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Changing Dynamics of Team Leadership in Global Project Environments

Author(s): Hans J. Thamhain

Journal: American Journal of Industrial and Business Management
ISSN 2164-5167

Volume: 03;
Issue: 02;
Start page: 146;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Project Management | Multinational Team Leadership | Technology | Virtual Enterprise

The dynamics and challenges of managing geographically dispersed project teams is examined in a field investigation of 72 multinational product developments, observed and studied between 2008 and 2012. The findings provide insight into the business processes and leadership style most conducive to cross-functional collaboration and effective project integration throughout the enterprise and its partners. The results show that many of the problems that surface on the technical side can be traced to social, psychological and organizational issues. In fact, people issues have the strongest impact on project performance. People are an intricate part of the work process. Issues affecting people, eventually impact the broader enterprise. On the positive side, the study shows that certain conditions, such as personal interest, pride and satisfaction with the work, professional work challenge, accomplishments and recognition, serve as catalysts toward unifying culturally diverse project teams and their work processes. These conditions act as bridging mechanisms between organizational goals and personal interests, between central control and local management norms, and between following a project plan and adaptive problem solving. However, working seamless across borders and cultures requires more than just issuing work orders, project summary plans or management guidelines. Emphasis must be on common values and goals to focus and unify the team. By recognizing the greater autonomy of all international partners as well as their cultural differences, management can build a true partnership among all the contributing organizations with strong linkages for communication, decision making and technology transfer that is sustainable over the project lifecycle. The paper suggests a framework for managerial actions and leadership for building high-performance multinational project teams.
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