The aim of the research is to discover the significance and extent to which communication in multicultural project teams contributes to project success.
Many project teams have had an international outlook with firms carrying out project activities in offshore countries away from the country of origin. That is in addition to working with expertise with different cultural backgrounds and experience, which necessitates the need to establish how communication in project teams is key to project success.
To achieve the aims of establishing the importance of communication in project teams toward attaining success in project work with members from multicultural backgrounds, the underlying objectives include:
- To identify the role of communication as a tool in a project team to enable effective understanding between team members.
- To determine the barriers, which need to be overcome in project teams with a multicultural background.
- To discover the best method of creating cross cultural project communication to achieve effective team work toward achieving best team performance.
- To identify a scenario case example of a successful multicultural project team with effective cross cultural communication to inform the study.
- What role does communication play in project teams with a multicultural setting?
- How is communication managed between team members with a multicultural background?
- Why do strategic managers need to study cross cultural communication in project teams?
- What barriers should managers identify within a cross cultural setting that impedes the optimal performance of team members in project teams?
- Why is it necessary to study cross cultural communication?
- What practical scenario examples can serve as a learning point for successful project teams that have embraced cross cultural communication?
Different authors have contributed to the study and role of communication especially in project teams with diverse cultural backgrounds. These include Adler and Graham (2003, p.5) who have extensively studied and reported on communication between team members from different cultural backgrounds and attempted to show the significance of communication in such a setting.
Communication, as demonstrated by Ansari and Jackson (1996. P.6), Hall (2003, p.5), and Hall and Hall (2004, p.11), is based on a number of factors that are crucial that a project team manager. These characteristics, according to Ansari and Jackson (1996, p.11) are influenced by the demographic background of team members, factors that are relevant to the cultural values and beliefs of each individual team member and other discernments that are intrinsic to each team member.
That provides the basis for answering the first research question in seeking to understand and establish the rationale form communicating effectively between cross cultural team members. Authors including Watson et al. (1993, p.14), and Kandola and Fullerton (1998, p.18) have shown in their studies the significance and the positive implications of communicating between teams to achieve project success.
One of the proponents arguing in favor of cross culture communication in teams as a strong element to achieve project success includes Maznevski (1994,p.21) who affirms on communication is an indispensable tool for project managers and teams working together with a multicultural composition to effectively optimize team performance with the ultimate goal to succeed.
Axley (1984, p.11) is another author acting as another source of information on the strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team. Axley (1984, p.12) has argued extensively on communication with the perspective that communication in such an environment is key to exchanging any kind of information between individuals with different backgrounds that elicits clarity of information.
It is a pipeline connecting different culturally diverse groups of project teams. That is in agreement with Thomason (1988, p.34) who took Axley’s (1984, p.23) study further by attempting to provide a precise definition of communication as a strategic tool to achieve project success to consist of the “lifeblood of any system of human interaction as without it, no meaningful or coherent activity can take place” (Thomason 1988, p.15).
Here, Thomason (1988,p.12) regards communication as a professional practice that project managers adopt and embrace as a tool upon which success of project teams with multicultural diversity thrive.
Connerley and Pedersen (2005,p.5) have discussed extensively on leadership straits that project managers need to embrace as crucial to managing communication between team members in project teams with diverse cultural backgrounds. Connerley and Pedersen (2005, p.4), Andersen (2003,p.7), Bacon and Ghoshal (1998,p.7), Conrad and Poole (2005,p.34) have discussed extensively on leadership and how communication can be managed in a cross cultural team to strategically achieve project success.
That is in answer to the second research question. The aim is to discover the strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team as the driving force to achieving project success. That is in addition to the studies by Dainton and Zelley (2005, p.9) who argue on the context of managing communication in project teams from the theoretical perspectives of communicating professionally (Gudykunst & Lee 2002).
That is in agreement with the studies by Earley and Gardner (2005, p.11) who contributed significantly to the nature of teams, the internal dynamics of cross cultural teams, and how to manage such teams to achieve project success.
In the context of Earley and Gardner’s (2005, p.12) studies, Ely and Thomas (2001, p.5) have shown the rationale of studying the internal dynamics of multicultural teams by identifying a number of complexities associated with multicultural teams that project managers need to identify to overcome which serve as learning points, and which provide a strong foundation for managing multicultural project teams to achieve success (Gudykunst et al. 2005).
The strength of any leadership in the context of strategic management for project teams is to understand and develop a thorough knowledge of team members, with specific focus on individual cultural backgrounds.
The rationale is that one cannot strategically lead and achieve success with team members without understanding the values and beliefs embraced by each individual team member with unique backgrounds. Research shows that leadership failure to understand the values and beliefs of team members with a diverse cultural background is a critical weakness that contributes to leadership failures.
The basis and rationale for argument and justification of strategic project team managers is to study, in answer to the research question, what implications cross cultural communication has on the success of project teams. The argument in context, as argued elsewhere, is that project teams are no longer restricted to home countries, but companies have evolved and become multinational and must work in environments with employees who embrace different values and beliefs.
Toward that end, authors including Hofstede (1980,p.5-6) provide studies with empirical evidence on multi-ethnic team compositions and go further to formulate theories on effectively communicating in a multicultural context for managers leading multicultural project teams. That is in addition to the complexity of the analytical and multidisciplinary nature of such a study, making the study in-depth in context (Hofstede 1980).
Studies by Hofstede (1980, p.4) are reinforced by Trompenaars (2005, p.5) who concur that such studies provide the basis for strategic project managers to be effective in managing multicultural project teams. Futher, Hofstede’s (1980, p.4) studies are reinforced by Trompenaars (2005,p.9) who have argued on the need for project managers to study cross cultural communication before starting to lead project teams to reap the full benefits of effective team management.
That, among others needs to be studied in detail to include the ability to encourage innovative thinking which is crucial for overcoming any potential barriers to effective communication (Shockley 2006; Schneider & Jean 1997; Samovar & Porter 2003).
That is in addition to gaining the synergy associated with contributions made by different project team members from diverse backgrounds, and the ability for the team project manager to evaluate team social-linguistic attributes, leading to a comprehensive understanding of the differences between cultural diversities and how to bridge the gap through effective communication techniques.
Other factors include establishing the impact of values, norms, behaviors, and beliefs on project performance, and identifying the key components of that influence cross cultural communication (Smith & Bond 1999).
That is in addition to establishing strategic approaches of transparent communication between teams and the management to optimize team performance, and establish the best methods to communicate effectively between the management and project teams throughout the lifecycle of a project. Toward contributing to the study on the strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team, there is need to identify the underlying barriers that a strategic project manager should identify that might impede project executions.
According to Grosse (2000. p.329), and Barker et al. (2001,p.11) the rationale for identifying the impeding factors include establishing factors such as distrust that might be inherent in groups from different ethnic backgrounds, the weaknesses in cultural sensitivity of the project manager, factors related to culture shock, context communication that is ineffective, isolation that might result to socio-cultural disorientation, use of different languages to communicate, and task execution failure to the set deadlines.
Huemer (1998, p.7), and Munter (1995, p.4) provide answers to these scenarios where they agree on the ability for the team to build transparency and trust as core elements of effective team management. The latter strongly correlates to optimal performance, enabling leadership effectiveness in cultural sensitivity, with the ability to motivate teams to optimize and draw ideas on multicultural mix, enhance communication, and develop strong cultural sensitivity.
The proposed study will examine these factors in detail in relation to strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team. While that holds true for project teams that are multicultural in outlook, there is the question that the project manager should answer on why such a multicultural composition.
The rationale for multicultural composition includes reaping from the benefits of knowledge transfer on different levels, enhancement of communication and understanding across cultures, building to earn the merits of global learning, developing assimilation attitude and learning from wide background of ideas among other factors (Bartlett & Goshal 1989; McLeod & Lobel 1992; Jackson et al. 1992; Ng and Tung 1998). To achieve the aim of this study, a project management case study in the UAE with a multicultural composition will inform the study.
The case study to inform this research will be based on a heavy construction project in the UAE which consists of teams from different cultural backgrounds under a project manager. Communication between project managers and teams was hierarchically vertical and horizontal.
That was in addition to being multicultural in nature. Despite the sensitiveness of cultural diversities, communication was distinctly critical to identify the best persons to appropriately fill different positions such as gate keeping, solve conflicts between people from different ethnic backgrounds to create good working relationship between the employees and avoid fights which had been experienced by prior managers with failure to communicate effectively in the environment identified as the cause, regard for each other, enable the management be culturally sensitive by learning the cultural norms, values, behaviors, and beliefs of individual team members and the community in general, and remove any multi-cultural barriers (Siira et al. 2004, p2-9; Mary 2003, p.5-11).
The rationale of learning to communicate across cultural in a culturally diverse background was critical and demonstrated the importance and strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team. Issues identified critical in the environment included understanding to communicate effectively in the socio-linguistic environment, gaining from the experience of employees in the teams, identifying how the values, norms, behaviors, and beliefs of these teams could be combined for the success of the project, and how to communicate in such environment. The study will explore further the case study based on this summary.
To effectively address the current study, a literature review, with a case study will form the basis of the study as an effective model for use. The rationale for the choice draws from the mixed research methods that draw on the strengths of the qualitative and quantitative research paradigms which when combined overcome the weaknesses associated with either paradigms. Each of the paradigms will be discussed in detail elsewhere.
A number of authors regarded to contribute significantly to the study while other authors provide supplementary and supportive information to the study. The main authors include The main authors include Ansari and Jackson (1996, p.6-17), Adler and Graham (2003, p.5-12), Watson et al., (1993, p.11), and Kandola and Fullerton (1998, p.18-30), Axley (1984,p.12), on communication in a multicultural environment, Connerley and Pedersen (2005, p.24), Andersen (2003,p.5), Bacon and Ghoshal (1998, p.18), Conrad and Poole (2005, p.25) on leadership, Earley and Gardner (2005, p.11) on nature of teams, Earley and Gardner’s (2005,p.12) studies, Ely and Thomas (2001, p.12), on team dynamics, (Hofstede, 1980, p.4). Studies by Hofstede (1980, p.4) are reinforced by Trompenaars (2005, p.11) on managing multicultural teams. Others include Trompenaars (2005, p.11), Triandis and Rosita (2000), Ting & Oetzel (2001, p.2-16) on conflict resolution across culturally diverse teams. These authors provide the basis for exploring the strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team by answering the research questions identified earlier.
In context of the study, mixed methods constituting qualitative and quantitative paradigms will contribute to the study to answer the research questions by drawing on the strengths of qualitative and quantitative methods to overcome the weaknesses inherent in either method. Mixed methods provide the flexibility of grouping different data sets under qualitative paradigm that is subjective and quantitative which is an objective paradigm and enable the use of small samples (Wolf 2010, p.22).
That is in agreement with Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004, p.2-8) who regard mixed methods which provide data triangulation with collaborative and convergence effects. The quantitative paradigm draws on closed ended questionnaires to be administered on respondents (Creswell & Plano 2007, p.3; Hammersley 2005, p.3-10; Hammersley 2005, p.4-11.)
Once the population has been identified and fair presentation of each subject by demographic distributions, cultural backgrounds, beliefs and other research variables, questionnaires both closed ended and open ended to address both quantitative and qualitative paradigms will be administered to the respondents by hand and through emails. The sampling frame will be selected by random sampling and no-random sampling techniques. A detailed discussion on the rational of the methods will be provided in the research paper.
Overview of company or sector
The case to inform the study is the Selephone construction company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consisting of employees from different countries including Britain, India, China, Africa, UAE, and the Philippines majorly contracted to build housing facilities. Each of the members has unique values, behaviors, beliefs, norms, and language that differ widely with other team members.
The construction company works away from Britain, the country of origin. Here, communicating in a single language, understanding, cultural diversities, trust, site accidents, providing leadership, socio-cultural isolation, team conflicts, low context communication and their aggregate effect on project completion time. Here, the key component is communication in a multicultural environment to address the issues.
Discussions and Analysis:
Qualitative data will be quantized with numerical values with quantitative data coded numerically and analysed using programs such as Microsoft excel, SPSS software with a correlation analysis and analysis of variance techniques being employed to examine the relationships between project success and communication in the multicultural project.
The underlying communication variables and their impact on behavioral change, trust, context communication, project completion, conflict resolution in teams, site accidents, and other elements related to strategic communication in the environment.
Problems anticipated include accessing information from appropriate construction sites, negative attitude toward the research, difficulty in administering questionnaires, and ensuring the response rate is sufficiently effective to provide sufficient samples for analysis.
The solutions include making follow-ups to increase response rates, providing clear explanation to the respondents on the benefits of the research, preparing the participants well in advance, and collecting sufficient data across demographic distributions to get a fair representation of facts for analysis.
The timetable is subject to revision in response to unanticipated problems and challenges.
Company Liaison & Project Management
Typically, that will include conducting a research to determine the strategic role of communication in a cross cultural project team by visiting the Selephone construction company, conducting discussions with the management at different levels, line managers, employees, and playing an active role by making observations at the work places.
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