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Managing Project Zombies

Managing Project Zombies
By Francis Norman

OK, I’ll come clean right at the start, this article has nothing to do with the zombie’s depicted by popular fiction, I am not going to be discussing employees who have recently risen from the dead and who will wander the halls of your project leaving a trail of body parts and dead colleagues…

The project zombies I am discussing arrive at work just like all of the other employees, they look like project staff, talk more or less like project staff and in most ways behave like project staff, however, they differ from the rest of the project workforce in that they are essentially going through the motions of their job, they lack the life-force that drives the most productive staff and if left unmanaged will in many ways eat the brains of their colleagues.

What is a project zombie?

Despite the general popular fiction image that zombies are created through the reanimation of those already dead, I suggest that there are, in fact, metaphoric zombies walking amongst us in many of our projects. Read the Complete Article

Supporting International Project Communication Skills

Supporting International Project Communication Skills
By Francis Norman

There are, it seems to me, three basic ways companies develop international communications skills in their employees, all three of which have analogies with learning to swim, these basic options are;

  • To throw the employees in at the deep end. This seems like a pretty brutal description though to be fair, many employees also choose to jump in at the deep end and many companies may not realize there is any option available to them.
  • To give the employee basic swimming lessons then to let them swim, or otherwise propel themselves into deeper water, so equip them with the fundamentals of cross cultural awareness and basic communications awareness before sending them off on their assignment.
  • And finally, to give the employee swimming lessons, a life vest and have trained specialists in a boat monitor the employees progress as their swimming skills develop over time in the deeper water.
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Strategic Alignment in International Projects

Strategic Alignment in International Projects
By Francis Norman

When you select and engage with an international partner for the execution of your projects, what discussions do you have regarding strategic alignment of your organisations? If you don’t, have you considered, or even experienced first hand the impact of any misalignment on the delivery of your project?

Do you agree your aims and goals from executing the work so that you are both focused on the same outcomes? Specifically this conversation with your international partner will encompass among other things;

  • Financial goals, how do your and your international partner’s cost models compare, is your business as important to them as the business from another client, because if it is not, you may well find that your level of service from them is not all you expect, particularly if they are able to make substantially greater profits in performing work for the other client.
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Project Communications Across Time Zones

Project Communications Across Time Zones
By Francis Norman

One of the most readily apparent challenges facing the development of a communications plan for any international project is determining the best way for the project to communicate across time zones. This is a problem which changes in complexity and impact as the time zones spread out, but, regardless of the distance and difference, it is one which can have very a serious impact on the way the project is managed and communications performed.

  • With only one or two hours between locations the time zones issue barely exists, telephone calls can be made with little consideration for the time at the other location and meetings scheduled with relative impunity, but as the hours increase the problem progressively worsens.
  • Three and four hours difference can start to really bite into the project’s ability to have a conventionally structured communications plan typical of a collocated project, since morning in one location is the afternoon at the other, but at least there is sufficient overlap for both parties to be able to talk by phone or video for four to six hours a day, however, consideration for the time at each location is necessary so that one party or the other does not have constant early mornings or late evenings to accommodate the scheduling from the other location.

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