Five unusual tips to kick-start your international project effectively

Sunday 3 February 2013

by Bob Dignen

Hi I’m Bob Dignen, author of Managing Projects, jointly published by York Associates and Delta Publishing. Myself and my colleague Steve Flinders will be blogging here over the next two months on issues covered in our titles in the International Management English series.

I usually dislike reading articles which serve up an all-too familiar menu of bland tips and tricks on how to achieve success at work.   So here’s something a little more counter-intuitive to produce a little bit more food for thought.

1.    Remember, your project is not a project.

Yes, I mean what I wrote. I’m not crazy. A project is not simply a project. In fact, it’s much more than that. Major international projects are often strategic change process. And change processes are usually highly charged and conflict-ridden emotional entities not simply a list of project tasks and milestones pointing towards a deadline.  Too few project managers understand the emotional landscapes of their projects; too few project managers have the emotional intelligence to manage the feelings side of projects; which is why so many projects fail. If you are running a major project, consult an internal change expert about the emotional obstacles to success which the project may generate.

2.    Distrust the people in your team

Let me explain. Those leading large projects often have little control over who comes to participate in their project team. Sometimes, the people populating international project teams are there simply because they’re the only individuals with enough English to participate. Sometimes the people don’t even want to participate; they have to because they occupy a certain role which demands that they take part.  And then there are the people really motivated to take part but whose bosses in their day jobs load them with so much work that their contribution is severely weakened.  So don’t simply trust that the people you have can do the job. As far as possible, hand pick people you know have the right talents and motivations to participate. If necessary, involve line managers in the process and work with them through the project to ensure team members can perform.

3.    Fear culture

Everyone knows that working across culture presents unique challenges – different mindsets, different assumptions, different ways of working etc. But few do anything about it. Simple solution –involve an intercultural trainer for a couple of hours during the kick-off meeting with the mission to teambuild and foster a spirit of curiosity and respect for diversity. If you can’t find anyone, call me.

4.    Forget long term objectives

International projects can be quite complex and challenging affairs which last years. Team members can become disillusioned as they work from milestone to milestone with no obvious and tangible success to show for their efforts. Solution? Plan a few high profile so-called quick wins into your schedule – the launch of a simple new service, something which makes everyone’s life in the organisation easier. Create a sense of momentum and pride, a piece of good news, to get spirits high and look to repeat the exercise periodically to maintain a sense of progress. People who are proud of what they doing tend to do a better job. The longer term objectives will come in the longer term.

5.    Shout about bad news

We all know the scenario. Team member flags a project task at red – real risk of failure. Project lead reports the problem to sponsor at amber – not wanting things to sound too serious. Sponsor reports project status as green – all is well, no issues on the horizon. Result? Frustration in the team. Lack of resources and effort focused on areas of real project risk. Overall project portfolio management compromised leading to huge costs impacts. OK, it’s a dramatic picture being painted. But those leading projects need to practice ‘intelligent disobedience’ far more often than they do – shouting against superiors who seek to cover issues and massage realities.

There is more about these issues, and an article about intelligent disobedience, in Managing Projects providing even more food for thought for those working in international projects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Delta Development Blog

This blog will be updated at least once a week, so add it to your bookmarks. You can also subscribe to the feed to be notified when it's updated.

Meet the Bloggers

Culture in our Classrooms Cover

Culture in our Classrooms

Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Culture in our Classrooms acknowledges the role of culture in the English Language Teaching classroom and provides lesson content which is relevant, useful and engaging for students.

The Developing Teacher  Cover

The Developing Teacher

The Developing Teacher has been awarded the 2009 Duke of Edinburgh/ESU Award for Best Entry for Teachers. The Developing Teacher suggests that teachers themselves are the most powerful agents of change and development in their own professional career.

Digital Play  Cover

Digital Play

DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.

The Book of Pronunciation   Cover

The Book of Pronunciation

Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Book of Pronunciation is a definitive account of the key role pronunciation plays in teaching and learning, providing a highly authoritative but hugely accessible overview of the essential elements of English pronunciation as well as a wide range of classroom practice.

Teaching Online  Cover

Teaching Online

Teaching Online is essential reading for any teacher interested in online teaching and course delivery. It deals comprehensively with both the tools and the techniques necessary for online language instruction.

The Company Words Keep  Cover

The Company Words Keep

Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.

The Business English Teacher Cover

The Business English Teacher

From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.

Teaching Unplugged Cover

Teaching Unplugged

Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.

Being Creative Cover

Being Creative

Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Being Creative takes you on a journey that reveals how all teachers have the potential to become creative. Whether you are experienced or new to the classroom, Being Creative allows your teaching to take flight.



Archives by date

  • April 2017
  • March 2017
  • November 2016
  • October 2016
  • July 2016
  • June 2016
  • May 2016
  • April 2016
  • March 2016
  • February 2016
  • January 2016
  • December 2015
  • November 2015
  • October 2015
  • September 2015
  • July 2015
  • June 2015
  • May 2015
  • April 2015
  • March 2015
  • February 2015
  • January 2015
  • December 2014
  • November 2014
  • October 2014
  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • December 2013
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • October 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009