Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Project Managers and Boss Types - The Baron

Many multinational organizations are run on a country by country basis. They claim to be global, but basically they adhere to the rule of: Talk Globally, Act Locally.
So the CEO waxes lyrically about cross border, cross continental, cross hemispherical collaboration. Yet in reality the company is run by country heads who act like feudal barons. Remember all corporations are basically royal courts.
Each executive views herself as the ruler of her domain, no matter how small. She believes, usually quite rightly, that she has the power of veto over edicts emanating from head office. So, woe betides a project manager on a global project who has to negotiate the minefield of conflicting national interests.
I was involved in such a multinational deal. The overall deal was agreed between two corporations based in the USA. But corporate policy and legal requirements in Europe meant that we had to have individual contracts between the corporations’ entities in each country. A large task made even worse because everyone, and I do mean everyone, believed that they could re-negotiate the deal, for their slice of the action, from scratch. It required a lot of banging of heads before the global needs of both corporations could triumph over local greed.
Managing barons is very context sensitive. It all depends on where you are in the corporation relative to the baron in question. If you work for them then you would be wise never to act on a head office directive without first checking with his staff. It might be the first they’ve heard of the new policy so you can get brownie points for alerting them, and, if they have heard then they’ll give you the necessary guidance. Now if you don’t work for the baroness but have to deal with her then diplomacy is a key element. You can’t seek to impose policy on her.
The way I would handle the matter is to raise the issue of the policy, directive, what ever, with her staff and ask for their guidance on how they would expect it to be implemented. Consultation is always better than confrontation. You might win this battle but they’ll remember and pay back is a bitch.
Remember the Europeans carry grudges for centuries. Think I’m exaggerating? Then consider Ireland and the Balkans!

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