Saturday, October 20, 2012
The survey showed that most of the sampled project managers have bi-lingual communication skills, mostly in English, which is not surprising considering that English is pervasively taught in schools and in nearly all colleges and universities where basic proficiency in the language is a criterion for campus admissions. This skill is further honed with training programs for second language proficiency which are provided by the companies the sampled project managers work with. This proficiency was identified in the survey as an invaluable tool in seamlessly paving the way for projects to succeed with the least communication and cooperation problems. With an open disposition to English and other foreign languages that may be needed to address the communication challenges in a multicultural project, nearly all the sampled project managers were confident that the country’s Vision 2021 can be achieved.
The study started out with the hypothesis that communication skills provide a vital management tool in handling cultural diversity in implementing projects. The above answers to the question provide convincing qualitative confirmation that the hypothesis is correct, establishing a positive empirical correlation between communicative competence that puts people and culture management in its focus a and a harmonious working relationship in a multicultural project setting.
The survey revealed several other dimensions of multicultural project managements and communication skills that can be topic for further research. One is the perception that some overseas nationals are more problematic than others and a research in this area can indeed verify or shed some enlightenment on what aspects of culture can create problems for the host country or its constituent companies or with fellow workers in the project culture mix. The issue may have more than social implication and could possibly have repercussion in the diplomatic dimensions of the country that has global relations with the countries involved.
In the area of communications, the levels of competence need to be explored further. Listening skills have been considered as being basic to learning a second language and further research into this area can provide a more complete picture on how this communicative skill makes a difference in managing multicultural projects. On a higher level, the survey showed that it is not enough to have conversational oracy that enables team members to verbally communicate with each other, but the ability to read and write proper documents related to the project is equally essential. A research on this area of communication skills can provide HR with more insights on improving the content of their language training programs.
Based on the foregoing discussion on the emergent themes in the survey, this paper presents a few recommendations that companies can adopt in embarking on multicultural projects that has become inevitable towards the pursuit of the country’s Vision 2021.
The interview results further showed the need for a second language which most of the project managers in the survey already revealed to possess. But not all have this ability and some companies though supporting the concept, frequently engage the services of 3rd party consultants and interpreters to help in the communication aspect of their projects. Language experts, consultants or advisers have their place in a major multicultural project and can be harnessed in translating technical documents or helping project managers create more readable and effective project reports for consumption by high level management stakeholders, but having one’s own team of project management staff with bi-lingual abilities should be adopted. Almost all universities in the country already require a respectable English proficiency as part of their admission criteria, but enhancing a company engaged in multicultural projects can further enhance this advantage with language training as part of its human capital development programs.
The survey theme on team building is most instructive and creates the opportunity for project management to effectively preclude potential social and cultural conflicts right from the start of a project engagement. Several interview responses called for a strong team building exercise in multicultural projects right at the start which can be done within different levels of management and ranks or across both. Team building has often been a key HR tool in developing human capital as it is instrumental in creating the esprit de corps that is essential when a common objective needs to be achieved by various groups or individuals that need to work together. Team building also creates opportunities for various nationalities in a team to interact and foster cultural awareness among each other. The activities often called for in a team building exercise also creates pre-project opportunities to test and explore potential areas of conflict and address them before they are likely to occur during the project implementation. Orrill (2010) in his report about the Jumeirah project also recommended teambuilding exercises at the project onset to bring the disparate nationals to know each other and create the cultural awareness needed in a multicultural project undertaking. Incorporating activities that foster teamwork provides a smooth transition period significantly prior to commencing the project proper.
This paper concludes with a confirmed hypothesis and a satisfactory answer to the research questions. There is no doubt that communicative competence enhanced to handle cultural diversity in a multicultural project management is key to further improving the managerial competence of UAE project managers as local companies embark on achieving the country’s modernization efforts. Perhaps, just as significant is that the research opened up questions that can be settled with future research such as discussed in the section on implications. One of the most important that have emerged from the interview results is to look into the behavior of overseas workers and expatriates and confirm the fears and biases of certain companies who have shown preferences to employ some foreign nationals over others. Not only would such a study settle a social conflict issue in managing cultural diversity, but it has the potential to guide project planners in ensuring that any conflict does not spill out or develop into a diplomatic or political issue that can compromise the country’s international relations.
The paper puts forth a couple of recommendations that can help project managers in a seamless transition to achieving the objectives of the project through a more strengthened teamwork and communication skill. While bi-lingual abilities with English or other languages are widely recognized as highly expedient in operationalizing a multicultural project management undertaking, the paper reinforces this conviction with a recommendation to further strengthen this ability among project managers. As revealed in the study, there are still loopholes through which misunderstandings can occur even with a bi-lingual staff and more communication training is required in the areas of reading, writing and listening skills.
Lastly, while some companies do engage in teambuilding programs for their staff and project members, this is one effective tool that can benefit every company engaged in multicultural projects. It is the position of this paper that project management can be likened to a group sports endeavor and that the whole country benefits if every social element actively involved in nation building works as a team toward this direction. Every effort should be made to develop teamwork and interactive communication skills in every project engagement to ensure not just meeting project objectives, but that the engagement can serve as an inspiring model for cultural diversity to go beyond differences and act like a unified sports team where differences are cast aside in the interest of cooperative team spirit which, if multiplied on a regional and global scale, can be considered seminal to a more harmonious and productive co-existence among nations.