Multicultural Management in the Virtual Project Setting

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Carlos Galamba, University of Liverpool


The Virtual Project Setting

In today’s globalisation era, effective cross-cultural management of virtual teams is an emerging subject in international business literature and practice. Virtual teaming has a number of potential benefits; not only in terms of human resources flexibility but it can also reduce the operating costs of one organisation. On the other hand, the challenges of such environment should not be undermined. Many scholars have attempted to analyse the impact of virtual work in a number of factors such as communication, leadership, trust, decision-making and productivity (Symons and Stenzel, 2007), while others were particularly concerned with the management of geographically dispersed units and therefore addressed the challenges of working with time zone differences and culturally diverse groups (Ardichvili et al., 2006). The findings are very interesting and the business literature appears to agree that the virtual project setting is somehow different from face-to-face working and more important it brings some unique challenges. This project will review the literature under these headings and explore the critical issues regarding cross-cultural management in the virtual project setting. Based on the theoretical framework for virtual teaming I will attempt to outline solutions and establish a set of best practices for effective international management of such environments.

Managing the virtual environment

Critical issues

The emerging number of virtual teams is a reality in the global market place. The virtual project setting allows organisations to assign the most skilled individuals to projects across the globe, with less concern for travel or relocation expenses, which improves productivity (Rorive and Xhauflair, 2004). However the challenges of managing culturally and geographically diverse teams must not be undermined. Some of the problems and critical issues arise in different areas such as: communication, technology, synergy among team members, culture and time zone differences (Grosse, 2002; Kuruppuarachchi, 2009). In the next pages I will discuss these issues and review the current literature and theoretical framework to outline possible solutions.

| |COMMUNICATION | |ISSUE |In the bigger picture the most critical factor with regards to communication is the language barrier. Effective | | |communication can be affected when team members speak different native languages. For instance, Bakbone Software, a US| | |company faced communication problems when Japanese workers were employed in their virtual team, due to their flawless | | |English (Alexander, 2000). | | |Nevertheless, some cultures prefer a more formal communication than others, and managers must pay special attention to| | |individual needs. There are a number of communication platforms available, such as phone, email, chat and | | |video-conferencing. Selecting the most appropriate method for a virtual project setting is critical for the project’s | | |success. Ardichvili et al. (2006) found significant differences in the preferred methods of communication of Russian | | |and Chinese team members. The former are comfortable with email communication whilst the second would rather prefer | | |face-to-face or phone calls. These findings seem to support the distinction between high and low-context cultures | | |established by Hall (1981)....
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