Special International Edition 2012
Project Management multinational - from A as in Australia to V as in Venezuela
Project Management is everything but a national issue. On the contrary: companies which would like to be successful on an global basis always fall back on the international know-how of their employees in order to continue to develop their products beyond national borders. A uniform and company-wide understanding of Project Management is required here in order to avoid any misunderstandings. This can be achieved by working together with an experienced training and consulting company like Tiba.
Sharing know-how and driving projects forward together - the idea of across the board Project Management is compelling. This is particularly important when you are attempting to adapt your products to the national markets without having to make any concessions on their quality and efficiency. Additionally, this also applies when you wish to enable locations on other continents to participate in successful product developments. In the process of this, international Project Management gains increasingly in importance, both for medium-sized companies and corporations - regardless of the size of the company or branch of industry, worldwide.
This is demonstrated by the example of a global player based in Germany, an industrial company producing in 17 countries. In order to work together on projects internationally the production plants should be equipped with MS Project worldwide. This project revealed that there was no uniform understanding of Project Management throughout the company. Consequently, corresponding seminars had to be held at several different locations, amongst others also in China. The client's wish: one defined trainer was to convey the knowledge for building-up a global, uniform understanding of Project Management and the respective know-how. In doing so it was clear that cultural differences were an issue of special importance and one of the success factors of the assignment. They were not only present in the language and local organizations. We have made the experience that in China know-how is often transferred in lectures with large groups usually in form of teacher-centered teaching- e.g. our client planned groups of up to 65 persons - hence allowing solely a learning process in terms of "read, understand and learn by heart". In contrast, Tiba carries out experience and practice oriented seminars. To suit the required form of seminar and still keep the globally defined setting of the training courses, this approach was specifically adapted for the client's seminars in China. As a result, the originally planned group size of the seminars was downsized to a maximum of 20 to 25 participants per group learning the contents of the training by means of preparation talks and discussions. This demands a high degree of flexibility from the trainer to convey the company's prescribed and global contents of Project Management on a local level using different methods. (See also the related article » Re-designed car models for the Chinese market
"Understanding and coping with the individual rules of communication in a country or culture may be a further crucial success factor - e.g. to successfully communicate with Chinese interlocutors it is important to consider their often obvious dislike of a direct 'no'. This, for example, is demonstrated when asking the participants of a training course whether they have understood the contents. Trainers with little intercultural background knowledge could take the presumably affirmative reply for granted and continue with the lessons - with the result that the participants will no longer be able to follow them", emphasizes Uli Lüke. In consulting this could result in concepts being misunderstood or not understood at all and therefore not used causing negative effects on the whole Project Management. Therefore, a distinct and solid intercultural understanding is so important in consulting, training and during operational project support. Targeted questions and a careful approach help to find out whether the contents of the training have been understood. Corrections and improvements too - for example during seminars - must be carried out with such diplomacy and tact that each participant will be able to save his/her face. This is because any direct criticism - even constructive criticism - is in some cultures the order of the day in business life but may be regarded in many other cultures, including the Chinese, as a direct attack on their person. Consequently, it is all the more important to enable them to save their faces and - where the opportunity arises - emphasize and distinguish. Of course, it is imperative to use the required tact and diplomacy. Hence the trainer should highlight good performance and thus strengthen the personal relationship to the participant.
India - Master of multi-tasking
Let us switch now to India as the second example of intercultural cooperation, based on the long term experience made by Tobias Schneider. "In the first instance we as trainers and consultants acting on a multinational level have to understand not only the traditional structure of Indian society for example but also the mechanisms of a country on the move - and of course include this knowledge in the interaction with the client and the individual participant." Both communication and collaboration within the project teams may be strongly influenced by the national society system at varying degrees. With regard to this, personal relationships are tremendously important in India and are always established at the beginning of every business relationship. Here the emotional components demonstrated by good will, respect and trust, play a central role. "Also, the frequently observed manner of pursuing several goals at the same time is fascinating." Due to this, meetings and seminars may need extra time because the topics keep changing. These aspects must always be considered as the basis for successful interaction.
Convey the contents according to different cultures
Uniform contents of Project Management training courses thus should not be considered as synonymous with uniform seminars. On the contrary: in order to convey the desired contents and a globally uniform understanding of Project Management the trainers, consultants and project staff on site have to adapt to the local situation and conditions. Part of this is knowledge of the culture and - naturally - the clarification of the organizational subtleties such as the beginning and end of a unit of training. After all, the western "9 to 5"-model cannot be translated to all cultures and life situations. The language is a crucial issue as well: does the client wish the seminars to be held in English because the group consists of participants from different countries, for example? Or is the seminar to be held in different countries in the respective national language? In the latter case, it is of vital importance for the client that all trainers deployed deliver the training courses in a comparable quality regardless of the country they may take place. This however can only be assured when they all know in detail the standards set by the company on a worldwide level and have the same understanding of the Project Management contents. Tiba relies on its own trainers possessing extensive international experience and also on proven local cooperations enabling us to offer many seminars in up to 16 languages. Since the client is taken care of by only one specific person of contact who also coordinates the trainers, it is guaranteed that all participants are in fact taught the same contents regardless of their location.
Additionally, it is also important to know who has authority at the local site and which specific roles have been assigned. A video conference assists in being able to gain a comprehensive impression of the persons of contact ahead of time. These discussions provide the opportunity to clarify whether there were recently any special situations within the company which may affect the behavior of the participants. These may be mergers, expansions, layoffs, a change in the management and many other situations. Even if this may not have a direct impact on the contents of the training, it will definitely affect the participants' performance.
The question as to how the contents will be taught, for example, is eagerly anticipated. The example above referring to China has already shown that concepts cannot simply be translated at a ratio of 1:1. Trainers therefore do not only have to have Project Management skills and didactic capabilities. Besides they must have knowledge of cultural specifics and have to be familiar with the teaching and learning habits of the country. Only if they adapt themselves accordingly is it guaranteed that the desired contents are transferred properly and the employees in different countries speak one Project Management language.
This common understanding of Project Management throughout the organization promotes the corporate culture and the efficiency of a company and thus contributes to greater success.
This first report has put the spotlight on our experience made in two selected countries - China and India (see related article » Economic analysis and outlook 2012 by T. H. Balser: Calm before the storm?). As Tiba has successfully executed assignments in 48 countries, in future issues our trainers and consultants will present the specifics of international Project Management based on practical examples in further regions, each with their own needs and requirements.
» Economic analysis and outlook 2012 by T. H. Balser: Calm before the storm?
» Re-designed car models for the Chinese market – Project Communication as oil in the gear
» The crisis in Spain - is it also a crisis of management?
» Academy management of international project management-curricula