Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Recovering international projects, part of Managing International Projects.
- Growing up, I used to love watching science fiction shows. My favorite was Star Trek. In Star Trek, Captain Kirk is someone who is a bit of a risk-taker. He has charisma. Science officer Mr. Spock uses the mathematical, logical approach to solving problems, rather than relying on his intuition. It is the combination of the two that makes Star Trek's U.S.S. Enterprise successful. In TV shows, heroes are able to fly in and save the day. Sometimes, as an international project manager, you will be required to fly in and save the day too.
When an international project gets off track, you will need to have the skills to get it back on track to prevent failure. In recovering any project, ensuring the project goals are understood is essential. However, in an international project, this can be even more important, because you may not be able to see people getting off track as quickly. Here are tips to avoid this. Develop awareness of the situation in each major project location. Sometimes things go off the rails because the project goals are not understood.
But other times, things go off the rails because the project goals were fully understood, but not appropriately embraced. Things can be sabotaged because stakeholders do not actually want the project outcomes to occur. Find out the root cause of any concerns by asking questions and developing a full awareness of the situation before deciding what to do about it. Understand what negative outcomes are associated with project goals, and work with your team leaders and the project sponsors to align the activities to the team members with the overall project goals.
Alternatively, greater understanding of team member issues can lead to an adjustment of the project goals. Either way, alignment with team member activities and project goals is paramount to success. Find the common ground. On all projects, stakeholders have different needs. However, this situation is magnified on an international project. Find even the smallest amount of common ground as the basis for discussion and negotiation. Working from the common ground allows you to form a basis for agreement, rather than conflict.
Leverage management clout. Sometimes, you may need to get local management to reinforce things. For instance, if you're managing the consistent use of a new process, this is often done more readily and effectively when management can watch what is happening. Face-to-face communication facilitates an understanding of why this process must be followed. If you are remote, you lose the ability to see what is happening. Therefore, you may need to leverage local management. Keep things moving if you can.
On occasion, a project issue needs to be resolved before you can make progress. Do your best not to let progress to stall completely. In the majority of instances, it may be okay to allow the project to slow down while you find the issue. Fix the issue and get things going again at full speed. Increase your communication efforts. Face-to-face communication is expensive on international projects, but it may be necessary to increase your presence and communication effort in tough times.
Just ensure this is not the only time you show up. Otherwise, your presence could become associated with conflict. Recognize the things that have worked. Try not to focus just on finding the issue that has caused the problem. At the same time, try to find some things that have worked well, so you can understand where you are aligned and where you are not and encourage more of the good stuff. Recovering an international project involves using the right combination of taking a little risk, showing some charisma, and using a mathematical approach to keep your own Star Trek Enterprise heading in the right direction.
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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