Background to the Problem
Distortions in information distribution often lead to the failure of projects (Dinsmore, 2006). Cultural differences, gender and the leadership styles of organizations are responsible for distortion in information distribution (Alessandra & Hunsaker, 2005). However, the extent to which they influence the distortion is unknown. The research measures the current level of distortions in information distribution and proposes improvements that will lead to lesser distortions.
Projects failures include lateness, exceeding of budget estimates, having short goals and project cancellations for whatever reasons (Gido & Clements, 2009). A large majority of project failures are avoidable. The main cause of project failures is not usually the inability to prepare or disregard for preparation (Gido & Clements, 2009). Rather, project failure mainly results from a poor handling of challenges that emerge during the project implementation phase. The project implementing team has to have the will to be imaginative and innovative in handling emerging challenges so that the project succeeds. The main reason that any project will fail is the inability to spot and correct problems as a team because of a lack of or an inadequate project information-distribution mechanism. Where an appropriate information distribution mechanism lacks, a team becomes uncertain about project responsibilities (Ramsing, 2009). Moreover, the team members do not have a clue of any substantial change in the status, size, budget and timeline of the project (Ramsing, 2009). In addition, issues remain hidden until they reach a bigger scale posing huge challenges of resolving them. Lastly, when these issues remain buried, they eventually emerge as full-blown disasters rendering projects as complete failures.
Project implementation is about management of people relations as much as it is about delivering the objectives of the project. People management depends on the leadership style, the gender composition of the group and the cultural differences that exist within the group (Li, Huang, & Yang, 2011). These factors will greatly affect the cohesiveness of the project implementation team; how well the team manages to handle the existing information distribution mechanism in avoiding communication pitfalls.
Inadequate information distribution leads to irritations within the project implementing team (Robson & Tourish, 2005). Moreover, it can result to conflicts, increase in avoidable misunderstandings and an uninviting working environment (Maturana & Varela, 1987). None of which is desirable. Project management involves more than the creation of schedules and updating of relevant figures. What matters most in project management is to ensure that everyone in the team and stakeholder group reads from the same page. Therefore, effective project management requires coordination of people coming from different departments within the organization (Hofner, Mikk, & De_Vries, 2005). What needs avoiding during project implementation is a scenario where a team member says that they were not informed of a particular action. In project implementation, information is power. Moreover, the information has needs delivery in a consistent and manageable manner so that project leaders are able to regulate it as they regulate the project’s progress (Doublestein, 2006).
Historically, project failures attributed to information distribution failures arise out of three major communication problems. These are a lack of communiqué plan, an inadequate information distribution and confirmation system and a failure to inspire initial administration of bad news. The efficacy of the information distribution system will depend on the three major factors that this paper seeks to address (Anon, 2009). They are gender, leadership styles and cultural differences (Anon, 2009). While addressing these factors, it is paramount to consider what information should be passed to the relevant stakeholders, the people that need the information and when they need it. This leads to the question of how will the information be packaged and offered and who will distribute the information?
The best way to deal with information distribution is to have systems. Systems provide procedures that cater for all types of communication styles for project information such as email, phone or face to face. The systems must ensure transparency by having a message recipient acknowledgement. Additionally, a system that enables all communication to be centralized is desirable. Centralized communication makes it easy to capture discussions, performance and forecasts so that people find whatever they are looking for faster. Today, there are several computer-based tools for project collaborating that offer an out of the box solution to information distribution. In addition, these tools provide verification mechanisms to ensure accuracy of the information and extend their reach to internet version that can be easily implemented. However, the tools still fail to solve the problem of information distribution that concerns perceptions and individual way and preferences of understanding (Chaudhry, et al., 2006).
All systems rely on the quality of input that they receive in order to offer reliable and useful output. The question of having quality information input and the required information input rests with the individual feeding the information to the system. The inherent differences existing in different leadership styles, genders and cultural backgrounds affect the amount of information channeled through information distribution systems. Additionally, irrespective of the quality and quantity of information of out of the information distribution system, the effectiveness of the information on the recipient depends on how the recipient handles it (Hofner, Mikk, & De_Vries, 2005).
Background of the Study
Information distribution is a term that relates to the process of assimilating facts and incidences in a project implementation case and disseminating the same to the important stakeholders of the project. Moreover, the targets of the information are parties that have a financial stake in the project and will greatly benefit from a successful implementation (Stakpole, 2010).
For any project to be successful, it is important to deliver communication to all sponsors, team members, stakeholders and even customers. The manner in which the project information is distributed matters a lot in determining whether the completion of the project phases will be on the stipulated period. Typically, a project manager is in charge of setting up meetings, identification of risks during the planning phase, and sharing important dates relevant to the project implementation (Dinsmore, 2006).
Other than managers, employees are also finding it critical that they communicate effectively because a huge part of their work depends on this. There has been a sea of change in communication technologies such that organization structures have radically changed (Saladis & Kerzner, 2009).
Project managers have to be aware of any requirements that relate to the external and internal communication. Moreover, they should be aware of any requirements for formal and informal communication during the project implementation state. In this regard, there are several major involvements to information distribution. First, the project manager has to have a project management plan that definitely includes a plan on communication management. Then, a manager has to have performance reports. Project reports give information about how the project is progressing, the current condition of the project. Information distribution tools consist of the communication skills of the project manager, how the project manager understands communications in the sender-receiver model. In addition, a project manager needs to be aware of feedback loops and be able to communicate verbally and through written messages. Electronic systems, other forms of technology such as internal organization systems and media types are some other tools and techniques for communication distribution (Saladis & Kerzner, 2009). Lastly, the project manager will need an effective information distribution process that produces reports, lessons, project records, critical project information including memos and meeting minutes (Saladis & Kerzner, 2009).
The two main cause of information distortion are misinterpretation and inappropriate attitude of the individual or group while handling the information. This section looks at information misinterpretation and attitude then offers a brief analysis of how gender, culture and leadership style plays a role in distorting information.
Information distortion occurs majorly because of misinterpretation. Essentially, information is a communication from one party in a project implementation team to another party. For example, a project manager sending information to team members may have a very different meaning of the message than what the recipients of the message eventually get. Different channels of communication have a different degree to the level of distortion of information that they present. Face-to-face communication is a favorable way of communicating that can bypass gender and leadership style distortions. However, different cultures have different meanings of nonverbal language and dictate gender roles that affect face-to-face communication. Strider (2002) notes that, powerful leaders are able to work hard to be understood and to understand others. Nevertheless, understanding does not imply that one has agreed to the message. The information may be accurate, but the receiver misinterprets the message due to language problems or cultural influences (Strider, 2002).
According to Alessandra and Hunsaker (2005), interpersonal communication varies with individuals and greatly affects their understanding of information they receive. Leadership styles affect the attitude of the information recipients and thus the efficacy of information distribution. Gender biases can cause interpersonal tensions that lead to a misinterpretation of information. In workplaces, it is important to let other people know what is happening in the relationship so that they avoid misinterpreting any information passed to them.
The effectiveness of an information distribution system also depends on the trust and credibility that the uses have on the system and their fellow users. In this case, trust of the users will depend on the organizational culture and the leadership style in the organization. Autocratic leadership style is effective in making followers to act. However, the effectiveness of this leadership style thrives on fear of the consequences of not acting. As a result, the action effected to information received is not always representative of the understanding of the information recipient. Furthermore, such a leadership style may encourage recipients to misinterpret information so that they produce results favorable to their leader (Alessandra & Hunsaker, 2005).
Attitude plays a key role in determining the effectiveness of teams. The attitude of team members to each other and by extension to their leader affect how much information they can correctly interpret and work on effectively. Positive attitudes to fellow team members make work easier and provide an enabling environment that makes information understanding faster. On the other hand, biases are a hard problem to deal with within a project team. However, biases must be eliminated as soon as possible. According to Thiedermann (2003), biases arise because individuals believe that being biased is beneficial to them. Moreover, people tend to use their biases to predict what appears to be unpredictable.
Therefore, people use their biases to predict how the behavior and character of other persons is likely to be different from theirs and use this discovery in their reaction within the relationship. One way of dealing with biasness is having respects for everyone in the project team. Without respect, individuals will allow their cultural preferences or gender and leadership style to affect how they relate to other team members and eventually how they relay information through the information distribution system. Without respect, project leaders may fail to provide their team members with key information because they view them as unworthy of the information. In the same manner, without respect to gender differences, men may fail to provide extra details to women because they assume that both sexes comprehend the information in the same manner.
Topchik (2001) notes that people become negative of their organizations at different times. When the negativity becomes inherent among employees of the same organization, it cripples performance. Criticisms become overly exaggerated in place of encouragements and corrections. When this happens, individuals prefer to work in isolation rather than in groups to avoid negative criticism. Unfortunately, this behavior leads to a distortion of the information distribution system of the organization and severely cripples the chances of project success.
For an organization facing negativity problems, the type of leadership and its effectiveness at transforming the organizational culture will play a role in resolving the matter. As an extension, a lack of understanding between men and women within the organization may be a contributing factor to the preference for isolation. Thus, leaders should also look into gender influences on attitude (Topchick, 2003).
Project implementation in most organization involves teams. A large number of teams are having a higher proportion of women in their composition. This is because women are entering the workforce and staying at skilled positions at an increasing rate. Men and women go through different socialization processes and thus behave differently and communicate differently. The differences in communication may lead to difficulties in understanding or misinterpretation of information in project management teams that eventually leads to project failures (Gido & Clements, 2009).
A study by Lee (2011) shows that, men and women differ in their preferences for leadership characteristics. On the two qualities of competence versus honesty, men value honesty over competence while women value competency over honesty. Arguably, women present a more nurturing leadership characteristic to the organization in comparison to men. This is explainable by the fact that women rank competency higher than honesty because they have to prove themselves against an existing gender bias in their organization. Furthermore, women also show a heightened characteristic of being inspirational leadership and to some extent caring leadership (Bass, Avolio, & L, 1996). Another key difference in the gender preference is on imagination. Men prefer imagination at much higher levels than women (Lee, 2011).
Cultural diversity is always a good characteristic of project teams because it encourages innovativeness and imagination. On the other hand, when it is not handled properly, cultural diversity can be a major obstacle to the success of projects. Cultural diversity includes language differences, preferred working habits, organizational procedures, religion among other constitutes. Cultural diversity poses a major challenge for team leaders when building their teams. Culture affects the personality of the individuals and greatly extends to how the individual will relate to others and the information obtained from others.
According to Verma (1997), there are several dimensions of cultural differences. On one hand, there are critical dimensions of cultural differences. These critical dimensions include the individual’s power, their individualism, collectivism and avoidance of uncertainties. Moreover, gender, time and their life contribute to the critical dimensions of cultural differences. On the other hand, there exist cultural variables that make individuals different in how they relate to others. Cultural variables include, how the individual thinks, what space in their environment do the individuals claim, how the individual communicates and how they perceive outside communication. Others are how the individual acts, and the sort of environment that the individual.
Organizations are increasingly choosing to undertake projects using work teams rather than individuals. A key component of team success in a rapidly changing business environment is innovativeness. Team leadership plays a key component of determining how much a team is able to innovate and hence the likelihood of the team succeeding in its task of project implementation.
Liu, Liu, and Zeng (2011) conducted an empirical study to determine the extent to which transactional leadership contributes to team’s effectiveness and innovativeness and by extension project success. The authors indicate that it is important to question also the emotion labor requirements for the job in question and the efficiency of the team, when examining the efficacy of the project leader’s leadership style. Emotional labor serves as boundary barrier for the effectiveness of transactional leadership. Although transactional leaders can activate intentional efforts and make their followers more innovative through a reward mechanism and a management by exception, it all depends on the emotional labor (Liu, Liu, & Zeng, 2011).
Therefore, the team acts as a mediating mechanism in the determination of the efficacy of the team leader. A team leader’s leadership characteristic has a significant effect on how the team handles its duty of project implementation. On the other hand, a team leader’s leadership characteristic effectiveness depends on how well the team is able to reciprocate by being cooperative and innovative. Thus, leadership style effectiveness and team efficacy are inseparable (Liu, Liu, & Zeng, 2011).
According to Lee (2011), all over the world, managers rate highly the leadership attributes of competency, honesty and inspiration. Differences however emerge among different demographics within the same context, higher and lower managers as well as older and younger managers. Leadership plays a key role in organizational theory. In fact, under difficult business environmental conditions such as cases where there are severe skill shortages and historical divides between societies, effective leadership plays a leading role in organizational performance. Project success is a major influencing factor on the degree to which an organization succeeds or fails.
Admired leaders find justification in the attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) theory, which states that as time goes on, members of an organization become homogenous in their characteristics, values and traits. As a result, selection occurs for similar people and erosion of different people (Giberson, Resick, & Dickson, 2005).
The research by Lee (2011) indicates that there are differences in the leadership styles of managers belonging to different age groups and different managerial levels. Lower managers having the relevant experience and are senior enough to advance to upper management but have not done so, display low competency, honesty and inspiring leadership levels. The same group demonstrates low score of personality character traits such as self-control and this differentiate them as a generation of leaders. According to the same study by Lee (2011), imaginative leadership increases its importance among older managers than young managers do. However, the degree of importance attributed to imaginative leadership, in any way, does not affect the success of the leadership style.
Education also plays a role in the staff preferences of their managers. Thus, the level of education of a leader in comparison to that of team members is likely to affect the outcome of the project implemented by the team. Lee (2011) indicates that staffs with low education levels will rank honesty above competence while the opposite holds for higher-educated staffs. On the other hand, lower educated leaders allocate a great importance to imagination than their higher-educated counterparts.
Statement of the Problem
Current research only points to the fact that gender, leadership style and cultural factors have influences on distorting distribution of information during project implementations (Kasapoğlu, 2011; Sczesny et.al., 2004). There is a lack of a definite study, which points out the degree, to which the above factors influence distortion of information distribution and in extension, project failure (Stoeberl et.al., 1998). Doublestein (2006) confirms the lack of an empirical study on the extent that leadership styles distort information distribution. Many studies measure the extent of leadership style, gender and cultural factors as they affect organization performance but they fail to touch on project implementation within such organizations (Stoeberl et.al., 1998).
Purpose of the Study
This paper measures how the distortion of information distribution during the project implementation phase results to project failure. Specifically, the paper quantifies how gender, cultural differences and leadership styles affect information distribution and lead to project failures.
Distortions in information distribution must be decreased or eliminated so that projects succeed (Gido & Clements, 2009). The elimination of distortions on the information distribution systems of projects will lead to a shorter development process and an improved work environment. Additionally, the removal of distortions will lead to an acceptance by the project members to work with other departments within their organizations. Tackling of distortions in information distribution leads to elimination of misunderstandings and unnecessary issues (Schwalbe, 2007). Finally, a solution to the problem of distortions in information distribution will assist many professionals in various organizations who are serving as team leaders or members charged with responsibilities of project implementation. Savings on time will directly translate to costs savings for the organization implementing the project (Strider, 2002).
Before the development of a project management methodology, the current organizational environment needs analysis. A series of questions and a need analysis are usually sufficient. Important questions to ask include the efficacy of managing meetings and schedules within the organization. Additionally, a question about how the documentation of the stakeholder requirements, which includes information distribution, needs a highlight. Finally, a frequency of the status update of the project to its stakeholders and the criteria used to determines information recipients and their receiving time.
- How does the leadership style of a project leader contribute to resolving of information distribution problems during project implementation?
- To what percentage does the gender constitution of a project team affect the efficacy of information distribution within the team and out of the team?
- To what extent does a diverse project team leadership (especially in gender) cause project information distribution problems?
- What is the effect of cultural differences in information distribution and project failure or success?
- H0. There is no significant effect of leadership style of a project leader on the level of distortion in information distribution.
- H1. The leadership style of a project leader has a significant effect on the level of distortion in information distribution.
- H0. Gender has no significant effect on the distortion of information distribution when it is a factor in the project team leadership.
- H1. Gender has a significant influence on the distortion of information distribution when it is a factor in the project team leadership.
- H0. There is no meaningful effect of leadership style in resolving information distribution problems during project implementation.
- H1. The leadership style of a leader contributes to resolving of information distribution problems during project implementation.
- H0. Cultural differences have no effect on the distribution of information, and hence the project failure.
- H1. Most of the distortions that occur in information distribution, leading to project failure, are due to cultural differences.
Significance of the Study
This study may contribute to the available literature on information distribution. It will specifically provide the role of gender and culture in distortion information distribution. The results of this study will assist project managers to manage well the information distribution in their organization to ensure that their projects are successful. Furthermore, the study findings will offer guidance for future research on the subject of information distribution in project management.
Definition of Terms
Information distribution refers to the representation of management processes to relevant parties so that those with a financial stake at the project receive regular updates. It concerns the different forms of communication within the project implementing team and out of the team. Moreover, information distribution concerns the different ways of information flow within the project implementing team. Information flow maybe top-down, down top and horizontal (Anon, 2009).
Communication refers to the exchange of thoughts and messages as a receiver, sender or both. Communication is also an interchange where one expresses themselves for understanding by others. Communication efficacy depends on the culture of the sender and the receiver. It also depends on the belief of the sender in placing the message in the communication and the receiver in discovering the message in the communication (Hofner, Mikk, & De_Vries, 2005).
Assumptions and Limitations
The study may be limited by a small sample size or having few respondents from different projects that will be examined. This study uses a quantitative methodology and therefore leaves out other critical data that may provide a better understanding of the research problem (Babbie, 1989). Although the study will use interviews, the qualitative aspects of the data collected will not be incorporated in the data analysis. Moreover, questions used in both the interviews and the questionnaires will be structures for a direct response such as using a scale to provide a numerical figure (Kimmel, 1988). As a result, the research will not be able to cover the whole spectrum of distortions in information distribution. The study assumes that the use of a quantitative methodology will lead to conclusive evidence that answers the research questions (Hitchcock & Hughes, 1995). Moreover, the study assumes that it will be possible to capture the relevant data quantitatively.
Nature of the Study
This study uses a quantitative methodology to measure the impact of leadership style, gender and culture on the distortion of information distribution (Sharma, Sharma, & Sharma, 2011). The methodology will offer a good overview of the research problem and will cover all its aspects. The research will take opinions from a large number of participants and from a small number of participants that are overriding and use them in analysis. This study has been divided into three parts. The first part is a theoretical study and the second part is a data collection and presentation phase. The theoretical study examines literature that forms the background and purpose understanding of this research. Various data collection instruments shall be used in the research.
The research will use interviews to obtain data on various variables of the research. Interviews shall be structured so that only relevant information is captured in a direct manner that does not waste time of the researcher and the interviewee. Moreover, participants will obtain interview questions in advance, so that they can have time to look up any relevant data should need arise. Other than interviews, questionnaires shall be used. Questionnaires questions shall be structured in the same manner as interview questions so that they provide direct answers. Questionnaires shall be given to participants of the study using a relevant channel suitable for the participant such as print or email.
Organization of the Remainder of the Study
The interviews and questionnaire shall gather primary data. Interviews will offer the participants view of distortions in information distribution and the role of leadership style, gender and culture. Interviews shall be separate for each individual. Participants for the interview will be unique. The questionnaire will have separate questions for team members and team leaders. All responses for the interview and the questionnaire shall be incorporated into statistical analysis software and analyzed. Results will then be interpreted to conclude the findings of the study.
In order to collect data, the researcher will identify suitable organizations implementing projects or that have just finished implementing a project. The researcher will seek permission from relevant bodies for conducting the research. After obtaining permission, the next stage would be to obtain all the relevant material for recording data. The researcher will also continue with a literature review on the subject of the study in order to make the findings conclusive.
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