Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Assessing status, part of Managing International Projects.
- Imagine you are driving through a really long tunnel. It's not straight, so you can no longer see the opening, and you can't see the other end from which you'll emerge. Your vision and sense of movement may become somewhat impaired. It's normal to be concerned that you don't know where you are. This situation may be even more unnerving if you're afraid of confined spaces. Mile markers, or way-points in the tunnel, can help. Just like in a tunnel, there is a need to assess status or progress of your project along the way, to ensure that you're still going in the right direction.
Assessing the status of your project involves determining how things are progressing. Reviewing key documents and speaking with project team members will give you a feel for project performance, and allow you to make changes to get things back on track when performance could be improved. On an international project, assessing status can have some unique challenges. When we're not physically present to see the project work being undertaken, or observe the communication between team members, it can be hard to get a feel for progress. Sometimes the status reported can be vastly different to reality, for a number of reasons.
Cultural differences. If I were to say something was a high-risk activity, your reaction may differ, depending on your cultural background. People in some cultures have an aversion to risk, whereas people in other cultures are far more risk-tolerant. This difference in risk tolerance can be at a country level, or from company to company. It is good to ask first. Test the waters before you establish your risk plans. There are some great books available on norms around the world, such as Understanding Diversity in Today's Complex World, by Leo Parvis.
It's good to do some homework to understand the cultures of the people you're dealing with, and follow this up with questioning for further clarification. Location differences. People can have a tendency to report the status of things that are happening relative to the day to day challenges they have in front of them, rather than focusing on the larger context of the project, and its performance as a whole. Many organizations have multiple locations. People tend to be more aware of what is happening in the location where they are physically located.
That's because they can see and talk to the people in that location more often. This lack of visibility issue could occur in any organization that has more than one location, but it has the potential to become further magnified on an international project. Ensuring that your team understands the impact of their activities on the overall project can help address this issue. Optimism reigns. When we're not present to see how things are going on an everyday basis, we rely on the advice of others to assess project status.
Just like the color or sharpness of a digital photograph can be enhanced using a software tool like Photoshop, sometimes, team members can modify the message about what is really going on, to make the project status look better than it really is. They look at things more optimistically, or hope to gloss over problems and make things right later, rather than give you a true picture of what's going on now. This issue can occur when assessing status on a regular project. However, it can be more pronounced on international projects.
To address this issue, try to focus on small details periodically, to get a more detailed picture of what's happening. If you consistently see a status you're comfortable with, you can stop this practice. If you don't, do this consistently until project status is reported realistically. By ensuring you're assessing status regularly, you can lead your project team out of the tunnel and into the light.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Communicating across borders
- Bridging time zones and language gaps
- Finding and nurturing management "champions"
- Evaluating your communication style
- Keeping international projects on track