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How To Celebrate Project Team’s Diversity
By Jona Miranda Jone

A good introduction to Project Management is a quote by a wise man:

“Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” – Joy Gumz

But, just what is Project Management? And, how important is it?

Project management process entails planning, organizing, motivating people, controlling resources, creating procedures to achieve specific goals of the company.

The success or failure of a project is attributable to the quality of project management. It is a key to the growth and survival of any business entity for success of a project ensures efficiency in the management of resources – be it time, cost, materials and deployment of people to effectively reaching the goals.

Diversity in Project Management

Project teams are diverse teams. Thus, managing project teams may be said to be challenging. Project team’s diversity may be differences in gender, age, personality, religion, orientation, et al. Understanding the viability of remote work and distributed teams is really vital. Viability stems from three factors namely, the wide variety of availability of high-speed broadband in homes that parallels and even sometimes rivals office internet connections, the proliferation and constant development of cloud collaboration services, and the corollary of factor like efficient real-time text and communication.

And, as an offshoot of globalization we also have cultural diversity. There is a proliferation of virtual project teams– otherwise known as distributed teams who collaborate and communicate via the net.

Just how must a Project Manager respond to diversity?

Often, the first response to dealing with differences is fear. Yet, the best way to deal with cultural diversity is to create a culture of openness. Being open to differences is cognizant of different values and innate uniqueness of each member of the team. Such attitude will impact on thought processes, values and work culture.

The Project Manager needs to develop “soft skills”. Here are some tips:

  • Develop an atmosphere in which it is okay for employees to ask for help. Seek information and feedback from people of various backgrounds and culture. Include everyone in the problem-solving and decision-making process, if possible.
  • Create a team spirit. Make each member feel that s/he is part of the team. Encourage innovations and initiatives. Maximize opportunity to contribute to the success of the team. In doing so, it encourages the team to accept every individual in the team and it makes the team realize that it takes a variety of people to become the best. Project managers should monitor progress of all team players.

  • Encourage communication. For distributed teams, they work across time, space and organizational boundaries. Their links rely on communication technology. They require new ways, new systems, new processes and technology. In order to encourage communication, the project manager must:

    • Use the right communication tools

      How to facilitate efficient and effective interaction via right communication tools, how much face-to-face time is required, what information is to be shared are some of the important considerations considered in project management system. Some level of technical expertise must likewise be considered.

      Due to geographical distribution (different time zones in consideration), face-to-face time may occur rarely. Social link is weak with team being more task-focused than socially focused. Thus, if face-to-face meetings are feasible, devote this to relationship building. Or, make use of alternative electronic communication tools that could promote social bonding. If teams get to communicate more socially, they could establish trust amongst themselves, thereby developing better social and emotional relationships.

    • Make everyone focused on the goals, not the differences. Three aspects to consider in having distributed teams: purpose, people, links. The purpose holds the team together. There is no hierarchy, especially when they may not be from the same organization. From purpose stems the actions steps for people to work on – common goals with expected output (individual tasks and results).

      While the differences can also pose as a challenge, keeping eye on a common goal would have to be the discipline to resolve possible conflicts.

    Communication may be enhanced through continuous feedback, soliciting opinions and suggestions from the team.

Diversity is healthy when managed well. In diversity, we have different points of view. The beauty in it, when well managed is that, it provides a new perspective in solving problems, of generating new ideas.

Jona Miranda Jone is a writer for the Communities at Washington Times. You can follow Jona on Twitter.

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