Cultural Communication Issues and Project E-Leadership
Margaret R. Lee
the 21st century unfolds, global growth continues to present challenges.
Organizations will begin to see major imbalances in the skills and labor
market and will look to global workers and global leadership to maintain
a competitive advantage. The workforce of the future needs and wants to
be mobile. Years ago John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, summarized the
importance of understanding culture in communications for global leaders:
"Globally linked virtual teams will transform every government and
company in the world. Any of our peers who don't do it won't survive".
Case Study: Making the Switch to a Virtual Communication Plan
Jorge is a project manager for a large electronics company. As a project
manager for traditional, collocated projects, he relies heavily upon oral
communication (face-to-face, team meetings), telephone, e-mail, and
hard copies (paper) for reports, memos, and letters. Yesterday Jorge
was given his first hybrid virtual project. Several of the team members
are virtual and in different time zones. Only Jorge and two team members
are collocated at the organization's headquarters. He immediately
realizes that his tried-and-true project communication plan template
will need to change.
Jorge begins to sketch out his thoughts regarding how he will communicate
with his dispersed project team. Realizing the importance of a
good communications plan, he drafts his ideas for the communication
plan in a table format (Table 1) to share with the team.
Table 1. Jorge's Communications Plan Draft
He quickly realizes that his draft looks just like his tried-and-true
traditional collocated project communications plans and modifies it
by adding one more column to the table (Table 2) to answer the
where for each piece of his plan.
Table 2. Jorge's Modified Columns to the Communications Plan
It is immediately evident that he is going to need the company to set
up some kind of collaborative database for his project that all his team
members and stakeholders can access. He sets up a meeting to talk
with the IT department about what his needs will be for this database.
He also decides to talk with them to determine the how of communicating
with his new team. He presents them the following needs for
- Voicemail and e-mail for updates and information sharing (low interaction
- Electronic bulletin board, chat room, website, and video- and
audio-conferencing for brainstorming, problem solving, and
decision making (moderate interaction activities)
- Conferencing with audio/video and text/graphic, whiteboards
with audio//s, and electronic meeting system (EMS) with audio/
video and text and graphic support for collaborative work (high interaction
After the team's kickoff meeting, Jorge knows he will need to involve
the team in putting together the final version of their communications
plan. As he always does with his teams, he will be asking for their
help in developing the communications plan. He will involve them in
deciding what messages need to be conveyed and who needs to get
them, the frequency of the communications, the level of detail needed,
and the outcome of the communications. With this team, however, he
decides the most important questions he will be asking are, "What is
the best format for each audience and message?" and "What is the best
medium for each audience and message?" Understanding that several
virtual members of the team have been on virtual teams before, Jorge
is ready to listen to their suggestions and allow emergent leaders to
come forward with information and ideas for the plan.
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