Abstract: There is a real danger that both practitioners and researchers considering risks associated with megaprojects ignore or underestimate the impacts of cultural risk. The paper investigates the potential impacts of a failure to achieve cultural unity between the principal actors executing a megaproject. The principle relationships include the relationships between the principle Contractors and the project stakeholders or the project stakeholders and their principle advisors, Western Consultants. This study confirms that cultural dissonance between these parties can delay or disrupt the megaproject execution and examines why cultural issues should be prioritized as a significant risk factor in megaproject delivery. This paper addresses the practical impacts and potential mitigation measures, which may reduce cultural dissonance for a megaproject's delivery. This information is retrieved from on-going case studies in live infrastructure megaprojects in Europe and the Middle East's GCC states, from Western Consultants' perspective. The collaborating researchers each have at least 30 years of construction experience and are engaged in architecture, project management and contracts management, dealing with megaprojects in Europe or the GCC. After examining the cultural interfaces they have observed during the execution of megaprojects, they conclude that globally, culture significantly influences their efficient delivery. The study finds that cultural risk is ever-present, where different nationalities co-manage megaprojects and that cultural conflict poses a real threat to the timely delivery of megaprojects. The study indicates that the higher the cultural distance between the principal actors, the more pronounced the risk, with the risk of cultural dissonance more prominent in GCC megaprojects. The findings support a more culturally aware and cohesive team approach and recommend cross-cultural training to mitigate the effects of cultural disparity.
Abstract: Differences in commercial, professional and personal cultural traditions between western consultants and project sponsors in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region are potentially significant in the workplace, and this can impact on project outcomes. These cultural differences can, for example, result in conflict amongst senior managers, which can negatively impact the megaproject. New entrants to the GCC often experience ‘culture shock’ as they attempt to integrate into their unfamiliar environments. Megaprojects are unique ventures with individual project characteristics, which need to be considered when managing their associated risks. Megaproject research to date has mostly ignored the significance of the absence of cultural congruence in the GCC, which is surprising considering that there are large volumes of megaprojects in various stages of construction in the GCC. An initial step to dealing with cultural issues is to acknowledge culture as a significant risk factor (SRF). This paper seeks to understand the criticality for western consultants to address these risks. It considers the cultural barriers that exist between GCC sponsors and western consultants and examines the cultural distance between the key actors. Initial findings suggest the presence to a certain extent of ethnocentricity. Other cultural clashes arise out of a lack of appreciation of the customs, practices and traditions of ‘the Other’, such as the need for avoiding public humiliation and the hierarchal significance rankings. The concept and significance of cultural shock as part of the integration process for new arrivals are considered. Culture shock describes the state of anxiety and frustration resulting from the immersion in a culture distinctly different from one's own. There are potentially substantial project risks associated with underestimating the process of cultural integration. This paper examines two distinct but intertwined issues: the societal and professional culture differences associated with expatriate assignments. A case study examines the cultural congruences between GCC sponsors and American, British and German consultants, over a ten-year cycle. This provides indicators as to which nationalities encountered the most profound cultural issues and the nature of these. GCC megaprojects are typically intensive fast track demanding ventures, where consultant turnover is high. The study finds that building trust-filled relationships is key to successful project team integration and therefore, to successful megaproject execution. Findings indicate that both professional and social inclusion processes have steep learning curves. Traditional risk management practice is to approach any uncertainty in a structured way to mitigate the potential impact on project outcomes. This research highlights cultural risk as a significant factor in the management of GCC megaprojects. These risks arising from high staff turnover typically include loss of project knowledge, delays to the project, cost and disruption in replacing staff. This paper calls for cultural risk to be recognised as an SRF, as the first step to developing risk management strategies, and to reduce staff turnover for western consultants in GCC megaprojects.