Cultural Metacognition and Intelligence in Development Projects


Javed Azam, MBA, MSc, PME, P.G.

Strategic Program Director
Development Group International

Dallas, Texas, USA


This paper explores the challenges of competencies and skills needed to successfully manage global projects. We argue that Cultural Metacognition and Intelligence in conjunction with Emotional Intelligence are vital in fostering relationships building and project success. Such skills with experience provide a framework for understanding cross-cultural project leadership, and are prerequisite for successful development and capacity enhancement initiatives funded by international agencies in south Asian region with reference to development projects, including academic capacity building grants funded by the U.S. Department of State (DoS) in Pakistan.

The paper reviews and highlights intelligence competencies that play significant role in the performance of managers on multicultural projects. The review of literature indicates applications of cultural metacognitive strategies and emotional intelligence skills for dealing with complex cultural interactions during project implementation. Research and our project experience dictate that due to diversity in the work place in global projects, cultural and implementation barriers will be inevitable and consequently result in misunderstandings and conflicting interactions. Project professionals equipped with cultural and emotional intelligence skills, will deliver tangible value resulting in fulfillment of project objectives. We conclude that Pakistani institutions and funding agencies including U.S. institutions in project country must endeavor to understand cultural, ethical and business fundamentals of the milieu of their operations to achieve successful cooperation and fulfill ultimate goals of the funding agencies. In addition to core technical competencies of the project teams, Cultural Metacognition Intelligence (CM&I) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills are necessary for the DoS funding projects in Pakistan and therefore, must be included as major component of project team selection process to ensure project success. In view of unethical business practices in academic institutions, extensive screening for core competencies and value-based skills including CMI & EI of project teams is recommended to ensure project success.

Key Words: Cultural Metacognition & Intelligence (CM&I), Emotional Intelligence (EI), Development and Capacity Enhancement Initiatives, Global Operations and Management Competencies, Funding Agency – U.S. Department of State (DoS).


The United States Department of State (DoS) initiatives in the academic arena are transforming the educational landscape in Pakistan. In addition to many other initiatives, the DoS has invested financial capita and significant efforts to help Pakistani universities collaborate with U.S. universities through cooperative agreements for capacity enhancement in diversified fields of social sciences. The success of such programs require skilled operations management and understanding of cultural diversity of Pakistan with essential hard-and-soft skills and competencies to interact with collaborating institutions for the creation of meaningful professional relationships.

Many consulting firms and funding agencies recognize that multiple intelligences and tailored leadership style are indispensable for international project operations. Several multinational organizations including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), USAID and alike, and many consulting firms conducting successful projects worldwide, have demonstrated that Cultural Metacognition and Intelligence are essential skills for successful interactions and building working relationships. Researcher conjecture that project managers knowledgeable about their own cultures and when appreciates and adepts to culture of project county, will be better tuned and equipped with self behavior and behavior of professionals of project country.


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About the Author


pmwj38-Sep2015-Azam-PHOTOJaved Azam, MBA, MSc, PME, P.G.

Dallas, Texas, USA



Javed Azam
has more than 25 years of technical/engineering and management experience in conducting and leading projects in more than 15 countries (U.S., W-Europe and SE-Asia). He served in progressively responsible positions as Regional Director, Program/Project Director and Chief Operating Officer of consulting engineering firms, and demonstrated his management, operations and leadership skills in the acquisition and implementation of complex and multidisciplinary projects (capacity enhancement, geotechnical, inspection/testing, environmental, infrastructure & water resources development) projects in often culturally challenging environments.

In addition to his technical certifications, Javed is a Licensed Professional Geoscientist (P.G., Geologist), Certified Professional Geologist (CPG), and a Certified Project Management Expert (PME). He is member of several professional organizations including the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) and the Project Management Institute (PMI). He is an alumnus of University of Texas, University of California-Berkeley, and Delft University of Technology/ITC.

Javed is driven by passion, integrity, high performance teamwork, and servant leadership to deliver successful project/program outcomes, and provides expertise to his clients and quantifiable value to his organization. He serves as a Principal Consultant with Development Group International in Dallas, TX and can be reached at [email protected].