Global Project Management: Communication, Collaboration and Management Across Borders

Derek H.T. Walker (RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 23 January 2009



Walker, D.H.T. (2009), "Global Project Management: Communication, Collaboration and Management Across Borders", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 160-163.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is a practitioner‐oriented text on managing global project management (PM) teams written by an experienced project manager. It is one a very few available texts in this domain with a PM focus and as such it makes a valuable contribution to PM practice. The dust jacket claims that the core of this book, The global Project Management Framework ©, was developed by the author at the Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh. The framework provides a neat way of presenting and organising the book being a globe figure with longitude and latitude lines to segregate it into 25 chapters of varying length and five major themes: Global teams; global communication; global organisations; collaborative tools and collaborative techniques.

The introduction chapter establishes the flavour of the book with many diagrams, figures and tables which make it easy to pick up refer to and grasp overall appreciation of topics that may be justifiably included in such a book. The style of writing and presentation is very much a workbook resource based upon on what appears to have been a series of workshops or hands‐on training classes.

Chapters tend to start with a box inviting readers to think about the topic covered in that chapter and the chapters tend to provide numerous tables and templates that many practitioners may find very useful. There are numerous other boxes with real‐life experience examples and the style of writing is very much first person and prescriptive in nature. This can be helpful to those who are novices or are seeking guidelines or rules to follow but this focus on a “right way” may distract or irritate the more experienced project manager with more extensive experience in working in global situations and with cross‐national teams on global projects as it can appear to be naïve or simplistic.

As an academic text, this book falls well short of expectations at a tertiary post‐graduate level because it fails to introduce the readers to much of the theory to be readily found in the broader management literature. For example, in Chapter 1 and elsewhere (Hofstede, 1991; Trompenaars, 1993) but this is where it ends and not starts so that lessons learned from the Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness (GLOBE) study (House et al., 2002) and many of the other useful papers that have appeared in the business, construction/engineering management and PM literature concerning culture.

Just a few of the following references provide examples of how the theory has been available for a decade and a half and how this area of study has more recently attracted attention (Shaw, 1990; Gudykunst et al., 1991; Ting‐Toomey et al., 1991; Swierczek, 1994; Hui and Graen, 1997; De Vries, 1999; Loosemore and Al Muslmani, 1999; Winch, 2000; Park and Luo, 2001; Ashkanasy et al., 2002; Loosemore and Lee, 2002; Tan and Chonng, 2003; Mäkilouko, 2004; Zwikael et al., 2005; Grisham, 2006; Wang and Liu, 2007). This shortcoming may be compensated for by readers seeking wider references than those offered in this book. The lack of acknowledgement of the wider body of work cited above (which is really the tip of an enlarging iceberg) can cause an irritant to those reading the book who value being able to fossick through an extensive bibliography or reference section for further hidden “gems”. That said I found the book to be one I would heartily recommend to those engaged in global project teams or managing cross‐cultural teams as a very valuable introductory text.

Part 1 of this five part book deals with issues surrounding global teams. There are five chapters in this section on cross‐cultural collaboration, global PM leadership, trust building, conflict resolution, and coaching over distance. Some of these chapters are only a few pages long and as noted previously appear as a primer rather than text to be used by more seasoned PM professionals with global PM experience.

Part 2 global communication begins with a short chapter on stakeholders and communication channels moving into more prescriptive and advisory content on conducting meetings and communicating in a cross‐cultural setting. This is no doubt of great value to many readers who might tend to operate on automatic pilot and assume that their culture or the Project Management Institute way for example is the global standard. This group of chapters brings a timely and valuable reminder that we live in a complex world where even using English as a common language does not ensure mutual understanding about PM scope and priorities. Part 2 did I feel lay down some useful foundation work that global project managers should build upon.

Part 3 on global organisations had I felt some mixed value. Chapter 11 appeared to be very superficial and Chapter 12 on International Human Resources management seemed to be very much focussed on the organisation's view and value proposition whereas in a world where there is a dearth of sophisticated cross‐national PM expertise, I would have thought that the aim would be to attract and retain the best talent. This chapter appeared to me to be about filling positions with little or no relation to some very complex issues about HRM that could present potential land‐mines problems to those hiring key staff. The template examples provided could work well within a UK context perhaps but seem a little out of place in this book. There is a chapter that introduces project management offices and the kind of support that they offer in a global context and also a very brief introduction to emotional intelligence – though this is very much a primer in its flavour.

Part 4 is concerned with implementation of collaborative tools. This provides some very useful ideas on how technology may be used (and abused) and this section illustrates how many PM texts have failed to discuss this important enabler and facilitator of global team work on projects. The brief chapter on knowledge sharing is highly superficial and seems to confuse knowledge with information. This was to me, irritating; however I can appreciate that it would be en eye‐opener for many traditional project managers who currently do not see knowledge transfer and organisational learning as a priority.

The final part contains a series of brief chapters on the adoption of collaborative tools. These chapters are very brief and mainly checklist and prescriptive in tenor. This may be due to scant coverage of this aspect in many PM texts and so it represents a foundation on which later PM text will no doubt expand upon. The last chapter introduce some important concepts on maturity levels of organisation with reference to global PM team leadership.

In summary, I found many aspects of this text disappointing but I believe to be fair to the author that is due to the academic purist in me that protests about lack of rigour in citing sources that can provide a lead to readers about where they could find a wealth of useful follow up material. The practitioner in me argues that this is a very useful and easy to pick up book and is as such a useful tool. From that perspective it is a long waited primer for those struggling with managing global PM teams with little access to the wealth of materials that “academics” like me tend to take for granted.

I would certainly recommend that this book be ordered as a valuable reference for all university and corporate organisation libraries. I suspect that the author would have a wealth of additional useful materials to add in later editions or to impart at the workshops that this book looks that it is based upon. This represents one of the pioneer books in an important area of focus for PM and so I am pleased to see this available to widen access to PM wisdom.


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De Vries, M.F.R.K. (1999), “High‐performance teams: lessons from the pygmies”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 27 No. 3, p. 66.

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Ting‐Toomey, S., Gao, G., Trubisky, P., Yang, Z., Kim, H.S., Lin, S. and Nishida, T. (1991), “Culture face maintenance, and styles of handling interpersonal conflict: a study in five cultures”, International Journal of Conflict Management, p. 2.

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