Selected Articles and Papers

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Open for Business
First Published: APM Project Magazine, December, 2017

Diverse environments provide an added opportunity for today's businesses.
A culturally aware and proficient professional can take advantage of the higher level of reflection in a diverse group, and harness the flexibility provided through the diverse skills pool for more efficient and longer lasting results.
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How to Lead a Diverse Team
First Published: CulturePM, July, 2017

In an increasingly multicultural world whereby diversity – rather than similarity – is the norm of
many teams and organisations, understanding the professional significance of such diversity has never been so important as is today; and indeed, many have researched and written on the subject (myself included).
In this short article, I will illustrate what the leader of a newly formed culturally diverse team can do, in order to guide the formation of a healthy culture and lead the team towards its optimum potential.
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Project leadership in a multicultural world
First Published: Dubai International Project Management Forum, October, 2016
Ever since early globalization and the rise of multinational organizations, the significance of culture on international management and business has been extensively researched by experts in the field.
However, certain cultural aspects relating to our modern times have yet to receive their due share of attention; that is, the specific cultural influences on project management practices (as opposing to practices within standard operations or business development); and, the added complexity brought about by today’s increasingly diverse working environments.
This paper aims to clarify the significance of culture from a management perspective, and outline some of its impact on project (and program) management and leadership today; as well as offering insights and tips for the project professional to better lead and manage the multicultural diversity of their environment.


Culture, leadership and the matrix organisation
First published: Gower’s GpmFirst, July, 2015
To say that the matrix works better in Western cultures, especially Western Europe and the US, as compared to the Middle East, the Far East, or Eastern Europe will be no surprise to many international professionals. Nor is it to many researchers; after all, the matrix was created in the US. But thinking about the matrix in terms of the three cultural characteristics (power–distance, uncertainty avoidance and specific versus diffuse) helps to reveal ‘why’ it is so – essential if we are to understand the implication of working in a matrix organisation outside our own culture.


Managing the matrix
First published: Gower’s GpmFirst, July, 2015
There are numerous studies that have analysed the problems presented by the matrix organisation and suggested solutions. The vast majority of these were performed in the US during the 1970s and 1980s. This short article presents an overview of some conclusions to these studies, and lists key factors that help make the matrix organisation work.
This article is a companion to Omar's Guest Editorial: Culture, leadership and the matrix organisation (note above).


A Borninian Project Manager in Ausmania
First published: Project Management Institute April, 2013 
This paper presents a scenario of two large organisations from countries of different cultures and practices, that decide to undertake a large joint project together. These two "fictional" countries are Borninia and Ausmania. Both organisations are profitable and well established manufacturers of automotive components, with clients including some of the largest car manufacturers worldwide. Both organisations manufacture the state of the art Tinanion Braking Systems (TBS) and compete for its market. However, the Borninian TBS suffer from certain faults that the Ausmanian TBS does not. Likewise, the Ausmanian TBS suffer from other faults that the Bornininian TBS does not. This is due to the companies being forefront leaders in developing varying functions of the TBS. The two companies, showing very high maturity and strategic intelligence have decided to setup a joint venture that will take over the production, distribution, and sales of the TBS. Not only would this decrease overall production costs by merging them, it will also merge the best expertise of both manufacturers eliminating all faults and resulting in a state of the art TBS.
The paper begins by looking at previous works of Talcott Parsons, Geert Hofstede, and Michael Bond. Then it explores 'what is culture?' and provides several definitions of the term. A discussion on four cultural dimensions ensues. Next, the paper explores whether the bulk of research identifying certain cultural trends still applies today. It also compares absolute dimensions and comparative dimensions. Furthermore, the paper discusses culture and practices, suggesting that people should be able to distinguish between practices and culture, identify the cultural source(s) of negative practices, and aim to change these practices with respectful consideration to the originating culture.



Cultural Complexities in Multinational Projects
First published: Project Management Institute 2012
The cultural complexities multinational organisations face are not a new phenomenon or topic. Indeed, the mid-twentieth century saw various discussions, research, studies and policies (including de-centralisation) that aimed to better understand and address cross-cultural complexities. The most known by far and one of the largest research studies held at the time was by Geert Hofstede in the early 1970s. His research, which included over 100,000 filled questionnaires by IBM employees in various countries, identified four major cultural dimensions that significantly effect management practises and their acceptance in various cultures.
Hofstede’s initial study was further enlarged and developed and its results adapted one way or another by most multinational organisations to still increasing positive results today. Since the initial studies, however, businesses have seen an exponential increase of project activities and a decrease in operational activities due to rapidly changing markets, services and products and these projects are indeed very often multinational and multicultural.
Do they then suffer from the same cultural complexities that standard international management suffered from (and still to some extent do today)? Should project management methodologies be adapted and their implementation customised to suit the various cultures and countries? This paper takes from the presenter’s and others’ experiences to address the cultural complexities observed in multinational projects. It also suggests how project management standards and methodologies may be adapted to make good use of their proven results while being sensitive to their varying cultural impact in today’s increasingly globalised businesses.


Business Change within programmes. Its not about transition !
First published: Project Management Institute 2011 
The past two decades have seen a significant development in project and program management methodologies. Perhaps one of the most notable is the increasing distinction between the two disciplines and the definition of what exactly entails program management as opposed to project management. This paper discusses the most distinguishing features of program management: benefit management and business change management. That is, the process of planning and controlling the necessary changes in the daily business both as an outcome of the program and as a necessity towards achieving the objectives of the program (deriving outcomes from outputs). This paper illustrates business change within the program management context and the roles and skills involved in managing it toward realizing the program's objectives.


Roles, Responsibilities and Skills in Programme Management
First published: Project Management Institute 2010 
The past two decades have seen a significant increase in project and programme management maturity, largely thanks to the efforts of the various project management institutes and associations worldwide.
More importantly to the context of this paper, programme management as opposing to project management, varying not in scale but rather in fundamental management aspects has been well developed and defined over the past decade. A major milestone in such understanding was the publication of the 3rd edition of the OGC’s Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) in 2007 which defines programme management as “the action of carrying out the coordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a dossier of projects and transformation activities to achieve outcomes and realise benefits of strategic importance to the business”, and clearly outlines the role of the Business Change Manager which constitutes the greatest difference between the roles found in project management and in programme management.
Today, some confusion still prevail over the roles of the different actors in programme management and how they differ from their peers in project management.
This papers tries to outline and clarify the major roles, their responsibilities and the skill required to satisfy such responsibilities.

Why Culture?

What I can offer your organization

My new book

Simply because we define what is acceptable and what is not, what is desirable and what is not, what is appropriate and what is not on the basis of culture; and this has implications that go far beyond social pleasantries and etiquette, impacting every aspect of our life including work. read more...
Seminars  - becoming aware of cultural opportunities and threats 
Workshops  - learning to exploit opportunities and mitigate threats ​
Consultancy  - working together to put theory in practice; exploiting opportunities and mitigating threats ​

"this is probably one of the most accessible and practical books available, which defines and articulates cultural aspects from a pragmatic and embracing perspective."   read more...
 
Project Magazine, Association of Project Managers (APM)