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Interview with Ingo Kusch (member #5000)

Created on 17 September 2008 Written by Jean Binder
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In the interview below (conducted on the occasion of the 5000th membership in our LinkedIn group), Ingo Kusch talks about his experience as global innovation manager, and how global projects can benefit from a good communication strategy.

What was the most complex situation you lived on a global project, and how did you survive?

You can picture this:

1) A development team in India is not being able to get their software development project going on a shared infrastructure, which is very complex to configure

2) The US based supplier is trying to help, but the technology complexity is astonishing

3) tight project timings were pushing the team to resolve issues under extreme pressure

4) Limited overlap in time zones

5) Project management done from Europe

How did I survive? I had to get used to working on both EMEA and US working hours during the hottest project phases to ensure the technical setup is going fine during US hours. It was necessary to constantly chase for status update, identification of bottlenecks and roadblocks. I learned that in such phases it's vital to get a very deep understanding of the root causes of issues to be able to point the resources who need to fix them as quickly to it as possible - without a correct and detailed identification of the issue, the team can lose a precious time in root cause analysis, finger pointing and guessing. This eats up a lot of energy and morale.

What do you enjoy about working on global projects?
1) Leveraging the time zone differences - when people in Asia start to work, they can resolve issues that Europeans would only notice hours afterwards. Issues which need resolution for Asia can easily be done while Asia is resting. If this is coordinated well, you can get lots of stuff done in a very efficient way having your team working basically 24 x 5 without having to put in a lot of overtime.

2) Different cultures and behavioural patterns - it's really enriching to have folks from different backgrounds, cultures and mentalities on the same project. It gives many different perspectives and forces you to be much more structured, determined and organized than you would have to be in a "simple" single-location / mono-cultural project.

What are the main challenges you face on your day-to-day project management, particular to Global Projects?
The lack of business hours overlap between Asia and the US, which forces either of them to get up very early or to stay up till very late;

The quality of telecommunication lines. Surprisingly, the global audio service on many conference calls is quite bad which can make it difficult to understand the sometimes difficult accents of developers in India or other countries.

Face-to-face meetings would be very helpful to build a more personal relationship but travel budgets often do not allow this type of exchange.

What word of advice would you give to other global project managers?
Try to meet your team members at least once to build a stronger personal relationship;

Accept and plan for cultural and mental differences: Asian people often say "yes" when they mean "no", Americans are often looking for broad based concensus and hate top-down decisions, Europeans are often regarded as blunt and mean. These perceptions and prejudice exist and some of them are based by data: as the Project Manager you need to make sure all members of the team feel comfortable and work towards a common goal.

Be rigorous in documenting agreements in writing - never accept verbal agreement in a global dispersed project team that is maybe even comprised of people coming from different companies .

What are the main sources of information you use, to help you manage your global projects?
Experience, pmi.org (Project Management Institute), internal Project Management documentation, exchange with mentors and other experienced Project Managers.

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ingokutsch.jpg
Ingo Kutsch, PMP, is an Innovation Manager in the Global Business Service Organization, responsible by evaluations of new Technologies and Service Opportunities for the global Procter & Gamble shared services organization. He is fully engaged in the Project Management Competency at P&G, being a trainer for Project Management classes and coaching colleagues in the areas of "Successful Project Management", "Managing Projects with Suppliers" and "Corporate Project Management". Click here to see his profile on LinkedIn. 
Last Updated on 31 July 2012
 

Communication in global projects: don't wait for the misunderstandings

Created on 08 July 2007 Written by Jean Binder
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Image © Carole Nickerson | Dreamstime.comCommunication is key on every project. On global projects, the challenge is even higher, as there are many elements that dificult understanding. The team members might have difference levels of fluency on the common language. Different time zones reduce the window for synchronous communication (meetings, telephone calls and chats). Team members from different companies might use various software tools, not all allowing a smooth exchange of information.

 

Culture is often an unexpected barrier. The main mistake is to assume that everyone communicate with the same style: some team members will enjoy a humorous style, understand jokes and use slang. Others may be uncomfortable with this approach, and perhaps intimidated by jokes that may have a different connotation in their own cultures.

 

Once I was participating on a training session, given by a foreign instructor, who was often using anecdotes about his personal life, to make analogies and explain complex topics. I was delighted by the relaxed atmosphere and appreciated the teaching style. When discussing with other attendees after the training, I realized that they were unhappy with the informal manners of the teacher, and considered that he should not try to oversimplify or desmistify the knowledge domain.

 

The project can benefit from an early identification of this type of issues. The development of a good communication strategy during the project kick-off can reduce misunderstandings between stakeholders from different country and company cultures communicating over distance. The main interested parties must work together to define this strategy, creating the project communications management plan.

 

 

Chapter 8 of the Global Project Management book suggests three main steps to prepare a global communication strategy, by:

 

 

·        identifying the types of information to be communicated;

 

 

·        gathering the communication requirements from key stakeholders;

 

 

·        determining how the communication will effectively happen.

 

Image © Carole Nickerson | Dreamstime.com 

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
 

Going Global #2: Ensure Early Planning

Created on 21 May 2008 Written by Karina Jensen
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Uno, dos, tres… are you ready for take-off? In order to get a running start for the coming year, take the opportunity to evaluate your global launch timeline. The global launch plan provides a clear vision and road map to facilitate execution by cross-functional and cross-regional teams. The creation of the global launch plan also provides the opportunity to engage teams worldwide. Ensure early input from key functional and country teams who will drive global and local program management, communication, and readiness activities. Vamanos!

The successful development and execution of the global launch plan is often determined by executive sponsorship, international revenue recognition, and commitment to local delivery needs. Active involvement and support from the executive team is essential in strategic planning and issue resolution. You need to have the launch plan ready and your team in place when you kick-off the first launch meeting. This requires approval and support of the actual plan, product launch timeline, and product launch checklist.

In building the global roadmap, the Global Minds Network Global Launch Report showed that a majority of participants have established a formal launch methodology and process. However, the successful execution of the launch process often differed between organizations. The lack of clear objectives, timelines, and communication strategies contributed to reduced efficiency and results during the launch management phase. The most effective launch methodology and process included a series of stage gates and readiness reviews. A scalable model and solution that is adaptable to local needs is critical for ensuring global readiness throughout the regions.

A global plan with local involvement achieved the best results across cultures. An international template is recommended for localization and deployment among regions. Ensure early input from key functional and country teams who will drive global and local program management, communication, and readiness activities. In this way, country managers can select elements of the plan and provide local best practices and tools that support the global launch. While a consistent format for all internal and external launch material is necessary, it’s also important to ensure timely delivery of information and material that meets local market needs.

Early development of the global launch plan also provides the opportunity to engage cross-functional and cross-cultural teams worldwide. By providing a global planning template, the launch manager can collaborate with teams and ensure early participation in launch efforts. Objectives, milestones, and success metrics need to be realistic, time-sensitive and locally adaptable. In addition to key planning elements, the template should include a timeline and a checklist of core deliverables that can be reviewed for country implementation and localization needs. Increase interest and commitment by initiating the planning process through a “launch-a-launch” or pre-launch event where team members receive an overview of the plan outline and understand their role in the process.

An early planning process allows you to identify local market challenges and opportunities in order to modify positioning and formulate key messages. Enjoy a great start to fall: Create a global launch plan with local input and localized tools for improved business results worldwide. Then you’ll be ready to build your network and process across borders. Stay tuned for more in our next article. Hasta luego.

 

About the author:

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Karina Jensen is an international management consultant, instructor and facilitator with nearly 20 years of experience in launching business and education initiatives across cultures. She is the founder and principal of Global Minds Network, a consulting firm that facilitates global market success through effective planning and execution solutions. Click here to see her full profile in LinkedIn.

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
 

Interview with Simon Evans (member #1000)

Created on 14 March 2008 Written by Jean Binder
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In the interview below (conducted on the occasion of the 1000th membership in our LinkedIn group), Simon Evans talks about his experience as a programme manager, and how global communication strategies influence the success of global programs.

What was the most complex situation you lived on a global project, and how did you survive?
Global delivery at the same time as a global corporate merger… which meant that everyone was distracted, the scope underwent massive change, and churn in the senior / sponsoring team was immense.  Survival was a day-by-day achievement coupled with an overall strategy for protecting the here-and-now whilst being agile in terms of defining a new vision for tomorrow.  Key to this was accepting that the end result would be different, and that elements of the business case would change – but, that the fundamentals drivers for the programme remained, and hence needed to be voiced, recognised and addressed.  Overall, the best approach to dealing with increased complexity is to fall back to doing the basics right, first time, every time. 

What do you enjoy about working on global projects?
Global projects achieved by local deliver: Breaking command and control structures and empowering local organisations to deliver against a common, shared, global vision.  I like to take pride in seeing other people hundreds (or thousands) of miles away delivering consistently even though they have never met nor spoken with one another.

What are the main challenges you face on your day-to-day project management, particular to Global Projects?
Keeping the messages sufficiently simple and clear that they transcend geography, culture and language to provide everyone with a common purpose. 

How do you believe the Global Project Management Framework can help global project managers? What would you recommend to improve the framework in its next version?
By providing a common language for describing global programme delivery – if we use the same words to mean the same things we are 75% of the way towards success.  In the next version, I would like to see some real examples of collaboration tools – e.g. Sharepoint sites, Excel tools for product tracking…. Developed to address real problems 

What word of advice would you give to other global project managers?
You can’t manage what is happening in another country – so don’t try.  Instead focus on understanding local drivers and goals so that you can harness these to achieve your ends.

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Simon Evans
Simon is a dynamic, driven IT Programme Manager at Fujitsu Services, typically chosen to turn round large, complex and failing programmes. His recent experience spans public and private sectors; customer and supplier side; onshore and offshore; change-led and pure IT. See his profile on LinkedIn and invite him to join your network. 
 

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
 

A mindmap on global communication strategy

Created on 30 November 2007 Written by Jean Binder
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Download a mindmap that can help you to define a global communication strategy to understand and satisfy the requirements of your key stakeholders.

Click here to download a mindmap on global communication strategy

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
 
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