The Importance of Culture in Project Management Success

company culture

Every organization has a unique company culture. Even a business that appears very similar to others in the marketplace has its own blend of corporate values, maturity, and personality that set it apart. Culture wields wide influence, from shaping the company’s workforce to determining how collaborations are formed.

Company Culture

Company culture also has a heavy hand in project success, something that can create either opportunities or challenges for PMs as they guide initiatives from the planning phase through execution.

Below are just a handful of areas where culture often sets project teams up for success or failure.


Some companies have terrible internal communication habits. It’s surprisingly common in this age of e-mail and document management software that organizations still have a culture of secrecy.

If the business environment treats communication as an inconvenience rather than a tool, department heads may purposely withhold data as a way of retaining control and power over their groups. Others may simply be so inured to the silos that exist all around them that they don’t recognize or care that someone else would find their information useful.

Only a culture that supports and encourages healthy communication channels can overcome the fear, indifference, and inattention that prevents project teams from gathering and sharing the data they need to move a project to a successful completion.

Stakeholder engagement and sponsor support

Silos do more than just hamper good communications. They making it extraordinarily difficult to gain and sustain strong support from sponsors and other stakeholders. Any time the culture of a business tolerates silos, it’s not uncommon that competing priorities exist between the various departments. They may even have trouble coming together under a unified project management strategy. When the environment is too disconnected, PMs may not be able to get high-level sponsors to cooperate or provide the critical support necessary to secure enough resources to execute the project.

Performance improvement

Organizations often say they want to improve their operations. However, some never go any further than talking about getting better. When it comes to actually examining past project performance and developing a strategy to enhance their results, they simply put on the brakes. Why? Money, time, and ego are common underlying factors.

Executives may balk at conducting a review of how well previous projects were executed. Their concerns typically revolve around the need to dedicate staff to this function, as it could lessen the resources available to launch new projects in the near term.

A lack of understanding may also come into play. It’s possible the senior management team assumes their company’s skilled PM will already know how to spot opportunities for improvement as part of their daily responsibilities.

Even a PM who’s vocal about wanting to deliver a better return on the company’s project investment may not make much progress. If the culture doesn’t prioritize continuous improvement efforts, then the business will never allocate the time or resources to implement the necessary changes and achieve better results.

Skills, tools, and infrastructure

Every business wants a project team that’s competent and experienced. However, the skills needed to drive a project to the finish line go beyond core project management competencies. Not only do team members need to be experienced in their own functional areas, the company should also be proactive about ensuring they have the tools and infrastructure in place to help them bring different parts of the organization together in support of the project. A culture that discourages political strife and infighting—one that genuinely champions the notion of working as a team toward a common set of goals—is vital in achieving consistent project success.


PMAlliance, Inc offers project management consultingproject management training and projecportfolio management services.