The Culture Orientation And Definitions Management Essay
The review of relevant literature is important in this research as it scrutinize previous research carry out in cross-cultural communication on project management and other related fields that focussed on the particular factors (issues) within the categories of culture, communication, leadership and project management. The review finds differences and draws on similarities between previous work and this research through discovering research issues from a new conceptual/theoretical background that are worth researching in this work. Summaries will be stated for each of the sections reviewed and related sub-sections of the review are referred to and stated for ease of references and convenience.
Previous research literatures are grouped and organised to present a clear understanding of: the areas of varying understandings, main discussions and contradictory perspectives within cross-cultural management; the structure of research in project management and how this research contributes something new to project management in construction.
2.1 Culture and Communication
The concept culture is a complex issue in some fields such as anthropology, sociology, and now become a hot topic in management (Rufei and Jianchao, 2010). Low and Shi, 2001; Schein, 1985; Hofstede, 1980, argue that cultural influence on societies can be study using typologies or dimensions as bases for analysing the behaviours, the value and the actions of their members. Also, Ogbor (1990) posits that the framework used to describe the assumptions that a particular society holds about reality, can be grouped into three categories as cultural paradigms (Schein, 1985), cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 1980, 1984), and cultural patterns (Geertz, 1973). Geertz’s cultural patterns are similar to pattern variables presented by Parsons and Shils (1952).
2.1.1 Culture: Orientation and Definitions
Culture is a total way of life of people or a design for living. It is also that complex whole that includes beliefs, values, possessions, rituals, institutions and any other habits acquired as a member of society. Salacuse (1991) defined culture as socially transmitted behaviours, patterns, beliefs, norms and values of a collection of individuals; identifiable by their concepts, rules and assumptions. Pheng and Leong (2000) also defined culture as a historically transmitted system of meaning, symbols and norms.
Over 150 different definitions of culture were identified by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961). And according to Van Oudenhoven (2001), almost all definitions referred to culture as a set of shared values, beliefs and practices. However, Hofstede (1980) defined culture as collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another and consists of common characteristics, which influences a group response to its environment. Collective programming takes place at the national and organisational levels. Whilst Hodgetts and Luthans (2000) presented common characteristics of culture and descriptions though based on Hofstede work as shown in table 2.1 below
Table 2.1 common characteristics of culture and their descriptions
Culture is based on the human capacity to adapt or change, as opposed to animal’s genetically driven adaptive process
Culture is not biological or inherited; it is acquired by learning and experience.
Culture is integrated and has structure; a change in one part will affect the other
Culture is shared among members of a group, society or organisation; it is not specific to single individuals.
Culture is based on the human capacity to use one thing to represent another or to symbolise
Culture is cumulative; passed down from one generation to another.
Source: Hodgetts and Luthans (2000).
Also, Schneider and Barsoux (2003) argue that culture is founded upon basic assumptions that people make and this brings about different values and beliefs; which manifest themselves in different artefacts and behaviours such as architecture and interior design, dress and codes of address, greeting rituals and contracts. This view supports Schein (1992) definition of culture as a set of basic assumption i.e. shared solutions to universal problems of external adaptation (how to survive) and internal integration (how to stay together); evolved over time and handed down from one generation to the other. Understanding of main assumptions which are the basic underpinning of culture is needed so as to be equipped properly to discover and identify consistency and meaning of culture. Only then the impact of culture on management practice can be understood (Schneider and Barsoux, 2003). Schneider and Barsoux (2003) stated further that the appeal of Schein’s definition openly addresses the main challenges facing project managers. This comprises developing strategies so as to proffer solutions to problems of external adaptation and in planning organisations and determining human resources practices for internal integration; and these solutions which comprise structures, strategies and human resources management practices are totally rooted in culture. However, what is most important for a project manager is to determine which basic assumptions are possibly operating. The figure below provides a framework for organising the pertinent cultural assumptions and the understanding of the relationship between the various dimensions of culture as portrayed by the definition of culture as collective solutions to problems of external adaptation and internal integration. The framework is shown in figure 2.1 below:
Figure 2.1 underlying cultural assumptions
Source: Schneider and Barsoux (2003).
The vital features of this framework are:-
Nature of human activity- this refers to how some cultures believe in making things happen and assumed to be the way to survive while others including Nigeria take a more cautious and reflective planning approach. Some managers(North American and Northern European) assume they can control nature and are more likely to take action and hence, greater importance is placed on doing versus being while other managers(French, Nigerian, etc.) believe they have little control over nature and are more likely to take time to plan and reflect, and watch how events unfold. As a result, the quality of the thinking and of personal character is of importance and Trompenaar’s dimension framework referred to this as ‘achievement versus ascription’.
Nature of truth and reality- this refers to how some cultures(Anglo-Saxon) views truth as synonymous with facts and figures while others(France) based it on analysis; not only on the numbers but also the underlying logic. This may lead to frustration in business dealings because some people (French) will prefer to discuss context, theory and history. Others (Americans) might prefer to go straight to the points. However, cultures in Nigeria rely on spirituality, feelings and intuition and appreciate facts and figures but only convinced if it feel right.
Relationship with nature- this refers to how some cultures (Americans) believe they can control nature which others including Nigeria believe it is predetermined and it is fate or destiny. This assumption of controlling nature is closely linked to Hofstede’s dimension of ‘uncertainty avoidance’ which refers to a society’s discomfort with uncertainty, avoidance of risk and preference for predictability and control.
Human nature- this refers to how culture view people as being good or evil. Good (by living and working to maximise their potential i.e. hard work and task mastery) or evil (by committing sin, confessing and repenting). This translates in management into the beliefs about workers: theory X and theory Y. In theory X, workers are assumed to be lazy, to need constant supervision and direction because they will try to get away with as much as possible. Managers, of course, are different. In theory Y, workers are assumed to be self-directed, to be willing to take initiative and to do what has to be done without external control. The assumptions of whether people can be trusted or not, are found in artefacts such as the nature of reporting systems, the degree of scrutiny of expense account and time punch clocks. When people are assumed to be good; they are more likely to be given autonomy and to take initiative; and this encourages a more task orientation culture. However, if assumed to be evil; they are more likely to need external supervision and control and this encourages a more relationship-oriented culture.
Relationship with people- this is break down as follows:-
Importance of relationship versus task- in relationship based cultures, managers (Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East) do business with those they know and would much prefer to establish a relationship before conducting business. Other cultures (North American and Northern European managers) prefer to focus on tasks and relationships are kept aside. These cultures believe that doing business with friends and family interfere with sound judgement and that people should be hired based on merit(ability and past accomplishments) and not connections(le piston in France and Guanxi in China). This concept is closely related to Trompenaar’s (1993) cultural dimensions of ‘universalism versus particularism and it refers to the degree of acceptance of rules and regulations applicable to all and not just selected few.
Masculinity/femininity- although sexist terms but different meaning in management cultures. They referred to taking care of people versus taking care of business. Masculine cultures (ranked high in United States and Japan) placed importance on competitiveness, materialism and assertiveness in the form of promotions, earnings and advancement and big bonuses. However, in feminine cultures, the apprehension for quality of relationships and of work life, social well-being and nurturing may translate into initiatives such as quality of work life and extensive social welfare programs. This is closely related to Trompenaar’s (1993) and Hofstede’s (1980) cultural dimensions of masculinity versus femininity.
Hierarchy- the role of the boss- in particularly to revered hierarchy, this refers to how relationships between people are structured. Some cultures (French) would accept the boss to make all the decisions while others prefer consultative approach with many people involved in the decision making. Though, in other cultures like japan, hierarchy is ambiguous; in the sense that employees are involved in the decision making process but there is clear distinction of the boss being the boss. The Japanese situation is similar to that of Nigeria, where there is strong emphasis on the value of consultative approach to decision making.
Linking assumptions: language, space and time
Language- people formulate thoughts and experience the world through languages. Language influences our relationship with other people and with the environment. According to Hall (1990), there is low context and high context cultures. Low context cultures (Europeans, USA) have communication that is expected to be direct, explicit and clear. High context cultures such as Nigeria have communication that is dependent highly on the person and situation. Information in high context culture is shared among people and some people have more privileged access than others. Being able to read body language and non-verbal signs is crucial because much is communicated in what is not said. Language assumptions determine what is said and how it is said and can be observed in artefacts such as appropriate subjects of discussion (religion, family or politics) and the degree of expressiveness. This difference between low and high context cultures can cause communication difficulties among project teams.
Space- assumptions about space can be physical, personal and at different levels, from what can be observed to what must be referred. Also, these differences can be found in physical planning and how public versus private space is managed in relationships. Assumptions regarding personal space determine the degree and nature of involvement with others; what is expected from family, friendships and colleagues as well as relationship building versus getting down to business.
Time- assumptions about time also influences our relationship with people and the environment. In some cultures time is seen as limited; a finite resources which is spent. Hall (1990) described these assumptions as monochronic and polychronic. Monochronic managers are concerned with spending time positively and starting meetings on time. While polychronic managers see time as unlimited and simultaneous. This difference in view of time influences the importance attached to being on time. Cultures in Nigeria believe that time is unlimited and expands to accommodate activities.
Harris and Moran (2000) argue that culture is basically a group problem-solving tool for surviving daily in a particular environment. Therefore, culture can be analysed within a smaller system, project or organisation or in terms of national groups.
2.1.2 National and organisational cultures
188.8.131.52 National culture
The concept of ’nation’ and that of ’culture’ are difficult to separate as nation is often used as a substitute for culture. However, many nations are multicultural and many cultures are multinational (Schneider, 1989). A meta-analysis of previous research has demonstrated country clusters that report similar values and beliefs (Ronen and Shenkar 1985). These similarities in cultures among nations are derived from language, religion, history, and geography. The assumption here is that, despite within-nation differences, the between-nation differences are significant. Therefore, while features of one nation may be found in another, on average, greater differences will be superficial. These differences, nevertheless, will be less among nations with similar cultures (Schneider, 1989).
National cultures refer to profound beliefs, practices and values which are shared by the vast majority of people belonging to a certain nation. It is learnt very early in life when the person is still ignorant of its influence and it differentiates members of one nation from another. This is reflected in the ways people believe in the family, at school, at work and it is reinforced by government policies and national laws.
According to Howes and Tah (2003), in order to increase understanding of the elements and issues that drive different cultures; cultural mapping is useful as a base to develop a framework so as to enable the application of appropriate management practice. And building a cultural map requires the development of a hierarchy of orientations and issues; beginning with the fundamental issues common to all cultures which include perceptions of what are right and good as opposed to the forces of wrong and evil. This is followed by pride and guilt, fairness and justice and sense of belonging and loyalty. These are powerful emotions that can cause turmoil and in the worst cases, devastation when challenged directly; hence project managers need to be aware (Howes and Tah, 2003).
Hofstede (1980) argues that the major characteristics of national culture can be grouped directly from the universal issues and resultant forces which form the basis of all cultures. Howes and Tah (2003) framework of generalised national cultural dimensions, derived from the works of Hofstede (1980) and Triandis (1995) is conceptually similar to Schneider and Barsoux’s (2003) model of underlying assumptions though with emphasis on good versus evil and right versus wrong. The universal issue of right or wrong that is deeply rooted in culture provides the bases for ethics and morals which are interpreted differently by individual cultures. The interpretations of moral principles which are diverse and moral values which are considered absolute in nature are important for understanding each culture.
184.108.40.206 Organisation culture
It is crucial for construction firms to understand their own culture in terms of processes, attitudes and behaviours, in other words their organisational culture (Alkhamali et al,. 2010 ). Organisational culture is a vital element that distinguishes the successful firms from the others, because it is the most powerful factor, the major distinctive feature, and the most competitive advantage in gaining success (Cameron and Quinn 1999). Efforts to define organisational culture showed discrepancy in the concept. For example, Schein (1992) defined organisation culture as a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the members learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration and has worked well enough to be considered valid and; hence, to be taught to new members as the true way to feel, think and perceive in relation to those problems. However, Hofstede (1997) defined it as the collective mental programming that distinguishes the members of one organisation from another.
One of the main reasons for the prevalent interest and popularity in organizational culture stems from the argument (or assumption) that certain organizational cultures lead to superior organizational financial performance (Ogbonna and Harris, 2000). Rahman and Kumaraswamy (2003) maintained that basic success factors for construction companies are the ‘flexible organisational cultures’ of the organisations involved, so that they can both adapt and contribute to the evolving project culture. This will, in turn, open up the organisations to absorbing back positive culture-building elements that will jointly feed into an improved performance-oriented construction industry culture. However, many researchers attribute good performance, success, and organizational effectiveness of construction organisations to their strong organisational culture (Deal and Kennedy, 1982; Schein, 1992; Barney, 1986; Hoecklin, 1996; Denison and Mishira, 1995). It is reasoned that organizational culture will remain related to superior performance only if the culture is able to adjust to changes in environmental conditions Denison (1990).
Also, organisation culture refers to the deeper level of basic assumptions, beliefs, practices and values that are shared by members of an organisation. Fellows et al (2002) further stated that these sets of beliefs and assumptions can stem from a number of sources such as national; for example British or Nigerian, professional; for example engineer or quantity surveyor, functional; for example finance or marketing and organisational; represented by shared values of the organisation members. These values can undergo forced, dramatic and disruptive change when top management introduces new attitudes and beliefs. Every organisation has its own unique culture which is not the same as others (Konelio, 2005).
220.127.116.11.1 Organisation culture versus National culture
According to research, organisational culture is acquired later in life at a conscious level compared to unconsciously expressed and inherited national culture. Hence, it could be said that national culture is more deeply entrenched in the individual than organisational culture. For example, a national culture in which those in power are highly deferred to and respected, will lead to a form of organisational communication in which there will be no disagreement between bosses and those lower down in the hierarchy. Therefore, it appears more difficult to change one’s national culture than organisational culture (Konelio, 2005).
Also, Low and Leong (2000) stated that organisational culture reflect the national culture in strong terms and it is logical for organisational members to resist plans to impose a culture that does not reflect their national values. Schein (1992) argues the significance of a strong organisational culture with emphasis on its fit within the environment as expressed through the espoused values. The argument being that an organisation may have a strong culture but if it is totally inappropriate, then it may have little or no effect. Rowlinson’s (2001) raised an interesting point in his survey that measured the commitment of professionals to their organisations and the result highlights a mismatch between the aspirations of the professionals and the culture of the organisation in which they worked. However, Schein (1992) argues that organisation cultures are in three levels.
2.1.3 Levels of organisation culture
Cultures are pervasive, complex and deep seated. Nevertheless, according to Schein (1992), we cannot understand organisational learning, development and planned change, unless culture is considered as the primary source of resistance to change. Schein (1992) claimed further that if project managers do not become conscious of the cultures in which they found themselves, those cultures will manage them. Likewise, Schein (1992) stated that culture simultaneously exists on three levels: on the surface are artefacts, beneath artefacts lie espoused values and at the core are basic assumptions (figure 2.2). Assumptions represent taken-for-granted believes about human nature and reality. Values are social standards, goals, principles and philosophies considered to have intrinsic worth. And artefacts are the audible, visible and tangible results of activity grounded in values and assumptions (Hatch, 1993).
Figure 2.2 levels of culture
Tangible or visible organisational processes and structures (hard to decipher). Surface or top level of the project and represented the visible manifestations of the projects organisational culture. Elements such as the physical environment, language particular to the project, office environment and other visible representations of the project are all artefacts.
Philosophies (espoused justification), goals, strategies. Espoused values are the values that perhaps only one person holds initially, often the project manager about the solution to a problem. That person then proposes their values as a solution to an organisational problem within the project. When members of the organisation agree and see that it works, it becomes a shared value. And if successfully, continues to work then it is likely to become an underlying assumption.
Taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, feelings, unconscious and thoughts. These are assumptions in which project team make about how they should go about managing themselves in their external and internal environment. They are based on proven methods used in previous projects in order to complete tasks- the way we do things around here.
Source: Schein (1992).
However, Hatch (1993) criticise Schein’s model asserting that it depend on identifying the links between the artefacts, values and basic assumptions. Hatch (1993) went further to propose a model by integrating symbols into Schein’s model and called it cultural dynamic model (figure 2.3). Though cultural theorists have argued if there is a difference between artefacts and symbols; but Hatch (1993) presents more explicit meanings of procedures that produce the assumptions, artefact, values and symbols. Also, Haimes (2003) stated that the typology used by Hatch’s model help in the understanding of Schein’s model.
Figure 2.3 the cultural dynamics models
Source: Hatch, 1993
The key elements of Hatch’s model are:
Manifestation: - this refers to the process through which a culture reveals itself, usually through a person’s perception, senses or emotions. Hatch (1993) argues that the manifestation process enables the basic underlying assumptions of an organisation to be manifested through the emotions and perceptions of project team members.
Realisation: - this refers to the process by which organisation culture is made tangible. Turning intangible shared beliefs and values of project team members into something real; for example, physical objects, stories.
Symbolisation: - this refers to the derived meanings and associations rather than just a representation of something that artefacts hold for whoever is holding them. This is the main differences between Schein and Hatch’s models. Though, Hatch agrees with Schein that all artefacts can become symbols but disagrees that all symbols are artefacts. Hatch (1993) further argues that symbolisation is at the central of interpreting culture. Depending upon the values of the viewer, symbolisation associated with certain artefacts is wealth, luxury, capitalism, comfort or the feminine.
Interpretation: - this refers to a group process of the culture and occurred as a result of an individual being influenced by other members of the culture. However, it is unclear since members of the same culture can have different interpretations of the same thing (Hatch notes they are socially understood realities).
Also, Haimes (2003) stated that writers in the area of organisation culture have suggested a link between the culture of an organisation and the degree of success it enjoys (Peters and Waterman, 1982). Haimes (2003) further states that for a project, the organisation structure and design defines and shape the hierarchy of roles and tasks, the reporting relationships, vertical chain of command, functional relationships and coordination and control of tasks.
2.1.4 Dimensions of organisational culture
According to cultural theorists (Mead, 1998; Hofstede, 1980), organisational cultures are influenced by not only the national culture but by other environmental factors such as work place practices. The prevailing business culture of an organisation can influence how managers and employees conduct and behave themselves at work and in business dealings. Identifying these differences can assist both project managers and organisation on how to make practical business adjustments so as to accommodate situational factors to achieve successful results. The table below presents a comparison of the differences in organisational cultures that may be encountered in project management.
Table 2.2 identifying different organisational culture
Dimensions and descriptions
Process-oriented (i.e. means). Concerned with the way things are done.
Result-oriented (goals). Concerned with outcomes of decisions.
Closed system: concerned with an unwillingness to quickly accept new members of the working unit.
Open system: concerned with a willingness to quickly accept new members of the working unit.
Normative: concerned mainly to follow procedures and rules to the letter
Pragmatic: concerned mainly is practical and results; even if it means violating procedures and rules.
Job-oriented: concerned with getting the job done.
Employee-oriented: concerned with the well-being of employees.
Tight control: concerned with formal policies and rules. And close control of both money and time.
Loose control: concerned with informality and a lack of bureaucratic procedures.
Parochial: concerned with employees who derive their identity largely from the organisation for which they work.
Professional: concerned with employees who derive their identity largely from the type of work they perform.
Source: Hofstede (1997).
Organisation learning and culture
By the end of the 1980s there was an emerging strategic literature on the notion of the “learning organisation” (Ashton, 1988; Garratt, 1987; Jashapara, 1993; Nonaka, 1991; Pedler et al., 1991; Senge, 1990). Also, Garratt (1999) argue that the concept of organisational learning and learning organisation did not emerge until the 1980s, however, its principles are rooted into many perspective of management and its practices recognise a wide range of factors, such as organisation culture, structures, strategy, absorptive capacity, employee participation, problem-solving ability etc. determining the learning results.
According to Catherine and Pervaiz (2003), organisational learning has quickly evolved to cover various aspect of organisational management. Five focuses of the concept are identified by Catherine and Pervaiz (2003) which include: focuses on collectivity of individual learning, process or system, culture or metaphor, knowledge management and continuous improvement (Table 2.3)
Table 2.3 summary of organisational learning concept and practices
The concept of organisational learning
Organisational learning occurs when individual within an organisation experience a problematic situation and inquire into it on the organisation behalf (Argyris and Schon, 1996)
Staff training and development
Process or system
Organisational learning is the process whereby organisations manage and understands their experiences.(Glynn et al., 1992 cited in Catherine and Pervaiz, 2003)
Enhancement of information processing and problem solving capability.
Culture or metaphor
A learning organisation should be viewed as a metaphor rather than a distinct type of structure, whose employees learn conscious communal processes for continually leveraging, generating and retaining individual and collective learning to improve performance of the organisational system in ways important to all stakeholders and by improving and monitoring performance (Drew and Smith, 1995)
Creation and maintenance of learning culture: involvement, employee empowerment and collaborative team working etc.
Organisation learning is the change in the state of knowledge (Lyles, 1992, 1998). It involves knowledge acquisition, dissemination, refinement, creation and implementation: the ability to acquire diverse information and to share common understanding so that this knowledge can be exploited (Foil,1994) and the ability to develop knowledge, insights and to associate among past and future activities (Foil and Lyles, 1985)
Facilitation of interaction and strengthening of knowledge base.
A learning should intentionally and consciously devote to the facilitation of individual learning in order to continuously transform the entire organisation and its context (Pedler et al., 1991)
The adoption of TQM practices.
Source: Catherine and Pervaiz, 2003.
Organisational learning and the construction industry
The nature of organisational learning in a particular industry will depend to a large extent on factors such as the dominant competitive environment, firm size and a firm’s underlying cultural assumptions and values. The market and organisational structure of the construction industry is highly fragmented. Many firms are small and production tends to be organised in hierarchical chains of actors locked together with overly restrictive forms of contract. The emphasis on competitive tendering sets up a “my gain-your loss” tenet and high levels of claims, counterclaims and litigation; making learning about the market’s changing needs difficult (James and Ashok, 1998).
2.2 Cross-cultural communication
There is a strong relationship between culture, communication and project management. Projects take place in a society where there is culture and for it to be successful require effective communication among project team. The growth of human culture is made conceivable through communication because it is through communication that culture is conveyed from one generation to another. Communication and culture are so closely knotted that Hall (1990) argues that ‘communication is culture, and culture is communication’. Hall (1990) went further to state that we communicate the way we do because we are raised in a certain culture and learn languages, norms and rules. Gudykunst and Kim (1997) maintain that because we learn the languages, norms and rules of our culture at a tender age, we generally are unaware of how culture influences our behaviour in general and our communication in particular.
Harris and Moran (2000) defined cross-cultural communication as a process whereby individuals from different cultural backgrounds attempt to share feelings and meanings. It could also means the process of exchanging, mediating and negotiating one’s cultural differences through non-verbal gestures, language and space relationships (Clarke and Sanchez, 2001). Effective communication is necessary for the successful management of projects, extending from improved cultural understanding to motivating those involved removing waste.
2.2.1 Cultural variables in the communication process
Samovar and porter (1981) recognize a number of cultural variables that can affect the communication process. Perceptions may be influenced by language (spoken or written), attitudes, roles, thought patterns, social organisation, time and non-verbal communication (comprising proxemics, object language, Para-language and kinesic behaviour). Deresky (2008) further stated that the effects of these variables are inseparable and interdependent. In the table below, these cultural variables important for effective project management is highlight. It enables the project manager in understanding why different people communicate and respond certain ways.
Table 2.4: cultural variables in the communication process
Miscommunication often results from a person’s inability to speak the local language, a speaker’s failure to explain idioms or a poor or too literal translation.
This underline the way we interpret messages from other people, communicate and behave. A particular problem in cross-cultural communication is ethnocentric attitudes. While stereotyping assumes that every member of a society or subculture has the same traits or characteristics.
Societies differ considerably in their perception of a manager’s role- of who has responsibility for what and who should make the decisions.
The logical progression of reasoning varies widely around the world and affects greatly the communication process.
Our perceptions can be influenced by differences in approach, values or priorities relative to the kinds of social organisations we belong- tribe, religious set, nation or professions.
The manner and way people use and regard time.
Behaviour which is communicated without word though is accompanied by words at times. It can be categorized into four types: (1) proxemics- influenced of proximity and space on communication, (2) object language- how we communicate through material artefacts, (3) Para-language- how something is said rather than the content and (4) kinesic behaviour-body movements.
2.2.2 Emerging realities
Several of the emerging realities for business; for example, strategic planning, technological change, global markets etc. have become inter-related (Ulijin et al., 2000). Maintaining a competitive edge in a global, dynamic and innovatively evolving environment produces pressure to redefine how business is conducted. Monge and Fulk (1999), new patterns of communication evolve as organisations re-engineer their structures to become more accessible and pro-active. However, this communication needs to be task specific and personalised rather than broad-brush (Feiner and Howard, 1992) and timing is of crucial importance (Meredith and Mantel, 1995).
Still, Dieckmann (1996) maintain that communication is also regarded as one of the most overlooked and neglected parts of project management operations. And inadequate communication has been cited as one of the biggest reasons for projects to meet their expectations (Pardu, 1996). Communicating effectively in projects can help to manage uncertainty (Lanfer et al., 1997), may lead to problems being identified sooner and may generate ideas that lead to better solutions (Dahle, 1997).
According to Dieckmann (1996), having knowledge of the benefits and limitations of each of the main methods of communication (figure 2.6) is a step towards more effective communication. These modes of communication are very useful when applied appropriately with considerations for the people involved and project environment. In Nigeria context, preference is for face to face discussions, citing examples and demonstrating with the use of oral traditions with very little written documentation.
Figure 2.6: modes of communication
Source: Dieckmann, 1996.
Also, according to Gannon (1994), effective communication will increase motivation, encourage teamwork and ensure the involvement of all key stakeholders. Other writer such as Deresky (2008) argues the need to understand how cultural variables cause noise in the communication process so as in order to have effective cross-cultural communication. Noise is anything that serves to undermine the communication of the intended meaning. The sender and the receiver each exist in a private, unique world called ‘life space’. Deresky (2008) maintain that the context of the private world is based largely on values, culture, experience and relatives, and it determines the interpretation of meaning in communication. People selectively understand or filter messages based on what is consistent with their own perceptions and expectation of reality and their norms and values of behaviour. In the context of Nigeria, the locals are accommodating and polite with unquestioning attitudes when communicating with professionals especially expatriates in the construction industry. However, this type of behaviour affects communication which may lead to frustration in that even though the instructions are unclear or the task is beyond the means and capacity of the individual, the answer is likely to be a yes with no questions asked.
Neuliep (2006) states that since intercultural communication are contextual, it occurs in a range of contexts which include: micro-cultural, cultural, perceptual, environmental and socio-relational contexts. A model of contextual intercultural communication is presented by Neuliep (2006) (figure 2.4)
Figure 2.4: a contextual model of intercultural communication
Source: Neuliep, 2006
The key elements of the contextual model are:
The micro-cultural context- this refers to those distinguishable groups of people who share a set of beliefs, behaviours and values and who own a common history and verbal and non-verbal symbol system that is related to the main culture but which differs in some subtle way (Neuliep, 2006). Schaefar (1998, cited in Neuliep, 2006) acknowledged five characteristics that distinguish micro-cultural groups from the main culture- (1) endogamy (marrying within the in-group trusting that it strengthens family ties, maintains cultural and group traditions, preserves family property through inheritance), (2) physical and cultural traits (these include skin colour, language, dress habits, sex), (3) involuntary membership (people cannot choose to be a certain gender, ethnicity, race and sometimes born into religion and find it difficult to leave if they wanted to), (4)uneven treatment by the main group (in the form of discrimination and segregation), (5) awareness of subordinate status (because they know they are less powerful within a particular culture, they tend to be very cohesive).
The cultural context: - this emphasis five dimensions of cultural variability that affect how people communicate: (1) high/low context, (2) power distance, (3) individualism/collectivism, (4) value orientation, and (5) uncertainty avoidance. Culture offers the overall framework in which people learn to classify their emotions, behaviours and thoughts in relation to their environment (Neuliep, 2006) and cultures hides more than it discloses, predominantly from its own members (Hall, 1959).
The perceptual context: - this refers to the higher mental processes essential for human communication which include the collecting, storing and recovery of information. Although, a universal manifestation, this process is influenced by culture and hence, affects how individuals communicate.
The environmental context: - as communication and interaction among people takes place within the perceptual and physical environment, these environments have a prevalent impact on the nature of communication (Neuliep, 2006). Stein (1987, cited in Neuliep, 2006) states that apart from being a passive component of culture, the environment is an active component of the human experience. The physical environment has a significant impact on our communication and as we move from one physical environment to another, our verbal and non-verbal messages adjust accordingly.
The socio-relational context: - irrespective of culture, people belong to groups as our existence depends on our cooperation and interdependency. And the nature of group behaviour and membership, particularly communication, differs considerably across cultures.
2.2.3 Cross-cultural communication styles
Understanding the different communication styles principal in an organisation or society can help in reducing possible stumbling blocks usually related with projects management. Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey (1998) argue that cultures have a predominant style, manner or fashion in which they use their language such as communicating through shades of tonal qualities. The four communication styles acknowledged are presented in table 2.4 below.
Table 2.5 types of cross-cultural communication
Direct and indirect
Direct style of communication employs explicit expressions of intension, clearly expressing the speaker’s needs and desires. Regularly related with low-context, individualistic cultures.
Indirect style of communication is the opposite of direct, where the speaker’s intent is implicit during the exchange or hidden. Regularly associated with high-context, collectivistic cultures.
Elaborate, Exacting and Succinct
This deal with the volume and/or quantity of talk that is preferred across cultural groups. And it is at three levels which are:- (1) elaborate style which highlights elaborate and flashy language; (2) exacting style where a person says no more than is needed; and (3) succinct style where a person uses understatements, concise statements and even silence.
Personal and contextual
Personal communication style highlights and stresses personhood in that the personality of the speaker is amplified. Regularly associated with individualistic cultures.
A contextual communication style highlights and stresses one’s role identity and status. Depend on on the context rather than the words.
Instrument and affective
Instrument style of communication is goal and outcome based, concentrating on achieving the sender’s goal through guidance and persuasion, hence, saving face.
Affective communication style emphases on the receiver and is process oriented rather than outcome achieved.
Source: Gudykunst and Ting-Toomey, 1998.
2.2.4 Cross-cultural considerations
Some forms of communication which are acceptable in one country, may be considered taboo in another. Therefore, while direct physical contact (for example, a kiss on the cheek) maybe practiced by North Americans e.g. USA, Canada and in Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bahrain etc., these are not accepted in Asian and African (including Nigeria) cultures. Cultural values as well as situational variables determine the norms of communication. Sriussadaporn-Charoenngam and Jablin (1999) did a study to determine the effects of cultural values (low individualism, low masculinity, high uncertainty, and high power distance), on the communication practices of Thai project professionals and found coherence between communication and culture. The study reveals that cultural values are reflected in the manner project professionals communicate in respectful, reserved, intimate and deferential ways. Also, in the study of Chinese manager’s relationship with subordinates, Krone et al., (1997) found out that cultural values and political grounding were reflected in the way managers used influences tactics, with subordinates. While another study found out that Chinese make extensive use of intermediaries in delicate communication transactions, whereas Westerners do not (Bond et al., 1985).
Terpstra and Yu (1991) maintain that the diversity in cultures and multiplicity of language used have a compelling effect on management communication in cross-cultural situations. The basic considerations in cross-cultural communications are:-
18.104.22.168 Language and signs
In project management context, Das (1983) stated that the best attitudinal research combines a variety of methods which are able to focus upon different perspectives and dimensions of a phenomenon that may result in effective communication processes being established. Grove and Hallowell (1994) stated that people in many parts of Asia tend to speak in even tones with pauses of silence between speakers. On the other hand, people in many part of Latin America tend to speak enthusiastically with tone changes and modulations, and to overlap each other’s speech frequently. Grove and Hallowell (1994) further stated that foreigners to these cultural regions may have negative interpretations of these propensities.
Silent communication takes place through kinesics, proxemics, paralanguage and object language (Victor, 1992). Kinesics refers to body gestures, movement, postures; while proxemics refers to the influence of proximity in the act of communication. Loosemore (1997) maintained that face-to-face contact gives an advantage in communication and is relevant in high contact cultures where people value high sensory involvement in the communication process. Examples of high contact cultures provided by Deresky (2008) are Southern and Eastern Europeans, Arabs, Indonesians and South Americans. In contrast, North Europeans, Americans and Asians are regarded as low contact cultures where people value less sensory involvement in the communication process.
Para-language refers to how something is said rather than what is said in terms of context. According to Hoecklin (1994), the capability to convey Para-language especially in high context cultures such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean. In such cultures, Loosemore (1997) declares that thoughts and feelings are less openly expressed and it is necessary to read between the lines. People from different cultural backgrounds may often misread the reserved, controlled style of some Asians and their conversational silences. Though, as Grove and Hallowell (1994) pointed out, insiders know implicitly if not explicitly, that nothing is wrong. Contrary to high context culture, in low context culture such as Western Europe, northern Europe and North America; thoughts and feelings are made more explicit therefore, making Para-language less important (Hoecklin, 1994).
Object language refers to how people communicate through material artefacts such as office layout and clothing. Loosemore (1997) argues that the threat across cultural limits is that people may misconstrue the manner of dress as a personal statement instead of merely being a characteristic of an individual’s cultural identity.
Healthy curiosity about the meanings of emotional coolness or heatedness on the part of counterparts from other cultures better enables us to avoid judging other behaviour on the basis of our cultural norms (Grove and Hallowell, 1994). This is also true of the Nigerian context. Discussions and conversations are long and take time so that all members’ voices are heard even if they are repeating what someone else has expressed. Interruptions are seen as a sign of disrespect and frown upon. Therefore, been aware and appreciative of the double layering of Nigerian languages with its oratorical and the everyday language is a considerable aid to cross-cultural understanding.
Stereotypes according to Lippman (1992) refer to the tendency to categorise others into district social groups and to generalise about characteristics that distinguish members of those groups from each other. Hogg and Abrams (1988) note stereotypes are uncertainty-reducing devices, which serve to structure the potentially infinite variability of stimuli into a more manageable number of distinct categories. Stereotyping allows people to reduce and simplify the unpredictability of their social world by placing themselves and others into distinct social categories (Konelio, 2005). And Seymour and Rooke (1995) stated that there is tendency to do this in people who are guided by scientific values.
Stereotypes in project management according to Loosemore (1997) are a set of enduring, socially shared beliefs brought about by centuries of tradition. These stereotypes harm communication by isolating behavioural traits and limiting communication. Brewster-Smith (1972) and Manis et al., (1998) maintained that stereotypes are grounded in people’s belief, systems which shape their attitudes, and in turn, their behaviour, towards each other in a social setting. This subconscious process of selective perception is viewed by Langdon and Marshall (1998), as a threat to the quality of decision-making, interpersonal relationships and communication in construction industry.
According to Munus (1996), the problems of decision-making and communication which result from widely held stereotypes are likely to contribute to a relatively high level of conflict in construction industry especially if expatriates are involved. Azar (1997) argues that the most worrying thing about stereotypes is that they are ‘contagious’. They tend to influence the behaviour of people who do not believe in them initially. Also, Azar (1997) revealed that even people who scored low on the modern racism scale (a widely used test of prejudice) tend to show bias when interacting with certain ethnic groups- avoiding physical closeness, eye contact and acting in a less friendly manner. In the context of Nigeria, avoiding physical closeness, eye contact with those in authority is deemed a mark of respect. Although, expatriate managers in Nigerian construction industry; may perceive this behaviour as being devious and that there is something to hide.
Time and time schedules are viewed differently by people depending on the culture they are brought up in. jayanth et al., (1999) refers to real time or clock as a resources of efficiency (time is money). However, Anand and Khanna (2000) argue that both the national and organisational culture can influence the concept of time. Conflict might occur when organisational time has different meanings to those involved in a cultural or personal relationship. This perspective supports Almaney and Alwans (1982) view that in different cultures; people used and regard time in different ways. In time-obsessed cultures, punctuality is critical, schedules are set in concrete, agendas are fixed and business meetings rarely interrupted (Konelio, 2005). These clock-obsessed cultures is been described by Hall (1990) as monochronic.
Harris and Moran (2000) maintained that North Europeans and North Americans are relatively linear in their communication. Also, Grove and Hallowell (1999) assert that the cultural inheritance of North Americans including Canadians and many northern Europeans (including New Zealanders and Australian) view time as moving. Saving time is of the essence in the business culture of these societies. Grove and Hallowell (1999) assert that business cultures in these societies emphasize motion and time studies, assembly lines, penalty clauses for late delivery and fast bucks- a high profit relationship between product-delivery-time.
In contrast to monochronic cultures are polychronic cultures (Hall and Hall, 1990). People in these cultures (including Nigeria) place less emphasis on strict punctuality and are not obsessed with deadlines. Grove and Hallowell (1999) refer to this alternative view of time as casual. Also, Hall and Hall (1990) argue that polychronic cultures value loose scheduling and this pose serious problem in construction industry where projects are based on scheduling. Trompenaars (1993) maintained that in relationship oriented cultures like Mexico; the technological qualities of business are superseded by relationships. And Hall and Hall (1990) assert that Indonesians refer to polychronic time as ‘jam karet or rubber time- flexible while in Africa; it is referred to as ‘Africa time’ where meetings will not start as scheduled. In Singapore, according to Gesteland (1999), business meetings usually start within 5-10 minutes of scheduled time but weddings and other social gatherings can start at least two hours after scheduled time.
In polychronic cultures like Nigeria, punctuality may vary according to the occasion. Hall and Hall (1990) classify business culture around the world as shown in table 2.6 below:
Table 2.6: Business cultures and world regions
Country and world regions
Germanic and Nordic Europe, North American, Japan, Switzerland
Most of East central Europe, southern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China
Most of Africa, Latin American, South and South east Asia, South Pacific, The Arab world.
Source: Hall and Hall, 1990.
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