.
This paper focuses on national culture. Organizational, professional, or ethnical cultures are important factors in
project management, but could not be included because this would exceed the predefined length of this paper. The
terms intercultural and cross-cultural will be used synonymously in this paper.

In order to elaborate on whether the identified factors can be found in real world projects and in search of
additional impact factors for engaging intercultural customers, a qualitative empirical inquiry was developed. It was
decided to create a semi-structured interview guide with the purpose of identifying intercultural challenges that
project managers encounter when dealing with project customers. A structured interview would not have allowed
asking the kind of open-ended questions that are necessary in order to see how national culture impacts the
relationship between project and client. An unstructured interview would have lacked the focus that is necessary to
investigate the specific question that is the topic of this article. The semi-structured interview gives the interviewer
the possibility to follow new strains of thought and ideas during the interview and hence to uncover additional
information regarding the integration of project customers.26 For the development of the interview guide the authors
considered the potential problems when interviewing project managers or other stakeholders presented by Myers
(2013; pp.125-126).27

During the interview the above focal questions were complemented by deepening and probing questions. For the
purpose of this article the responses to only these two sets of questions were analyzed.
In order to reduce the risk of misunderstanding the interviews were conducted with the richest medium available,
which included face-to-face interviews, video and teleconferencing and phone calls. The interview guide included
questions that smoothened the entry into the conversation so that both parts shared personal information before the
formal interview started. This was in order to improve trust among the conversation partners, which was additionally
fostered by assuring to all interviewees that their information will be recorded for scientific purposes only. Project
managers are usually among the busiest employees in companies, therefore the authors had to ensure that the
interview would not exceed 90 minutes. Elite and self-selection bias are problems that all qualitative researchers
face.27 The interviewees were selected from the authors’ extended professional networks on networking platforms
like Xing and LinkedIn or resulted from snowballing techniques. During the development of the interview guide the
interviewer took great care not to introduce any theoretical ideas that would distort the report of the interviewee.
During the testing phase the guide was revised three times and during the interviewing phase another four versions
with smaller adjustments were produced. The interview guide was translated into three languages in order to give interviewees the possibility to speak in a familiar language. The selection criteria for interviewees were the