IPMA International Project Management Association
22 January 2016 / 8:52

The Gordian knot of global collaboration

Globalisation has been an imperative for all of us in the last couple of centuries, starting with the discovery of “new worlds”, the increase in global trade and the growth in many countries associated with it. There has always been a downside through globalisation, namely competition, which also imposed many challenges to our countries. For me the positive impacts of globalisation have always outweighed the negative ones. During the last couple of years we experience a lot of events, that have had negative effects on the global collaboration. The financial and economic crisis in 2008 caused many countries to care more for their own, national economy, or started to impose protective measures on other countries. Political turbulences in or between some countries (e.g. Brazil and Russia), economic saturation after a long period of growth in China has put the former powerhouse of the “BRIC” countries nearly to a hold. New developing economies, for example in the Asian-Pacific region or selected countries in Latin America and Africa have not yet reached the strength to replace the former key players. Poverty in many regions of the world, wars or terrorism caused many people to leave their homes, trying to reach a better place in America, Australia or Europe.  Presently, there are more than 60 million people away from their homes. This causes many countries to close their borders, impose visa regulations or other protective measure to prevent migration to foster. Terrorism is another factor, that has sadly increased and hampered global collaboration. Religious tensions (e.g. in the Middle East), poverty and / or nationalistic riots have an adverse impact on global collaboration. The United Nations, founded to overcome these struggles after WWII, seems often to be misused or blocked by one or several of the super powers, having veto rights. Altogether, this is bad news for global collaboration. A change is needed.

What we need is nothing else than a strategic change program for the globe, a new world order and vision. The Paris meeting of the United Nations showed, that if we understand the global challenges (e.g. global warming) and facilitate all countries to a mutual beneficial agreement, this helps to return to global collaboration. IPMA is another good example of how this could work for the global collaboration. A vision is an important starting point. The question is: what do we want to achieve. In our case, “… a world in which all projects succeed.” A mission, based on commonly shared values needs to show the direction of the activities and how everyone can help to achieve the joint vision. The values of IPMA highlight “diversity”, “respect” and “consensus”. This means, no one is better or more important than others, diversity is helping us all to achieve the vision. We need to lever this diversity (in all regards) to move forward. Respecting the others and trying hard to achieve consensus in decision making is another important aspect for a new era of global collaboration. This is tough, it requires strong facilitation skills, but the negotiations with Iran to overcome the sanctions are another example that a mutual beneficial agreement can be reached if all try their best to find a solution.

The next level of global collaboration requires building trust through networking, relationship building and exchange of experiences. This prevents conflicts through understanding the differences and making the most out of them, not using them as a “weapon” against each other. During my travels I experience a lot of countries, where all the religions live in perfect harmony together, they value each other’s beliefs and even try to experience and learn from them. Travelling to other countries, diving into their cultural habits, values and beliefs is a key for global understanding and collaboration. This should start in school, continue throughout our lives and be supported by our governments to a much greater extent. The global “organisation” should move away from a centralised, one-directional structure to a flexible network structure, that allows for regional collaboration or bilateral collaboration if applicable. The subsidiarity principle is important to apply and self-organisation to overcome the feeling of some countries, that only a few are “ruling”. The United Nations should be made responsible for the global change, we all can support to build a better world. We are trying to reach that in IPMA´s context, but I strongly believe, that it should also be done on the global level.

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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