Framework for managing multicultural project teams

2014-06-20T14:27:20Z (GMT) by Edward G. Ochieng Andrew Price
The purpose of this paper is to present literature that suggests that project teams comprising members from culturally diverse backgrounds bring fresh ideas and new approaches to problem solving. The challenge, however, is that they also introduce different understandings and expectations regarding team dynamics and integration. The question becomes how a project manager can effectively work and influence a multicultural construction project team, at the same time being attentive to the diversity and creating the structure required for success. Using a qualitative methodology, participants of heavy construction engineering projects revealed a number of multi-dimensional factors that either facilitated or limited the effectiveness of multicultural teamwork. These were synthesised into a framework of eight key dimensions that need to be considered when managing multicultural teams. The identified key dimensions include: leadership style, team selection and composition process, cross-cultural management of team development process, cross-cultural communication, cross-cultural collectivism, cross-cultural trust, cross-cultural management and cross-cultural uncertainty. The proposed framework has implications for construction managers who work with multicultural teams and are committed to improving team performance and productivity. The utilisation of the proposed framework would not instantly transform multicultural teams into high-performing ones; however, it does identify eight key cross-cultural dimensions, which need to be considered. Though the benefits of culturally diverse teams have been acknowledged within the industry, the study highlighted that cultural differences among project teams can cause conflict, misunderstanding and poor project performance.