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Project Manager : Project Manager Aug Sept 2013
12 Project Manager THE TEMPOR ARY NATURE OF A PROJECT -- as opposed to ' business as usual' -- is made even more complex when a project manager is faced with a dispersed group of participants, whether by geography, time zones or cultural diversity. Researchers and project leaders are increasingly investigating the challenges of leading multicultural teams and models for establishing e ective project-based organisations. E ective leaders establish direction, communicate the vision and build aligned high-perfor mance project teams. What di erentiates a leader from the project manager is the extent and focus of time management and stakeholder communication. Projects require leaders who are able to adapt to di erent leadership styles to accommodate the often changing constraints imposed to project scope, costs and schedules. Such changes have a compounding e ect in projects resourced by dispersed multicultural teams. Several researchers have found similar threads and have identi ed the most common challenges that are likely to be encountered with projects involving multicultural teams. ese can be grouped as multicultural leadership priorities, cultural sensitivity, team establishment and creation, and communication awareness a nd management. Multicultural leadership priorities centre on the individual. Project managers need to understand how a person perceives their cultural preferences and have the self-awareness to realise their own cultural bias and view of the world. A person's worldview has been largely formed within a monocultural situation. A SWOT analysis of one's worldview will greatly assist in identifying the areas of risk, issues, opportunities and strengths when engaging other cultures. Peterson (2004) illustrates the depth and complexity of cultures with an iceberg metaphor. e tip of the iceberg of a culture is what can be noticed with our ve senses. It includes the spoken language, emotional display such as hand gestures, and eye contact. It demonstrates how people behave and general infor mation about the culture. e part of the iceberg under the waterline is less obvious, and includes opinions, attitudes, philosophies, values and convictions. ese are cultivated over a considerable time and range of experiences. Under-the-waterline characteristics shape our judgement of our environment and relationships. E ective leaders are sensitive of their own worldviews and those of other cultures. ey are adaptable and prepared to accommodate the nuances of speci c cultural issues when attempting to get team members on board. As an alternative to modifying the worldviews of individual team members, high performing project leaders often choose to: • Create a new culture that blends the best attributes of each and provides a solid foundation that cements the project team. • Establish new structures, processes and values that bring uniqueness to the team. • Use a moderator or an external change agent to mediate cross-cultural issues. • Adapt and accommodate cross-cultural attributes to enhance team cohesion. Cross-cultural leadership THOUGHT LEADERS JAMES CHONG A Senior Technical Project Manager with Odecee, James Chong holds Engineering and Masters in International Business degrees. He has more than 15 years' experience in ICT project management with strong interests in project leadership and the establishment of high performing cross-cultural project teams. THE KEY TO MANAGING A MULTICULTURAL TEAM IS TO EMBRACE THE NUANCES OF THE CULTURES YOU WORK WITH Leading multicultural teams is more the norm than exception in the 21st century, so assuming that team members will hold singular worldviews, abide by common cultural norms and follow similar communication practices with the same nuances is a big risk. Project leaders can and must shape their project cultures to build successful teams.
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