Globalpreneurship and the Project Manager

by babasteve

I recently had an article published in the Journal of Business Services Quarterly on the subject of Globalpreneurship. If the word is new to you it’s because it’s new to everyone. I did what any good academician would do when stumped for a perfect word…I made one up.

Globalpreneurship refers to the unique challenges faced by entrepreneurs in multi-national corporations. However, many of the recommendation made for innovators in multi-nationals apply equally well in projects with global stakeholders. To effectively manage projects in a global environment we have to be cognizant of the cultural perspectives of all stakeholders. While this seemingly simple fact is know by most project managers in theory it often doesn’t translate to practice.

I recently did some pro bono work for an entrepreneur who has managed several successful projects in America and has begun developing new projects in China. My first bit of advice was: “remember, developing an idea into a completed prototype is a project. Selling the finished output is a process. Make sure everyone is on the same page.” Several Chinese companies are now making prototypes but there is far too much variation in the output. The prototypes haven’t been close to what he wants or is paying for, so he’s very frustrated. He didn’t take my advice. He sees prototype development, like most entrepreneurs, as a project. His partners in China see it as a process. Therein lies the problem. The genesis of the problem was applying his expectations of project management to his Chinese vendors. In reality the supply chain in China is not nearly as efficient as that of the United States. It may be someday, but it’s not now. His vendors have much more of a long-term orientation. He wants the product perfect right away but to his foreign vendors this is an unrealistic expectation.

The root of his problem has nothing to do with project management, the root is that he went to China before he was ready to deal with these issues. He new intuitively that US and Chinese cultures were vastly different, so why did he assumed project culture is universal? For the same reason many of us don’t apply sound theory to practice….we think our intuition is good enough. It isn’t.
So will adding the word globalpreneurship to the project manager’s lexicon solve the issue of cultural disconnects? No. My hope is only that it’ll remind project managers that taking an entrepreneurial approach that emphasizes the prospect of making money, a strongly held value in America’s individualistic culture, may not stimulate global partners to action. On my first visit to Central America a very wise and successful Honduran executive told me “in the USA a man moves to the rhythm of the machine, here the machine moves to the rhythm of the man”. This can be a challenging cultural difference for entrepreneurial individuals, so the first step in global projects has to be awareness that the values of one culture will not supersede the values of another.

When learning to play baseball we’re told that a tie goes to the runner. In global project management a tie goes nowhere. Globalpreneurs need to work with foreign stakeholders to create a project culture where the cultural values of each stakeholder’s country blend to make a new, exciting project culture. Thinking like a globalpreneur will move international projects and opportunities forward.

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