Communication in the delivery of projects in multicultural environments
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Project management is a growing profession which transcends industry and national barriers. A high level of communication competence is required for the successful functioning of the often multi-disciplinary and multicultural project teams involved in project delivery to achieve the desired project objectives. Project managers, as the key channels of communication in the project environment, are faced with international and domestic imperatives to be competent in intercultural communication for successful operation in the multicultural project environment. However, the preparedness of Australian project managers for effective communication during project delivery in multicultural environments has not been investigated. This thesis investigates Australian project managers' intercultural communication competence (knowledge, skill and attitude) and their training requirements in this area from the view point of Registered Project Managers (RegPMs) with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM). The study examines the cultural factors influencing intercultural communication and explores how communication can be made effective in the multicultural project environment. The study is set within the context of project management competence which has been an area of significance since the mid 1990s. Based on a survey, preceded by focus group discussions and personal interviews, the study concludes that a slight majority of Australian project managers are 'not competent' in intercultural communication (54.1 %), largely due to skill deficiency. However, project managers with long project management experience, experience with multicultural projects or formal project management qualifications are more likely to be competent in intercultural project communication than those without such profiles. Project managers consider training in intercultural communication, delivered in a practical and interactive manner, as a priority especially in the areas of interpersonal skills, cultural awareness and communication skills. Participants also confirmed host national, local industry and organisational cultures as the three key sources of cultural influence on communication in the project environment. Finally, while different perspectives is a key challenge to communication in the multicultural project environment, intercultural communication can be made effective when project managers i) demonstrate a number of attributes, in particular patience and active listening; ii) make use of various strategies to manage communication barriers during multicultural project delivery, including team agreed communication standards, training/workshop, and use of diagrams/pictures; and iii) opt for face to face mode of communication in preference to other modes. The study recommends a stronger focus on intercultural communication in project manager education, training and competency assessment in the accreditation process.
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