University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Complex Project Management: Historical Background, Problems and Approaches
Managing a project that has cross-cultural team members is a very involving task, which calls for application of appropriate leadership styles and approaches (Arbaugh, 2007, p. 569). The applicability of theories, models and approaches of management in the Belbin Consultancy Project can be deeply elaborated with clarity, to demonstrate the understanding of the topic. Since managing and leading cross-cultural teams in such projects does not just happen, as the monitor and shaper, I comprehensively applied the necessary aspects of leadership and management as I deemed appropriate. Below is a presentation of the report of Belbin Consultancy Project that my team and I, as the monitor and shaper, undertook.
Project management is a comprehensive undertaking by project managers which involves several steps from inception to completion, and which guarantees the success of the project (Klimenko, 2014, p. 13). As I experienced during the Belbin Project execution, these activities have to be carefully organized and precisely planned for execution.
During the management of the project, I applied 5 fundamental processes as shown in the appendix 1. The first process was initiation, which involved determining the nature and range of the project (Daft & Lane, 2005, p. 337). All the requirements ranging from analysis, goal setting, current operations review and feasibility were considered at this stage. The second process that we carried out was planning which involved the setting of appropriate time for each activity, considering the costs involved and the resources required. We also did a risk planning activity that was geared towards tackling uncertainties.
The third process was executing, which involved following all the activities of the project as outlined during the planning stage. This was geared towards meeting all the set deadlines of the set milestones. The fourth process involved monitoring the progress and controlling the execution, noting of any deviations from the plan and taking the appropriate managerial actions (Stewart and Powell, 2004, p. 37). At this stage, I verified and validated the activities and their execution as per the allocated resources and timelines. It is at this stage that the quality of the activities that different team members were involved in was considered. The last process of the project involved the closing out of the project after its completion (Xie and Zhang, 2013, p. 725). The final product that the team developed was accepted having delivered to the best of our ability.
For effective execution of the processes mentioned above, I applied several management approaches. These approaches assisted in carrying out the processes in a planned manner, towards realizing the requirements. The first approach I utilized was the traditional method, which involved the execution of all the processes in a sequence. In this approach, some processes were recursively extended to support the cycle of development of the project (Collyer & Warren, 2009 p. 359).
The second approach was event chain approach, which involved the identification and management of proceedings and the chains of proceedings attached to the project schedule. This approach helped me in managing the negative effects, and allowed for modeling of uncertainties that were foreseeable as was outlined in the project schedule (Symonds, 2014, p. 2). The third approach was scrum methodology, whose goal was to improve the productivity of the team by removing every possible hurdle. The fourth methodology was crystal approach in which I directed the team away from focusing on the processes. It was thus crucial to focus more on the skills of the team members, interactions, communication and people. This way, every member was able to deliver in their allocated part.
Organizing and Structuring Teamwork
At this stage, the central focus is given on the capabilities of team members. As defined by Scarnati (2001. P. 5), teamwork is a cooperative procedure that assists normal people to accomplish surprising results. It, therefore, called for effective allocation of tasks on individual members. We generated a commitment oath of the team and developed shared goals. The team focused on providing quality results as opposed to achieving individual personal satisfaction that might have interfered with the achievement of objectives. Similarly, I facilitated and nurtured positive relationships that were cooperative as a way of motivating the team members towards achieving the final goal.
The issues of interdependence among the team members were put into consideration (Schneider & Barsoux, 2003, p. 137). The creation of a positive attitude in the members through inspiring examples was thus vital. When experiencing difficulties, team members were enthusiastic to help out their peers, regardless of their backgrounds (Symonds, 2014, p. 2). Whenever deviations resulted from the unwillingness of some members to ask for assistance, a quick meeting was convened to remind them of their interdependence responsibilities.
During the allocation of tasks, interpersonal skills were put in consideration a step that allowed for proper allocation of tasks. I encouraged open communication as well as positive feedbacks as a way of improving relationships among team members. This way, the team had an understanding that discussing problems was healthy for their interdependence. Similarly, as an overall manager, I worked hard to ensure that the teams had the appropriate composition, by carefully considering the skills of each member and the kind of personality that each possessed. After careful consideration, the team members were allocated tasks that matched their profile. On the same note, commitment to the processes of the team and accountability were highly emphasized. Respect for every member was exceedingly regarded and especially on the response towards several individuals who took leadership roles (Wateridge, 2001, p. 191). To ensure effective and efficient implementation of the project activities, electronic tools were highly utilized and whenever the tools were not enough for use on a particular task, the available tools were shared. This highly facilitated the process of implementation of the project activities.
During the project execution, my vital role was to control the process. At this point, practicing MBWA (management by walking around) was necessary. There were some instances where the project activities carried out by the team members veered from the plan. These deviations resulted from the inability of some members to fully comprehend what is expected of them during certain activities. This was so because of the diversified back grounds of the team members, which prevented them from consulting or asking for assistance. It was thus necessary for me to carry out the proper monitoring role, to match the activities with the plan and to assure quality. To do this, I convened several emergence meetings to remind the team members on their roles as team players.
During the completion stage when the project was nearing the close out phase, one of the team members got seek and had to fly back home. Because of the limitation of time, the tasks were allocated to some members of the team. It was unfortunate because the delivery time of the added tasks was late for the reason of failure to understand the tasks. This made it necessary for convening an abrupt meeting to brief the affected members on what is expected of them. For this reason, the delivery of the tasks allocated to the ailing member did not go in accordance with the plan.
Team Working and Leadership
During the initiation stage, the team rules as shown in appendix 2, as well as the roles of every member were developed. To facilitate this, discussions on the cultural dissimilarities that were easily perceivable and their effects on behavior of the members and performance were established. This was geared towards creating an open discussion that inspired mutual trust and obligation (Chung et al., 2013 p. 194). After the discussion, the cultural differences that emanated from understanding the background of every team member helped in developing appropriate ways of addressing the issues accordingly. This was done after knowing where these differences emanated from through assessing the situation from individual member’s perspective. This helped in changing the stereo-typed perceptions and improvement on value-based assumptions.
To solve some of the cross-cultural issues that arose during implementation of the setout activities, I as the leader worked hard for reconciliation as opposed to compromising. I thus created new ways of perceiving and settling the differences. This encouraged the combining of strengths among the team members as opposed to picking disagreements. Intensive communications, feedbacks and procedures were highly regarded to minimize the risks involved.
The aspect of changing roles was not utilized so as to facilitate the aspect of specialization in tasks. This worked to our disadvantage when one of the team members go sick and had to fly back home. The tasks were allocated to several team members who had almost similar tasks. Because of inadequacy of specialization on the added tasks, the members delivered the tasks late. This prompted me to convene an impromptu meeting to brief the members on their new added tasks. Because of this reason, the delivery of the tasks was out of time plan.
To motivate the team members, the contributions made by each were highly regarded every time a scheduled meeting was convened as shown in appendix 3. Similarly, the diverse views of different individuals were encouraged and incorporated in the decisions made after a comprehensive discussion (Wateridge, 2001, p. 161). To motivate the team members, I kept reminding them of their capabilities and how appreciated their contributions were. Also, different needs of individual members were identified for easy fulfillment. When members felt that their needs are catered for and their views are incorporated in making decisions pertaining to the execution of the project activities, they delivered to their capability (Wright, 2002, p. 121).
To encourage harmony within the team, I encouraged communication among the members (Malinowski, 2011, p. 234). This served as a way of understanding the problems that different members are experiencing at particular instances. After the communication of the problems, the issues were addressed accordingly to the satisfaction of all members. This guaranteed harmony among the members through free and unrestricted interactions, characterized by free flow of thoughts (Seteroff, 2003, p. 43). This free flow of thoughts and effective communication facilitated generation of new ideas pertaining to the implementation of activities of the project (Marc & Picard, 2000, p. 38). To get most out of the team members, the same technique of free flow of information and welcoming the contribution of every team member was utilized.
Leadership Roles and Styles
During the implementation of the project, several individuals took up the role of leadership. The members who became leaders were chosen by the majority of the team members. The act of leading further boosted the confidence of the chosen members towards obtaining the set goals (Pearce & Sims, 2000, p. 131). I had been previously chosen as the overall manager of the project from the start to the end, to oversee the implementation of activities. This was a good experience that educated me on how cross-cultural teams operate .In the process, different leadership styles as discussed below were utilized.
The first type of leadership that different members who took leadership roles utilized was transactional leadership (Lowe & Gardner, 2011, p. 460). This style operated on the basic ground that because the team members agreed on the leadership of a particular member, they must obey the directions he or she gives. This type of leadership led to clarification of the roles played by every member of the team. Similarly, the members were expected to follow the agreed upon rules failure to which one would be ejected out of the team.
In this leadership, the leader inspired and motivated team members to transform the issue at hand from worst to best (Sashhin, 2004, p. 171). The means of motivation are as discussed above with encouraging individual members on their capabilities, free flow of information and effective communication at the top of the list (Ashkanasy & Tse, 2000, p. 223). The inspiration and motivation given by the team leaders were genuine, a situation that facilitated the implementation of the planned activities.
This kind of leadership entails the involvement of team members in decision-making process (Langton & Robbins, 2007, p. 389). Through this kind of leadership, the understanding of the underlying issues of implementation by individual members was enhanced. They thus became more committed to the activities of implementation (Pearce, 2007, p. 357). Under this leadership, people became more collaborative as opposed to competitive and worked on joint team goals.
In this type of leadership, the leader applies the best action depending on the array of factors of the situation at hand (Northouse, 2004, p. 78). This type of leadership is as a result of several forces namely; the circumstances, the followers and the leader. This style focused more on the behaviors adopted by the leader under different situations (Parry & Bryman, 2006, p. 456). The leader with the most excellent ability of making better decisions had an upper hand in applying the style.
In conclusion, managing the activities of a project is a long process more so when dealing with cross-cultural teams. It calls for the manager to understand the different backgrounds of these members. This is done through the application of several techniques as such as the understanding of the cultural differences, their cause, how to change the perception to a common goal of the team and how to motivate individual members bearing in mind the aspect of different backgrounds. This way, he or she is able to inspire the followers to make the best team under a common goal of implementing the activities of the project successfully. On the leadership issue, it is vital that the leader understands the best type of leadership to apply on the team members (Osborn et al., 2002, p. 811).
After carrying out all the activities of the project, it became necessary to develop some recommendations based on the lessons learnt. The following are the recommendations that I would implement if I was to undertake the project again as the monitor.
To reduce the risk involved when engaging members from different cultural backgrounds in a team, it is essential to apply a flexible approach of management that allows for effective communication, reporting and actions on the raised issues.
To change project processes so as to accommodate cultural differences, establishing good relationships with key members of the team is a must. This is geared towards winning their trust which in turn helps the project execution process smooth.
To effectively implement the activities of the project, the manager is obliged to know what motivates the team members into doing good job, their specific skills and know-how and their respective communication styles.
The combination of participative leadership and transformational leadership is the best option in a project implementation. This is so because participative leadership involves the members in decision-making process and hence motivating them. On the other hand, transformational leadership involves the leader inspiring and motivating his followers.
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