Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Promoting value internationally, part of Managing International Projects.
- I was once visiting a friend, and made some of my favorite peanut caramel clusters to bring along as a gift. After I arrived at his house, I excitedly placed the treats on the table after dinner, saying, "We can share this little delicacy of mine as a dessert". Instead of getting the response I had hoped, I got a very disappointed look as my friend told me he had developed an allergy to nuts, and needed to steer clear of my gift. The lesson here is, what is perceived as a valuable thing to one person, may be very different to another.
On any project, outcomes can be viewed differently by each team of stakeholders. When it comes to international projects, the differences in the perception of value will be even more dramatic. All of your stakeholders will be acutely aware of the value they are looking to obtain from the project. So, understanding your stakeholders is the key to getting them all on the same page. Encourage open discussion and negotiation of value. Consider that stakeholders need to be treated differently because their interests vary.
In some cultures, the interests of the group are more important than the interests of the individual. However, in other cultures, the interests of the individual are more important than the interests of the group. Stakeholders whose culture suggests that individual interests are paramount, need decisive action when decisions are required, a clear description of the project hierarchy, understanding of the benefits of the project to their personal interests, and recognition or reward for personal effort.
Stakeholders whose culture suggests that group interests are paramount, need clear definition of project objectives, understanding of the benefits the project will deliver, clear roles and responsibilities, and clear processes for collecting the views of the team and the resulting decision-making approach. Similarly, the overall interests of the organization need to be considered along with the interests of individual sections of the organization located in various countries.
This is the best path for success when promoting value internationally. For example, if you work for an international organization that was running a project to implement a centralized human resources, or HR, system, you would need to consider both the needs of the organization, as well as the individual sections in each country. While there may be standard functionality, some elements of the project's product would need to meet individual requirements imposed by local labor laws, which vary considerably in different countries.
Ideas that managers in the US think of as possibilities, are often not feasible elsewhere, due to restrictions on the number of hours that people can work, and the frequency and minimum duration of vacation times afforded in many localities, including much of Europe and Australia. Certain structures are required to be put in place to avoid creating difficulties for HR managers in those countries. Mindful discussions about the value and potential traps a project may create for your stakeholders around the world can significantly increase your potential for success, and hopefully, help you avoid triggering bad allergic reactions with your team.
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- Communicating across borders
- Bridging time zones and language gaps
- Finding and nurturing management "champions"
- Evaluating your communication style
- Keeping international projects on track