Saturday, October 20, 2012

1        Introduction

1.1       Background

            The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is among the more liberal Islamic countries in the Middle East, providing liberal trade that has attracted significant capital inflows from within and outside the Middle East over the last decade (HSBC / PWC, 2010).  This has catapulted the country to stand proud alongside world class developing tiger economies on the road to first world status as a nation.  Along the way, the country under its current leadership and governance has seen several high profile infrastructure projects in property development, construction, IT, telecommunications and road network that have paved the way to its current world class ranking.  Nearly all these projects involved foreign expertise and labour from several countries on all continents along with migrant ethnic groups in the country working together to transform a once backward nation to what it is today.  
            How did the UAE manage to bring such a pool of multicultural diversity to work on a singular objective of nation building is a monumental testament to the determined vision of the country’s leadership and the resilience, flexibility and determination of its local workforce in embracing diverse ethnic groups to live and work with them. But underpinning such multifaceted dimensions of culture, working styles and temperament from various cultures is an enabling tool that brings together such diversity under a commonly understood objective.  This is communication.  To a large extent, the UAE represents a microcosm of the global village, with diverse cultural forces set aside to work together towards a common aspiration. Toward this end, enabling various projects to achieve success is the result of various project management disciplines tied together by the ability of their project managers to bring the work force into a cohesive team.  Delivering the desired results has been proven to rest on having sufficient communicative competence to bring the disparate multicultural parties in the project together with a clear understanding of is expected from them individually and collectively.


1.2       Research aims and objectives

            The paper aims to establish and confirm the value of communication skills in a multicultural project management and to add to the wealth of knowledge about what makes project management succeed in a multicultural environment, regardless of the complexity of the project that needs to be managed in the UAE.  To this end the research aims to answers the following specific research questions:
(1)   Are project managers properly trained in multiple or two language linguistic competence in managing multicultural projects?
(2)   How do project managers perceive the value of communication skills in multicultural project engagements?
(3)   Is the experience of UAE project managers in managing multicultural projects sufficient to bring them closer to reaching the country’s Vision 2021?


1.3       Research Hypothesis

Answering the research questions hopes to confirm or debunk the hypothesis that communication skills matter significantly in implementing a multicultural project successfully in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Few places on the planet where there has been intensive projects in the private and public sectors characterized by a high level of multinational involvement as in the UAE.  The paper hopes to arrive at and establish a definitive confirmation of the benefits of communication in enabling a multicultural project to be effective in achieving success in any project management endeavor.

The independent variable in the study is the communication skills harnessed in project management while the dependent variable is the success of multicultural projects.  The moderating variables include the demographics, project management experience and values of the surveyed project managers.

1.4       Relevance and Significance of the Research

The paper hopes to gather the relevant information from primary and secondary sources on the importance of communicative competence in managing human capital of diverse cultural origins working together for a common objective in a project management setting. While there are several extant literature on the factors creating a successful project management undertaking, there are just a few that delve with what makes a multicultural project succeed.  Communication skills are another topic that has several authors talking about its importance in a corporate management setting, but remains less so in the context of managing projects with a multicultural content in its workforce.
 This paper will add to the current body of knowledge about project management with particular focus on managing the social dimensions complicated by the active involvement of several nationalities with differing social values and behaviuoral norms occasioned by their respective cultural origins and religious persuasion. Communicative competence is well recognized as a factor critical to the success of teamwork in a project, but it gets even more challenging when the success hinges on the harmonious interactivity among various races and cultures that need to work together as a team.  To a large extent, project management under this circumstance is a microcosm of what it means to have cross-border openness that aspires to achieve a more seamless trade cooperation among nations.


1.5       Scope and Limitations of the Research

            This study was confined to the following scopes:
·         Time:  The research design, data collection and analysis and documentation were done within the period from March – September 2012.
·         Location:  The study was conducted in the United Arab Emirates, specifically in Dubai.
·         Primary Data Collection:  Various literatures (books, journals, government, and academic research) were explored on the subject related to the UAE cultural profile, communication, intercultural communication, and project management in general and multicultural project in particular, published or released within the period from 1990 to the present.
·         Population Sample:  The study surveyed project managers of several multinational companies engaged in various public and private projects in Dubai.

            The study was limited by the following
1.      Empirical data gathered provided an accurate snapshot of the current multicultural project management situation obtaining in the UAE industries as a situational snapshot.  Hence, its findings would only be valid within a short period of time since future developments in the country’s socio-political landscape as well as management practices among UAE businesses could create situations where the research findings progressively lose its relevance as new realities and adaptive measures are undertaken by project stakeholders and project managers.
2.      The research does not cover the political implications of managing cultural diversity other than to point out current overall cultural heritage that makes UAE a melting pot of various cultures from immigrants and migrant workers that have overwhelmed its own native population.   
3.      The population sample size was limited to the period of time allotted for the study.
4.      The surveyed Project Managers had their pressing schedules and commitments so that it was understandable if had some reluctance or refused to participate in the study.

1.6       Structure of the Thesis

Chapter One:   This is the current chapter which introduces the subject of the paper, stating with a brief background information predisposing the research and segues to where the research is headed through its aims, objectives and the questions that need to find answers by the end of the study. It presents the significance of the prospective findings and ends with a brief overview of the paper’s structure.
Chapter Two: This focuses on providing a detailed, comprehensive and critical review of extant literature relevant to the exploration of answers to the research questions while providing scholarly and professional insights that create the conceptual framework of the study.  The literature review looks into what the academe, professional practitioners and news writers have published in assessing the multicultural dimensions of the UAE as a country and in the context of project management behind some of the high profile projects that have defined the economic marvel that the UAE has become today.
Chapter Three: This will present a detailed description of the research methodology and its justification. It presents the chosen research design and strategy, the primary data collection methods, target population, and the analysis to be used.  The chapter also presents the ethical issues that may arise during the study’s implementation as well as its limitations peculiar to this study.  
Chapter Four: This will present the findings of the primary data collection efforts within the context of the literature-based conceptual framework as discussed in Chapter Two.  The presentation of the findings is systematically arranged to correspond to each research question posed by the study and ends with a discussion of each theme as may be revealed in the gathered information.
Chapter Five:  This concludes the study, taking off from the discussion of the thematic body of shared and significant opinions emerging from the findings discussed in Chapter Four to answer the research questions.  The chapter ends with the study’s implications for further research and recommendations that can provide better multicultural project management outcomes for UAE companies.

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