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Project Manager : Project Manager Aug Sept 2013
The key to managing a multicultural team is to embrace the nuances of the cultures you work with, according to Godfrey Boyd, Project Practice Director of GTSO Deliver at ANZ, who is currently running a project management team based across three countries. This can often require a project manager to consciously rewire their own way of thinking. For instance, Australian culture tends to be results-focused and direct, with the tendency to get to the point quickly. How this differs in a lot of Asian countries, particularly India, says Boyd, is the importance based on building relationships among the team. "[Successfully managing in this environment is] about how you engage with the individual, taking an interest in them and their family," he says. Boyd recalls working on a project in Manila where the PM received a call from an underperforming worker's parents asking how they could help their son be more successful. A common challenge facing PMs is the difference in the expected level of experience of international professionals. While the expectation in Australia is that team members will display independence, responding to issues as they arise, in a multicultural setting this is often not the case. For example, an implementation lead was working under Boyd on a project between Melbourne and Bangalore. Boyd says that while the lead had done everything perfectly by the book and was likely to be successful on the technical side of an implementation, he hadn't engaged with stakeholders. "He hadn't worked on giving them faith that he could implement, and implement well," says Boyd. "As far as he was concerned, hand holding wasn't necessary." The lead failed to consider any point of view but his own, and this omission could have proven costly. In a situation where a problem does arise or the project is not running as smoothly as expected, it is important to people from some cultural backgrounds to have the opportunity to save face. "If you don't give the person the opportunity to maintain a degree of self-respect, even if they have stuffed up, you will find they become evasive, making it difficult to obtain information." Boyd has found that his own approach sometimes does not match those of his team members. Boyd and a small team had spent hours storyboarding a pack to give to a stakeholder. The team went away to work it up and returned with a pack that was half what had been agreed in the workshop and half made up. "In a normal environment I would have sat down with the PM and asked them to explain why they didn't want to follow my instructions, followed by a difficult performance conversation," says Boyd. "In the culture I was working in, it was not that they were trying to do something wrong, it was that they had decided to innovate, had taken to heart my advice that they make their own decisions and had gone off on their own tangent." After taking the time to sit down with the team, Boyd realised that they had also not entirely understood the bulk of the pack he had put together. "While they had nodded their way through the workshop, they weren't willing to lose face and admit they didn't understand," he says. This experience was a valuable reminder to Boyd that you need to take that extra time to develop and mentor individuals to ensure they understand exactly how to do something. ••• Cultural mapping Milosevic has created a cultural map, based on understanding the cultural script of two opposing communities, which identifies the degree of confluence for multiple dimensions. For example, a non-American PM working with an American team would need to be cognisant of the cultural distance in the dimensions of personal and professional development, project organisation hierarchy, communication style, risk mitigation and negotiation styles. Milosevic suggests a situational approach, including a set of nine culturally responsive strategies when dealing with multicultural teams, that encourages PMs to be proactive. Cross-cultural training develops important skills and facilitates cultural adjustment. Makilouko's 2004 study of the leadership styles of Finnish PMs explores their experiences of and perspectives on multicultural project leadership and interactions with Chinese, European and American teams. The study identifies three strategies to manage cross- cultural issues and maintain team cohesion. Firstly, relationship-oriented leaders may have a higher potential for success since they tend to be better able to maintain project team cohesion. Secondly, leaders should study and learn about foreign cultures and prepare the PM with coping strategies for conflict. Thirdly, leaders should be guided to choose strategies such as coaching team members, increased team effort and organisation design. Appropriate organisation design can potentially be used to mitigate multi-cultural problems. Read more • Silzer, ST and S Hong (2010). ‘Te Biggest Challenge of Multicultural Teams'. Tokyo 2010. • Douglas, M. Grid and Group Cultural eory. Online: http://projects.chass.utoronto.ca/ semiotics/cyber/douglas1.pdf • House, RJ et al. (Eds) (2004). Cultu re, Leadership and Organizations: Te GLOBE Study of 62 Societies. ousand Oaks, CA: Sage. • Peterson, B (2004) Cultural Intelligence -- A guide to Working with People from Other Cultures. Maine: Intercultural Press. • Milosevic, DZ. ‘Selecting a culturally responsive project management strategy'. Technovation 22(8), August 2002: 493-508. • Mäkilouko, M. ‘Coping with Multicultural Projects: e Leadership Styles of Finnish Project Managers' International Journal of Project Management 22(5), July 2004: 387-396. LESSONS LEARNED ALEXANDRA MIDDLETON IN IF YOU DON'T GIVE THE PERSON THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAINTAIN A DEGREE OF SELF- RESPECT, EVEN IF THEY HAVE STUFFED UP, YOU WILL FIND THEY WILL BECOME EVASIVE, MAKING IT DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN INFORMATION 14 Project Manager •THOUGHT LEADERS
Project Manager June July 2013
Project Manager Oct Nov 2013