Saturday, October 20, 2012
Based on the foregoing results from the survey and the interview, several common or shared insights and opinions have emerged, identified and grouped into themes. This section gathers them and discusses each, as follows:
Theme 1: Among the many skills in project management, communication figures as the most important in a multicultural environment, though all the other major skills are not far in importance.
This confirms what Baume et al (2002) considers as a multi-disciplinary undertaking in bringing about change and what Modesto and Tichapondwa (2010) described has having both a micro and macro level perspective that requires communication skills for the project to succeed. The respondents have clearly understood this concept which is further elaborated in the second question that ranked the relative importance of the various variables in communication skills where managing cultural diversity and recognizing the need for English as a second language occupied the top two rankings. as indicated by 60% of the respondents. Row (2010) pointed to communication as reducing misunderstanding among project stakeholders and team members while fostering teamwork which is basically the same sentiments expounded in the interviews as being the most important abilities of a project manager.
Theme 2: A second language such as English is a must among project managers in a multicultural setting.
The globalization of industries has spurred the need to have a common language and in the multicultural setting of the UAE where projects have such a dimension, English has helped to foster understanding and teamwork among project members. It may not always be English and project managers will need to know the cultural background of their constituent members to determine the best second language to use. As Orrill (2010) essayed in his study on the Jumeirah project, a team trained on a second language that can be understood by the majority of multi-ethnic groups in a project team provides an advantage to the company and the survey results clearly echoed this sentiment. The second language is often English which is already being studied by locals as it is the most understood among overseas workers from China, the Philippines, India, and most other nationalities, apart from professionals from the UK and the US that typically get involved in UAE projects. But other languages can be used as well and this depends on the composition of the project team. The French language may be the second language if there are more nationals in the team who speak and understand the language.
Theme 3: Understanding a second language in a casual verbal interaction is one thing, but reading documents required in the project is another.
Misinterpretations are often countered when project managers assume that because a second language such as English is used often in verbal communication, reading English documents would not be a problem. From the interviews, this theme emerged and confirms what Nunan and Brown has identified as multilevel competence in ESL where reading comprehension skills is the next higher dimension in communicative competence along with the more basic listening skills. Overlooking this aspect of communication can be problematic to a project when, for instance, a document spelling out what needs to be done or specifying materials for a projects are misinterpreted and the work is done wrongly and will need to be reworked later on.
Theme 4: Teamwork is important in a project management undertaking and this is often difficult to achieve without interactive communication.
This gets more heightened in a multicultural project where several overseas nationals with disparate cultures, psychologies and frames of references need to have a common understanding tow work as a team. The interview results had been most emphatic on this regard which only confirms what Orrill (2010) reported about communication barriers that have led to conflicts in the Jumeirah project, something that would not have occurred had teamwork been vigorously pursued from the start. Smith & Imbrie (2005) argued for team development and with cultural diversity thrown into the picture, understanding the dynamics of interpersonal relationships becomes even more critical. Towards this end, activities like teambuilding exercises already supported and undertaken by HR in many companies to improve office and departmental productivity, has been raised in the interviews as a solution to teamwork shortfalls and needs to be incorporated into the project management plan as part of its knowledge leveling exercises among team members prior to starting the project work.