Global project manager self-assessment

Abstract

In this era of globalization, you have the potential to be more than a resource in your local community. Global projects are on the increase. Your project management skills also need to increase. The project management professional is an integral global resource in the current global economy. As more and more projects are global in nature, project managers will be needed to lead global as well as international projects. Some project managers around the world are acquiring the skills to manage global projects. However, many project managers do not possess these new skills. The “Global Project Manager Self-Assessment” is a tool to rapidly assess your aptitude to serve as a global project manager.

Background

During 2003 and 2004, I ventured on a global trek to experience globalization on a personal level. I planned four separate itineraries in order to fulfill my quest. The first trip was to China where I visited Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and the ancient capital city of Xian. The second trip was to London and Cyprus where I focused on the incorporation of The Republic of Cyprus as one of ten countries admitted to the European Union on a single historic day, May 1, 2004. The third trip was to India where I beheld New Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore and an adventurous road trip to Agra, the site of the majestic Taj Mahal. The fourth and final trip was to traverse Italy to see its many classical treasures.

My efforts far exceeded my expectations to experience globalization and to better understand the driving forces of the global economy. In short order, I was on the global stage that is Rome, Beijing and Bangalore. The major discovery that I made after perhaps some fifty thousand miles of travel and excursion is the concept, simply stated, that each project manager needs to be a global project manager.

What constitutes a Global Project Manager?

It would be easy to make the point that mankind has always been involved in the process of globalization. The prehistory and history of human beings on this planet is based on communications and transportation – the primary ingredients of international travel and trade. One could likewise make the point that our history has been created because humans were able to organize work into tasks, projects and programs. Every culture and every society has had people who functioned as project managers.

That said, I do not believe that we have always had global project managers. What constitutes a global project manager? I believe that a global project manager is able to simultaneously direct and manage tasks at any time and at any location around the globe. It is the instantaneous transmission of information across international and intercontinental telecommunications pathways that enable a person to function as a global project manager, according to this formula:

Globalization follows telecommunications pathways,
Global telecommunications enables global project management.

If you are able to accept and support these two simple and straight-forward statements, then you are ready to evaluate your ability to be a global project manager.

Why is there an Increase in Global Project Managers?

There has been a rapid increase in the number of global project managers. Project managers in the past focused on local, regional and national projects. The increase in the number of global project managers is due to globalization. Globalization is a pervasive force that affects both business and culture. It influences how people live, how they think, how they behave and how they think about people that are different from them. The process of globalization results in the global economy. In the global economy, financial transactions are often dependent on circumstances in distant places. The effects of globalization are not limited to financial transactions. They extend to governmental, judicial and legal domains. The result is that global project management is more complex, unpredictable and chaotic.

What types of organizations are involved in global projects? The short answer is that these organizations may be small as well as large and not necessarily commercial in nature. They include governmental organizations, military forces, multi-national corporations, non-profit associations and charitable groups. Power can extend to the individual level through use of the Internet. A single individual can promote their agenda, create institutes and even become celebrity bloggers. The ability to influence large numbers of people across large geographical areas is no longer the domain of massively powerful organizational structures.

Due to these factors, there is a rapid increase in the number of global projects managers. This trend makes it essential that you embrace your role as a global project manager as soon as possible.

Embracing Your Role as a Global Project Manager

As a member of the project management profession, it is vital that you recognize your competitive position as a global project manager and that you embrace it. How do you do this?
Where do you start?

The first place to start is to understand the nature of the global economy. Many economists believe in the existence of a global economy. They propose that local and regional economies are consolidating into a single global economy. Do you believe that there is a global economy? In my own case, I thought about the nature and substance of a model of the global economy. What would it look like? Would it be simple and elegant or would it be complex and convoluted? As I searched for answers to these questions, I met a professor of economics who had twenty years experience at the university level. I asked him what he thought about individuals as global resources. He replied that in the past a person typically lived and worked in the same city or metropolitan area. In this scenario the individual worker would compete against a limited number of competitors for a job. This worker might be competing against a handful or a hundred. In rare circumstances, this worker might be the only qualified candidate. If the job involved paid relocation or otherwise attracted job seekers at the national level, there might be hundreds of competitors. However, in this era of globalization, the job might be competed against thousands or even millions of other qualified workers. Clearly, it is extremely important to understand whether a job requisition will be competed locally, nationally or globally. The global project manager understands that this is the nature of the resource pool in the global economy.

The Global Project Manager Self-Assessment Tool

The global project manager self-assessment is a professional development tool. (See Exhibit 1) This tool is designed to illuminate the knowledge, skills and experience that are necessary to effectively manage and deliver global projects. The tool is designed to provide a step-by-step analysis of various aspects of global project management.

The self-assessment tool is not designed to test specific knowledge of project management methods or techniques. It is assumed that the project manager is competent in the body of knowledge and the project management process groups. Instead, the tool focuses on the detection of performance indicators that demonstrate aptitude and experience in global project management.

Taking the Global Project Manager Self-Assessment

The self-assessment questions are listed below. In this paper, you are invited to assign your own weight to each question and your own meaning to the total score. In the Global Project Manager Self-Assessment workshop, each question has a recommended value and the total score has a suggested interpretation. This approach forms the basis for your action plan to be a global project manager.

Are you curious about the world and its peoples? If you are intrigued about how people live in various parts of the world, you are innately predisposed toward success as a global project manager. It is a critical success factor to be able to relate to people who are different from you. Paradoxically, the more you perceive differences, the more you will appreciate the similarities. Your perceptions will radically change over time. As this happens, you will have more empathy and this will make you a more effective project manager in every situation that you face.

Do you understand why some people from your country choose to live in other countries? The vast majority of people in the world choose to live in their home country as long as they have free choice. Some people adopt one or more countries for their primary residence. I have met people who could not understand why someone would live in another country. This attitude is prevalent in the United States of America. I have even met people who have no desire to travel outside the United States! So if you can understand why people decide to reside in other lands, you definitely have the aptitude of a successful global project manager.

Do you have a current passport? If you have a current passport, then you are enabled to travel to visit other countries for business or pleasure. All global project managers travel to other countries. All global project managers have passports. If you do not have a passport, then you have not met even the most minimal requirement to be a global project manager. If you have a passport, there are other questions to ask. For example, have you used your passport at least once time? Have you completely filled your passport before it expired? Frequent global travelers ask for passports with extra pages in order to accommodate heavy travel schedules.

Do you know how and when to obtain a travel visa? Some countries allow you to visit with only a passport, while others require a passport and a visa. Visa requirements vary by country. A visa is used so that a nation may know who is crossing their borders. Obtaining a visa takes time and money. The global project manager understands this process and does not let it interfere with business objectives.

Can you speak a foreign language? It is not a requirement that a global project manager speaks more than one language, but it certainly helps. I have witnessed many situations in which a person's knowledge of a few key words and phrases made a positive impression on native speakers. However, it takes a dedicated effort to learn a new language and to perfect the pronunciation. In certain situations, it is best to hire a trusted translator. It takes practice, patience and thorough planning to conduct business through a translator. I have met many global project managers who said that their knowledge of local dialects is a strategic asset.

Have you ever had to get vaccinations prior to foreign travel? Perhaps the most difficult aspect of foreign travel for international business is planning for vaccinations. In the United States of America, there are medical offices that provide specialized treatment for infectious diseases. Certain government offices also provide these services. The management of your health record can be a time-consuming, expensive and sometimes physically painful process. If you plan to visit or work in some areas of the world, you will most likely need to have multiple shots. Please keep in mind that some vaccinations require multiple shots that are spread out over time. The most important travel document, other than your passport, is the yellow booklet that is used to keep track your vaccinations. Keep this booklet with your passport at all times. It is also helpful to examine the entire booklet. It has several sections that fold out. Some vaccinations, for example, Yellow Fever, are recorded in a specific section of the booklet that is not easily located. It is also important to note the length of time that a vaccination in valid. Some vaccinations, for example, Typhoid, require a booster shot every two-three years. Currently, travel to China, India and equatorial zones can require multiple shots well in advance of your travel. The key to healthy international travel is to be mindful about all contact with water and food. Be certain to pack and use a liquid hand purification product.

Do you have an International Driver's License? In the United States of America, a travel organization known as AAA offers an international driver's license. In countries, where it is reasonably safe to drive on your own, it is helpful to have an international driver's license and also check on automobile insurance. Do not depend on your personal auto insurance in your home country. If you rent a car and have no other insurance, it is probably best to purchase maximum protection so you are fully covered in an accident.

Have you visited at least five other countries? There is no substitute for travel experience and international business experience. Why? Because you cannot learn from experiences that you are not having! You can see pictures from other countries, but you will not truly understand the context of that picture unless you actually been there. If you have visited at least five other countries, you are on your way toward building your credentials as a global project manager.

Have you visited at least three continents? It is good to have visited several countries. However, it is possible to visit five countries that are within the same geographical area. In this situation, you may have limited cross-cultural experience. The most experienced global project manager has visited at least three continents.

Have you visited a foreign embassy in your country? While in your own country, you should visit a foreign embassy. If you have the opportunity for business or personal reasons, make the time and effort to have this experience. It is always interesting to meet an ambassador, her/her family and the consular staff. Please keep in mind that when you are in a foreign embassy, you are technically in that country. So you can literally step off a public street or sidewalk and enter into another country. Be aware that public and private events may also be scheduled at the official residence of an ambassador. These types of experiences are highly recommended and not to be missed.

Have you visited your embassy while in another country? You will generally not need to visit your embassy or consular office when you are in another country. However, it is always prudent to know where these offices are located in each country you visit. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, you may require diplomatic assistance. Under certain circumstances, it is advisable to advise the embassy that you are in the country. If your project or business activity has enough interest, the embassy staff may be willing to meet with you. If you have never had this opportunity, it can be both interesting and exciting. The embassy staff may be interested to know that you are in country. Sometimes they invite you to participate in formal or informal social events. Remember the embassy or consular staff are also away from home and they enjoy the companionship of their fellow compatriots.

Have you been in a foreign country by yourself? Most people travel to a foreign country with family, friends or business partners. It is always a comfort to have someone to share your travel experience. Sometimes it is mandatory to have someone else to help “watch your back” for safety purposes. I met a woman who travels extensively on her own. She told me that she has to be very careful because she has to “watch her own back.” This is not easy to do. As a global project manager, you probably will have to travel to a foreign country on your own. In that case, you should plan to have support from a local business partner or a services company. For example, use a licensed limousine service for local transportation. Try to hire a driver who is bilingual. Make certain that you have a well planned itinerary and professional service providers for each step in your itinerary. In some countries, you will need to dress down or have an armed body guard with you at all times. The rule of thumb is that, unless you can travel and look just like a local citizen, get help.

Does anyone in your family have immigration documents for your country? If someone in your immediate or extended family has immigration documents, then this is a good sign that you have a personal network that extends into another country. The immigration documents might be a special visa or special status document. In the United States of America, we have several types of visas for foreign workers or students to enter the country. There is a “Green Card” for foreign nationals who are interested in the process of naturalization to become a citizen.

Do you watch media programs about other countries? Do you use satellite technology to receive media information from other countries? In your home country, are there media programs about other countries? In the USA, we have media communications companies that provide programming from many other countries around the world. In some cases, citizens originally from other countries have created their own local programming. It is easy to find media programming from every continent and from most countries in the world. If you want a convenient method to increase your knowledge of people in other parts of the world, the best place to start may be in front of your television set in your own home.

Have you worked or had business meetings in other countries? If you have had work experience or business meetings in other countries, you are well on your way to becoming a global project manager. In addition to subject matter knowledge, it is extremely important to have the business acumen skills that are appropriate for the country you are visiting. In some cases, this may involve hiring a coach or taking specialized training. The goal is to not offend your clients or partners in a way that will cause you to lose face. Sometimes you only get one chance and if you make a mistake, you will not be able to recover from it. If you are in doubt about the proper etiquette for any business or social situation, be very reserved, be patient and be respectful.

Have you ever been lost and alone in another country? How did it feel? Perhaps the truest test of global travel experience is if you have been alone and lost in a foreign country. For most travelers and global project managers, there will be at least one occasion in which you are alone, you are lost, and you must figure out what to do next. In countries in which there is no immediate threat to your personal safety, these moments can be both mentally challenging and emotionally stimulating. It can be like a puzzle that you know you can solve and enjoy. On the other hand, if you are in culture foreign to your own, a simple wrong turn or misstep can create instant terror and moments of quiet desperation accompanied by uncontrollable perspiration. You never forget the moments when you felt totally lost, alone and desperate.

Calculating Your Score

Now you are ready to total your score. How do you sum your score? What does it mean? What do you do with this personal information? In this paper, you are invited to calculate and weigh your own score. Your scoring system may be quantitative or qualitative. Make your score relative to how your feel about the questions and your answers. In the workshop that accompanies this paper, the use of the assessment tool and the scoring will be conducted in much more detail. As a general rule, if your weighted score is above 75%, you are at the level of an experienced global project manager. If you are under 25%, then you are not a global project manager. If you are between 25-75%, then you are becoming a global project manager.

The Global Project Manager Self-Assessment Tool

Exhibit 1. The Global Project Manager Self-Assessment Tool

Three Suggested Self Improvement Steps

The following list of three suggestions serves as an aid to begin your journey toward becoming a global project manager.

Perform a self assessment

Perform a self assessment of your project management skills as a global resource. This self assessment should be qualitative as well as quantitative. (See Figure 1)

Participate in the global community

Realize that there is a global community that is embracing project management. In the global community, the best way to participate is to volunteer your services and work virtually with other people with similar interests.

Plan for long term participation

The career choice to be a global project manager is a long term proposition. No one person can ever hope to become the consummate global project manager. The goal is participation, not perfection. The joy is in the journey. The first step sometimes takes a leap of faith, but every step will increase your confidence as a global project manager.

Useful References

Bhagwati, J. (2004) In Defense of Globalization. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Dodson, W.R. (1998, April) Virtually International: Managing Globalized Project Teams. PM Network 12 (4), 29-31.

Friedman, T.L. (2005) The World is Flat. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Global Learning Semesters. (2006). The World in One Semester: Study Abroad Programs 2007. Letter from the Chairman. Retrieved from http://www.GlobalSemesters.com.

Mayer, M. (1998) The Virtual Edge. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

McGregor, J. (2005) One Billion Customers. New York, NY: Free Press.

PM Network. (2006, January) Point/Counterpoint: The Global Community is Embracing Project Management. PM Network 20 (1), 50-54.

Ross, A.M. (2002) Beyond World Class. Chicago, IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing.

Thurow, L.T. (2003) Fortune Favors the Bold. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

© 2006, Roger Beatty, PhD, PMP
Originally published as a part of 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Hong Kong, China

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