Managing International Projects – Part 3

This is the third in a series of nine blogs that provide insight and tips on managing international projects.  In this blog, we’ll discuss issues and solutions associated with project teams and stakeholders.

Tips for International Projects

  • Pay special attention to the cultural needs of strong influencers
  • Seek cultural diversity on your team
  • Use the team’s diversity for insights about project players
  • When you think you are sure about a player’s cultural needs, check further
  • Develop a network of people with multi-cultural insights

The information and recommendations in this blog reflect the Four Key International Variables as documented by O’Hara and Johansen in their book Global Work.

Selecting and obtaining the right team members for international projects can be especially challenging.  Maintaining good team and Customer communication across great distances is an obvious recruiting concern.  In addition, there are all the other international project issues—language, legal variations, logistics, and of course, cultural differences.  The testing questions provided here are designed to help team members explore these recruiting challenges and develop effective preventions or contingencies for potential problems.

Who will participate in implementing this project?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • What cultural, geographic, or other international considerations are likely to impact this project?
  • What geographic and cultural representation will be needed on the team to best meet project planning and implementation requirements?
  • Who are the strong influencers in all aspects of the project and what are their cultural orientations likely to be?
  • What activities will be needed to ensure that strong influencer needs are managed in culturally appropriate ways?

Who will be affected by this project?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • What individuals or organizations around the world are likely to be impacted by this project?
  • How do we know?
  • What is our plan to deal with these global impacts?
  • Who are the strong influencers that should be considered and what are their multi-cultural perspectives?

Who will be responsible for post-implementation support, maintenance, sustaining effort, etc.?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • What global resources will be available for post-implementation support?
  • What cultural challenges must be overcome to mobilize these resources?
  • Who are the strong influencers around the world that must be considered in developing the post-implementation plan?
  • How might each of the Four Key Variables of International Projects impact this post-implementation planning?

Who can significantly impact the success of this project?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • Who are the strong influencers around the world who could seriously impact the success of this project?
  • Who on the team has sensitivity to specific multi-cultural issues, some of them not readily obvious?
  • Has a plan been crafted to ensure that all strong influencers of this project have been identified and their cultural concerns addressed?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring that this plan is successfully implemented throughout the lifecycle of the project?

Example:  The Customer for your project is a German company where plans, once submitted, are expected to be followed.  Your team’s plans for Phase I were recently submitted to the Customer team and accepted enthusiastically.  Now the head of an internal supplier organization in your Singapore branch has called with concerns about the buy-in of several of his key leaders.  He wants time to brief them more thoroughly.  You thought he had already communicated the Phase I plan to key members of his organization through an e-mail message.  You check with a Chinese member of the project and learn that simple e-mail communication to the Singapore leaders may not be sufficient to get needed buy-in.

Remembering the Four Key Variables of International Projects, you check with team members and others having good insights into the needs of strong project influencers from high-context cultures, where decisions are often reached on the basis of strong, time-tested relationships. You work out a series of compromises with your German Customers regarding delays resulting from the Singapore situation.  You then convene a conference call with members of your team, many of who are located at overseas branches.

During this conference call, the team reviews the Stakeholder Identification Template, and with the Four Key Variables of International Projects as a guide, identifies special context, power/status, time or information path needs of individuals associated with the project.   Special attention is given to strong influencers.

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