Saturday, October 20, 2012
By Alex Y. Lim
Project management is a complex multi-disciplinary undertaking that needs to overcome several hurdles while in progress, most of which have to do with managing team members to deliver results as expected. And critical to the effort is communicative competence – a social linguistic skill that predicates just about every aspect of project management, from planning to execution, from interpersonal coordination within the team and outside, to reading related documents and writing reports. This gets a significant aggravation when done in the multicultural environment where the team members, suppliers and other stakeholders to the project are from different countries with varying cultural and social backgrounds, temperaments, persuasions and social behaviors that must be set aside for them to work together to achieve a common objective. This is the kind of project management that implements new buildings, mega-structures, and systems in the United Arab Emirates, a 21st century mecca where migrants far exceed the local population and which is now on the road to meet the challenge occasioned by the country’s leaders embarking on Vision 2021.
This paper explores the various aspects of communication in a multicultural project management setting to assess its roles and how it can best be used to create a smooth transition into the changes that will need to be implemented in such project management undertakings. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to extract common themes to confirm its hypothesis that communication has a heightened role in a multicultural project engagement. Several literatures were explored to create the conceptual framework within which the primary data collection using survey questionnaire and personal interview was undertaken to arrive at a thematic body of opinions.
The results of the survey and interview affirmed the hypotheses and ends with a couple of recommendations that can better enable project managers to deal with the challenges presented by cultural diversity in their work – ensuring 2nd language competence and implementing team building mechanisms prior to the start of any project. These recommendations are already in place in many companies across the UAE. But this paper, based on the survey and interview results, reiterates the need to implement these solutions at the earliest possible time for those that are not aware of or have yet to adopt them. Companies in the UAE sharing the same set of effective communication skills that can harness the benefits of cultural diversity and overcome its potential for internal strife can bring the nation to further heights of progress as defined in its Vision 2021.