Use-it-Wisely Partners lead on research to help break down language barriers in multinational projects

A research article on breaking down language barriers and improving communication on multinational projects was recently published by the International Journal of Managing Projects in Business by two authors from Use-it-Wisely partner organisations: Dr Stephen Fox, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Prof Stefan Grosser, School of Management, Bern University of Applied Sciences.

The research investigated economical information and communication design (ICD) for multinational projects as it is a central topic in modern day international project management.

The paper focussed on one particular multinational project, with engineers from countries across Europe working in different sectors, including aerospace, furniture, maritime, quarrying and power. A principle focus for the research was to establish common understanding between the collaborating companies on their relative current and future position. Often, presentation slides are used as written communication to explain a company’s offering and activities. However, presentations do not provide common points of reference for participants to establish common understand of their relative positions.

Research Conducted
The research project developed a series of checklists, derived from theoretical propositions based on extensive previous research by other scholars, to enable common understanding between the research practitioners, as checklists are widely used in engineering. Two of the continua used in the research included: “Focus on financial results: expected [..] return affordable losses” and “Collaborative behaviour: focus on strategic alliances […]focus on competitive behaviour”. Groups were asked to mark on the continua their organisations’ current positions and desired positions. These two continua were extracted from effectuation theory (Sarasvathy, 2001). To facilitate collaborative discussions among researchers, the checklists of continua were printed out on paper for participants to gather around during discussions and were also available in digital format.

The economical ICD of continua checklists addresses potential sources of ambiguity in the communication of information to multinational audiences. The easy-to-grasp framework of continua checklists was found to be an efficient means for practitioners to establish shared understanding. Continua checklists drawn from theoretical research have the potential to be applied across international project management. Their simple brevity limits the potential for barriers in language, presentation style and any other sources of ambiguity.
The research conducted represents another step towards improving communication and information sharing among European projects. We hope this will help to foster and promote collaboration into the future.

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