Managing International Projects – Part 9

This is the ninth 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 team effectiveness.

Tips for International Projects

  • Test the performance management system for multi-cultural issues
  • Test the multi-cultural implications of your good job/bad job definitions
  • In lieu of regular personal contact, provide a photo and short biography of each team member to all others in the team

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.

A rule of thumb for team performance management in international projects might be: “A reward in one case can be punishment in another.”  In many high-context cultures, personal praise from an important authority figure may have more value than money.  In other cultures money talks and praise, after a certain point, may be seen as a hollow substitute for cash.  Success that brings more responsibility can be seen as a plus in one culture and as a liability in another.  Some cultures value and expect team rewards; others value and expect individual rewards.

The Four Variables should be used as a guide in developing and maintaining a team performance management system.  A visible performance management system also increases the team’s ability to coordinate effectively with other parts of the organization, including other project teams.

Are project team members clear on what is expected of them, do they have the resources they need to perform as expected and are they capable of meeting these expectations?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • Have the team expectations and resources been tested against the Four Variables of International Projects?
  • How are appropriate multi-cultural consequences established?
  • How have the concepts of “good job” and “bad job” been tested for multi-cultural appropriateness?
  • Do these rewards make up for many of the difficulties inherent in managing international projects?
  • Are there special rewards for successfully overcoming problems unique to international projects?

Do project team members understand how their work affects other people, groups and projects?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • Have potential international impact issues been identified?
  • How will these international impact issues be managed?
  • What measures will ensure that culturally appropriate linkages are made between individual performance, team performance and the needs of other parts of the organization?
  • What actions are in place to ensure that these linkages are made?
  • How will these actions be tracked in remote international locations?

Is the consequence system designed to promote effective individual and team performance?

Supplemental International Testing Questions:

  • Have the Four Variables been used as a guide to identify appropriate team and individual consequences within a multi-cultural setting?
  • What is the plan to meet these multi-cultural team and individual consequence needs?
  • How will the consequence system be monitored?

Example:  You are the leader of a team that is executing an international project.  A variety of cultural perspectives are represented on the team.  You think all is well until one day, when a team member from Mexico complains to you in private that the team isn’t “pulling together” well enough in his view.  You check informally with other team members.  A representative from Norway says things seem fine to her.  A member from Korea thinks there could be more teamwork.  Three team members from the home office in the United States say they haven’t given the issue much thought.  You are concerned enough to make the issue the subject of a special team meeting.  You start the meeting by briefing members on the Four Variables of International Projects.  Then you divide the team into three subgroups with multiple cultures represented on each group.  You learn that there is a wide range of opinion about team versus individual rewards and consequences.  You assign a multi-cultural sub team to further study the situation and present recommendations for creation of a performance management system that meets everyone’s needs as much as possible.



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