International Project Management – Part I

Insights | 27 June 2010

Training students in Australia, we expect many of our protoges to lead new projects overseas in completely different cultural climates than those in which they were trained. In this article we discuss the myriad of variables that must be taken into consideration when preparing to lead a project overseas.

Research the country where you will be working.

1. Do Your Homework
While the thought of living in a foreign country can be quite intriguing, do your homework to understand the unique nuances of the country. Spend some time getting to know the landscape and its people. If you have the opportunity to go to the country beforehand, of course depending on the budget and timeline, try to gain the opportunity to stay at a local family’s house in the area. Take your time to form an understanding of the local society, the political and social rules; try to form an empathy with the people.
2. Assess the project requirements
First and foremost, assess the project requirements. This might seem like an obvious point, but requirements will serve as a baseline to understand if the project can be completed successfully in another country. Starting with a vision of the end product and working under the assumption the product can be delivered in a more cost-effective mode via low cost labor can be risky. This approach will also reduce the risk of incurring huge costs to initiate an international project only to dig into the requirements and find out some of them cannot be met or come with a heavy price tag.
3. Do a Background Check
During this period prior to the commencement of the project determine the hard questions and answers.
Is the ultimate lure of this country the lower labor costs? The project may appear cheaper on paper, but what are the quality controls like? Investigate the workplace/factory where your project will take place.

Do the standards live up to what you expected? If you are in the country ahead of time, take a trip to the factory and observe their processes and speak to the staff (with permissions and formal agreements from management)

Take this prior understanding into consideration when determining your risk management planning. Once you understand your landscape and can perceive the possible challenges that you will face during the course of your project, there will be a much higher chance of success.

The unlikely information that you absorb through your experience will help you when you are developing a risk management plan to take full consideration of global risks and mitigation strategies. Although the labor costs may be lower to complete the necessary tasks once, if poor quality requires that tasks are repeated, then the project will no longer be delivered at a lower cost.

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