Following up on the blog Culture at Work: a Collabyrinth, I have started a series of five mini-blogs in which I reveal five pieces of advice that emerged from my Ph.D. study (Smits 2013). The five P’s, as I like to abbreviate them, capture my key recommendations for working in a cross-cultural environment. I want to stress that this list is not exhaustive, nor does it give tools; it rather offers advice supporting cross-cultural work in project management.
Today I’d like to discuss the P for Project Philosophy.
Reflecting the goal of the project, a shared project philosophy can align the project members in their engagement for the project and support the development of a collaborative relationship. Pitsis, Clegg et al. (2003) demonstrated that a ‘future perfect strategy’, that is, imagining the project is already complete, created commitment of the partners; they perceived the project as unique and felt excitement for working on this project. In this example, the project philosophy ensured that project members at all levels shared the same values, believed the project was ‘something special’ and had an ultimate shared goal in mind, rather than partial success for the home organizations.
Providing an idea that project members can translate into their everyday work practices, a project philosophy serves as a vehicle through which meanings are challenged, negotiated and shared. It is therefore important that the project philosophy captures a complete image of the project and can act as a guiding principle in the execution of the project and the process of collaboration.
In order to achieve goals, express meaning and communicate important messages, project philosophy elements such as a logo, a shared language, and mutual norms and values support creating commitment amongst project members. Also, kick-off meetings, events around a phase transition, and other rituals add to the preservation of the project philosophy and accommodate the introduction of new behaviors and practices.
If all these interventions are well connected and clearly communicated, they have the power to construct a shared identity and an effective collaborative relationship among all project members.
Pitsis, T. S., et al. (2003). “Constructing the Olympic Dream: A Future Perfect Strategy of Project Management.” Organization Science 14(5): 574-590.
Smits, K. (2013). Cross Culture Work: Practices of Collaboration in the Panama Canal Expansion Program. Delft, Next Generation Infrastructures Foundation.