Managing International Projects – Part 5

This is the fifth 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 managing project hand-offs.

Tips for International Projects

  • Encourage Customers/suppliers for all hand-offs to communicate with each other
  • Make deliverables for each hand-off explicit
  • Get strong clarity on performance indicators for international project hand-offs
  • 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.

The Four Key Variables of International Projects can be extremely helpful in avoiding problems with key hand-offs involving multiple cultural perspectives.  By definition, key hand-offs are those critical transactions that are especially important to project success.  Because of their high visibility and importance, these same key hand-offs can be potential magnets for attention from strong influencers and others operating within a variety of cultural systems.  As is often the case in the international arena, the presence or potential impact of these strong influencers may not be readily apparent until viewed within the context of the Four Key Variables of International Projects.

Probing for cultural influences on key hand-offs before challenges occur can have substantial rewards.  Time and dollars can be saved in the long run, even though additional efforts may be needed in the short-term to detect cultural influences.  Team members should be especially diligent in establishing clear Customer requirements and performance indicators for all key hand-offs within international projects.

What are the key hand-offs (transactions) that must be closely monitored during implementation?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • What ordinary transactions in the project might have key hand-off status in the international arena?
  • What measures have been taken to pay special attention to these international key hand-offs?

Have project team members clarified requirements with their individual suppliers and Customers?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • What multi-cultural power/status issues may arise within any of the key hand-offs?
  • What plans are in place to manage these issues?
  • Who are the strong influencers in the critical hand-offs and what might be their cultural perspective?
  • What plans are in place to identify these strong influencers and manage their multi-cultural needs?
  • How clear are the performance indicators for Customers and suppliers within these key hand-offs?
  • What multi-cultural responses have been planned to       manage issues if performance indicators aren’t met?

Example:  A project team must get help from its organization’s locations throughout the world to meet the needs of a Customer headquartered in Spain.  The team has met to determine the key hand-offs and discover that several of them involve Customers from Germany and Sweden, who must depend on suppliers from France and Japan.  Because the team has been thoroughly briefed on the Four Key Variables of International Projects, several brainstorming sessions are conducted to identify potential issues within these critical transactions.  A sub-team is created to probe the context, power/status and information path requirements of the French and Japanese suppliers and their German and Swedish Customers.  Representatives from each of the Customer and supplier groups have agreed to help validate plans coming from the sub-team and later to help implement the resulting plans.  All parties to the process agree that special attention should be paid to establishing clear performance indicators.

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