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Civil Engineer Helps Construction Industry Go Global


Ever thought of going global in the design and construction world?

You might run into problems you didn’t expect to occur.

Here are a few tips on how to realise your global ambitions as smooth as possible!

Entering your company on the global market is not always as easy as it seems: especially in the design and construction industry, there aren’t that many guidelines that tell companies how to go about this.

However, there is a little ray of light and it’s called John E. Taylor! 

This associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech has created a special lab in which he can create experiments and simulations that can research systemic change in engineering networks, especially those that are important to industries and societies.

Among other things, this Civil Engineering Network Dynamics lab focuses on the impact of globalization dynamics on the project performance of design and construction.

According to Taylor, there are two things a company can do to be successful on the global market; acquire a Global Self-Assessment Tool (G-SAT) and hire a person to span the existing cultural boundaries. Construction companies encounter a number of unique challenges when going global.

These businesses have to deal with for example political interests, the grounds they want to build on and the demands of the owner. At the same time, just as every other company, they have to take cultural differences into account as well. By using the G-SAT, the globalization practices of companies can be measured and compared and their progress over time can even be tracked. This way, juggling all these different elements becomes a little easier.
Taylor thinks companies should be more aware of recognising problems between project managers and engineers in the various counties that conduct business with each other and that companies must find a common ground to work on.

Understanding one another’s culture is vital as well. To achieve this, several solutions have been researched and developed. Here, one of the universal elements proved to be the need for positive feedback, in which the amount of feedback and the way it was stated determined how positive the feedback was.

The importance of having an actual person as a ‘cultural boundary spanner’ was also stressed by Taylor and his team. A cultural boundary spanner has spent a few year in both countries and thus knows both cultures. In companies that already implemented this change, this person turned out to be the key to cross-cultural relations.

It has been proven that Taylor’s measurements actually work: multicultural companies with cultural boundary spanners perform 33 per cent better than other multicultural companies. The spanner proved to aid multicultural teams, but also improved performance in domestic groups with the same culture.

In addition, multicultural teams might be the future, as they might outperform homogenous groups when they have gotten used to being a group with mixed cultures and languages. The key for this success however, is training.  Multicultural teams in which team members have an understanding of culture have the skills and insights to leverage the benefits of multicutlural working. Where multicultural teams do not have this understanding, conflict and confusion are far more likely.

Photo by Yancy Min on Unsplash

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