Whelan says there’s a general consciousness of other cultures inherent in Australian project managers’ styles: “We’re very aware of the outside world, we’re aware of culture. By nature, a lot of Australians travel or have international experience.”
This awareness will need to extend to local operations in other countries, adds Smith. “You do need to recognise that there will be differences in how projects are delivered in different parts of the world. Having an appreciation of that either through experience, or sensitivity, in terms of the Australian project manager’s perspective, or using a project manager from the local country, is an important part of being a global business,” he says.
The return of the project manager
Other global influences on Australian project management come from the project managers themselves, at least those who work on international projects and then return to our shores to share their experiences and knowledge. This is one way in which Australian project management can incorporate world’s best practice and, to some extent, it may be a way global project management can learn from Australian best practice too.
Our flexibility is an asset in this respect, says Whelan. “We’re such a global market now that styles and different ways of doing things are shared a lot more quickly and freely across the globe. It’s not as though we’re sitting here in a bubble,” she remarks. “If an Australian project manager worked on a project overseas and saw a good technique, they’d very quickly bring it back and use it in their next assignment. That transferability around the world is a real plus.”
To ensure transferability of skills and knowledge, Whelan advocates moving towards a global project management standard. “The project management world is moving more towards global platforms and global projects so even the projects they work on now cross cultures and currencies and content. A global standard would just ensure you have consistency and best practice. If you had a common standard it’d be a combination of what’s best out of all methodologies.”
Smith says global standards already exist within international projects and organisations. “It would be good if there was a progression towards a recognised international standard, but I think that as projects become larger and more international that may have occurred,” he says.
The biggest challenge would be to find a sponsor develop an official global standard for all project managers worldwide, he admits. “But I’m in agreement with it being a positive step in terms of bringing consistency of standards and consistency of delivery, a positive step in terms of the fact it provides a standard basis to train and develop people towards.”
Multinational organisations will drive project management at a global level, Whelan believes. “We’re seeing that there are more standard processes across larger organisations, such as accounting bodies that are putting in international frameworks for accounting. Project management may evolve naturally along those lines as we get more standard global accounting and regulations, company structures, whatever it might be,” she says.
“We’re seeing a real centralisation in other professional groups, professional bodies, so it may be something that project management will have to adopt because people now accept that global is best.”