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Managing global projects - facing cultural challenges?


© Peter B.   |   Team Building  |   Comments
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Ever experienced an 'unbuffered' learning experience? The kind that develops global competences?

I recently met with a German project manager - let's call her Teresa - for a coaching session on global competences. She had had a deeply frustrating experience, which was at the core of the session.

She had been to Seoul, together with her manager (VP of Engineering, and also German) for a much needed status meeting on an R&D project with their South Korean partner. When they arrived she met with her Korean counterpart for a preliminary status meeting. The VPs met as well, but in a separate meeting.

During her meeting with the South Korean project manager, he openly told her that their part of the project was not on schedule, and that technical difficulties seemed without end. She then briefed her manager on this.

The following day was the first official status meeting and everyone was present: VPs, project managers, and engineers with specific knowledge of the technical aspects, as well as a few participants who apparently, according to Teresa, had no particular role.

The South Korean VP welcomed everybody politely and proceed to tell about the very promising situation of the South Korean project - they were on schedule and had solved all the technical issues.

As Teresa described it to me, she had looked at her manager with great surprise and a clear sense of betrayal by the South Korean project manager. She had expected the same frank and open talk from the meeting the day before. She also wondered what her manager would think of her - would he doubt her? Wonder if she had misrepresented the truth?

The VPs met again shortly after to sort things out. Both had noticed Teresa's reaction at the meeting and knew they had to find a solution that addressed the project progress and ensured that Teresa - as an appreciated project manager - would continue as such.

Teresa had had an important, if unbuffered, learning experience - the kind that develops global competences because space was created for her to reflect on the whole experience while gaining new knowledge about the cultural differences.

I couldn’t help wondering what the South Korean project manager had learned.

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