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International project manangement - a challenge or a jolly?

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Ian Mezies, a Senior Programmes Director for General Dynamics UK Ltd with over 25 years technical and business leadership who has successfully delivered a diversity of UK and international complex defence programmes, joined the South Wales and West of England branch to give an inspiring and very interesting presentation, discussing the ever changing dynamics associated with delivering projects to overseas customers.

He discussed the many human emotions generated when experiencing international travel with new cultures and challenges through to dealing with foreign commercial and business practices and the different quality standards including safety and security. This was a very well received and attended APM evening event held at General Dynamics UK Limited (GDUK) in Blackwood on the 7th September 2011.

Ian began his presentation by discussing the current trends and shrinking defence market within the UK and the need for businesses to expand their portfolio of customers beyond the UK shores. He then went on to identify the key factors that the new international client wants but realising the need to still protect the companys crown jewels such as:
New (the best) capability
Knowledge transfer
Intellectual Property (IP)
Inward investment
New relationships
International Standing

Traditional project management skills are employed from setting up the appropriate project teams, developing the rapport and relationships with the customer and conducting stakeholder management through recognising the key project decision makers regarding change and payment release, manage the political arena and recognise the differing attitudes to liability.

To meet these new demands the traditional project management skill set and competencies are not sufficient and the need to expand on these skills to provide heightened international project management competencies and qualities need to be realised.

These enhanced skill sets need to focus on a variety of key activities and skills such as establishing technical requirements baseline through progressive project acceptance and the management of customer expectations. These activities are delivered through the understanding the needs and effective management of deployed teams in country whilst providing the safe working environment through open communication, leadership, empathy, work/life balance and contingency plans.

Through the development of traditional project management competencies such as technical, behavioural and contextual and defined business practices the heightened competencies can be delivered. Capturing the key elements of these new skill sets are as follows:

Technical Behavioural Contextual
Requirements management Communication Health, Safety and Environment
Scope management Teamwork Legal awareness 
Change control Leadership Organisational roles   
Information management & reporting Conflict management  
Expectation management Negotiation  
  Human resources management  
  Behavioural characteristics  
  Professional and ethics  

Ian finished off the evening by summing the skill sets identified in the table above leads to having the extended international competencies skills and knowledge to manage international projects which are: 

Cultural awareness
International trade acumen
Strategic agility
Impact and Influence

The presentation was then concluded by an enthusiastic Question and Answer session from the audience and an opportunity for all attendees to network accordingly.

Special thanks were offered by Allan Reid, the South Wales & West Branch - South Wales Chapter Co-Chair to GDUK Senior Management for hosting this successful event.


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