Multiculturalism in Project Management
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MULTICULTURALISM IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT
The contemporary issue in project management that will be under scrutiny is the multicultural nature of modern-day projects. The rationale behind the choice of this issue is that the 21st Century businesses have increasingly become global in nature. The rapid economic development in most parts of the world is one of the factors that have accelerated globalization.
Consequently, businesses have expanded into new markets in different parts of the world. Globalization has also encouraged free movement of people around the world as they search for better opportunities. Furthermore, the rapid advancement that has been made in telecommunication technology has increased the level of connectivity of the world. As a result, modern projects have become international. The project teams that manage modern projects are people from different geographical locations resulting in cultural friction. The purpose of this literature review is to shed light on the subject by revisiting scholarly articles on the subject.
Masiello (2009, p. 499) identifies culture as a critical success factor in project management. The study considers national culture and not professional or organizational culture. Thus, the basis of this research is on the work of several other scholars. However, the authors concentration is more on Hofstedes work that discusses the four dimensions of the business-culture relationship. These models include Turner and Halls Compass Model, Collectivism and individualism, femininity versus masculinity and the avoidance of uncertainty; and power distance dimension (Masiello 2009, p. 499).
The conceptual framework that guided the research paper was that the 21st Century life has become increasingly global. The study’s outcomes confirm earlier research in a limited fashion. That is, most of the early research studies focused on culture and project management as separate entities rather than combining them in the context of globalization. Viewing these two aspects as one contributes to both practice and theory of the discipline by developing the project management integration model. A major limitation of the study regards the fact that the sample size used was small. It consisted of only fifteen participants. Moreover, the study was limited to only three regions, namely; India, North America, and Europe. That introduces the question of validity and generalizability of the results. Another limitation is that the participants were all experts. There were no lower cadre employees who would introduce a different perspective on the research problem.
Masiello (2009, p. 499) looks at cultural issues affecting project managers from a project management perspective. The basis of the research is on the premise that different people originating from differing cultures will comprehend project management issues differently from one another. That is relative to the three constraints which are cost, scope, and schedule. For this reason, Masiello (2009, p. 501) asserts that the cultural background of an individual will affect the way an individual perceives the nine knowledge areas of project management. For instance, this study concludes that regarding matters of project integration, people from individualist, patriarchal, masculine or even collectivist backgrounds will react to issues of gender or hierarchy differently. Moreover, Masiello (2009, p. 501) posits that people bear differing attitudes towards time so that in the Western culture, time is considered money. Other cultures consider time as life. Relative to the human resources employed in the execution of a project, people will perceive relationships differently since factors such as communication and language differ.
Nordgren and Johansson (2015, p. 4) discuss multicultural teams as the point of intersection between leadership, culture, communication and decision making. The highlight of this article is that participating in and understanding the processes of exchanging cultural information as a result of intercultural communication among people from different cultures is instrumental in enhancing positive relationships among team members as well as their productivity. Nordgren and Johansson (2015, p. 4) believe that the foundation values, preferences and beliefs of an individual about the meaning of life from within the boundaries of his or her culture. Thus, it starts with his or her childhood among peers and family members. Consequently, when people start working together in a multicultural team, they come with their values, preferences, and beliefs so that they will judge one another by their culture. Without proper mechanisms, cultural friction will occur increasing the risk of conflict.
Nordgren and Johansson (2015, p. 7) agree that effectively utilizing cross-cultural project teams can be a source of diverse experience and innovative thinking that can improve the potential for project success ultimately providing the organization with a competitive edge. Failure to manage the cultural differences carefully could cause conflict which can prevent the successful completion of the project. The modern day project management environment demands that team managers ought to be culturally sensitive so as to avert cultural misunderstandings increasing the efficiency of the team in achieving organizational goals (Nordgren and Johansson 2015, p. 7). The managers can enhance their cultural sensitivity by ensuring that they promote respect, motivation, and creativity within the team through utilizing a flexible style of leadership. A good leadership style is one way a project manager can prevent conflict in his or her project team. If a leader uses participative or democratic leadership, he or she encourages the team members to work together towards making appropriate decisions for the group. That will ultimately boost the bond between the team members as they will gain a sense of belonging.
From an overall perspective, the study conducted by Nordgren and Johansson is significant since it highlights the relationship between the four items: culture, communication, decision-making and leadership within a cross-cultural team. The primary finding of the study was that culture constitutes components such as attitudes, values, customs and beliefs (Nordgren and Johansson 2015, p. 1). They are the foundation that determines the future behavior of an individual since it is linked to the manner in which people judge others within a cross-cultural team. The study also contributes towards the definition of the role that the leader plays in guiding his or her team members towards achieving a common vision. Moreover, it teaches that the leader plays a role in promoting behavior that works towards building confidence and trust among team members as well as causing a change of attitude.
Linus, Liu and Zhang (2013, p. 339) discuss some of the problems that can be experienced within a cross-cultural team and how a manager can effectively guide his or her team successfully. The paper prescribes strategies that can be used by managers to cope with these challenges. One of the issues involves communication, expression and language. The success of cross-cultural teams is heavily dependent on the quality of communication among the team members (Linus, Liu and Zhang 2013, p. 339). While each team member may be able to speak and understand English, language differences might cause misinterpretations. The use of certain colloquialisms and slang may not be understood causing misinterpretations. Misra identifies that teamwork is a collective effort that requires each player to comprehend the direction of the discussion. It is the role of the leader to encourage the team members to aim for clarity in any form of communication involved. Otherwise, the effectiveness of the team will be in peril.
Nannestad et al. (2014, p. 546) conducted a study with the intention of investigating the interaction between trust and culture within the international project environment. Understanding the effect of culture on the trust-building process was the rationale of the study. Nannestad et al. (2014, p. 546) posit that culture and trust share a cyclical relationship. On the one hand, trust affects the level of change that culture is ready to experience. For instance, consider an organization implementing cultural re-engineering processes. If the level of trust between the organizations management and the employees is low, the resistance to the change will be more rendering it difficult to implement the change. However, an organization with an open door policy and participative leadership styles will have a more trusting employer-employee relationship. In that business environment, implementing a cultural change will be easier owing to the low change resistance.
On the other hand, culture impacts the trust building processes of an organization. Some cultures bear a natural resentment to one another such as the Chinese and Western cultures because of opposing ideals Nannestad et al. (2014, p. 549). The Chinese resent the American culture because of their freedom ideals. Being hierarchical in nature, the success of the Chinese system depends on every member performing his or her part. The resentment increases the risk of conflict between team members and thus reduces the possibility of these people to trust one another (Nannestad et al. 2014, p. 546). The findings of this study are instrumental towards the improvement of the effectiveness of the project teams. It is, therefore, necessary for team managers to ensure that they comprehend the potential cultural limitations that could prevent the trust from brewing among team members.
Globalization has increasingly led to increased cultural diversity within organizations. As such, project teams are continually becoming more and more culturally diverse. The potential effects of cultural diversity can be either positive or negative. It will be positive in situations where a team consisting of members from diverse cultural backgrounds can work together effectively as a unit towards the achievement of set goals. Cultural diversity can also be negative in the sense that there is no effective communication between the team members leading to misunderstandings and misinterpretation. Conflicts will result reducing the effectiveness of the team. The literature illuminates on the multicultural nature of projects today in a bid to create awareness to the concerned parties on how culture is a critical success factor for projects today.
Linus Chieh-Yu, Y, Liu, X, & Zhang, J 2013, ‘Stereotypes of Deceptive Behaviors: A Cross-Cultural Study between China and Japan’, Social Behavior & Personality: an international journal, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 335-342. Available from: 10.2224/sbp.2013.41.2.335.
Masiello, I 2009, ‘Learning to succeed in European joint projects: The role of the modern project manager the flow-keeper’, Journal of Interprofessional Care, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 498-507. Available from: 10.1080/13561820902922447.
Nannestad, P, Svendsen, GT, Dinesen, PT, & S?nderskov, KM 2014, ‘Do Institutions or Culture Determine the Level of Social Trust? The Natural Experiment of Migration from Non-western to Western Countries’, Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, vol. 40, no. 4, pp. 544-565. Available from: 10.1080/1369183X.2013.830499.
Nordgren, K, & Johansson, M 2015, ‘Intercultural historical learning: a conceptual framework’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 1-25. Available from: 10.1080/00220272.2014.956795.
Steinfeldt, JA, & Steinfeldt, MC 2012, ‘Multicultural Training Intervention to Address American Indian Stereotypes’, Counselor Education & Supervision, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 17-32. Available from: 10.1002/j.1556-6978.2012.00002.x.