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Topics: Career Development, International Development, Leadership
Foreign senior professionals in your organisation

Would you like to receive foreign senior project managers in your organisation to work in a short-term project while they improve their English?

I have a network of senior project managers from Brazil who are ready and willing to have an overseas experience to practice some English; to be in contact with PM best practices from other cultures; and to challenge themselves again, now that they have already reached top positions in their careers.

Do you think it would be feasible? Would it have to be a volunteer work? Are companies willing to prepare a one to three-month program for this sort of exchange? If so, could guest project managers be allocated in or even lead small/short-term projects of low complexity? If not, would it be easier then to accept them if the guest project managers came from potential partner organisations to start creating bi-lateral cooperation opportunies? Or even to allocate them in local/regional social projects as management consultants?

Any insights on this matter would be highly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!
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It would be interesting to see the views on this. The concept is great but from experience I know that language can be a major hurdle to overcome despite top notch skills. Communication is after all one of the top skills required from the PM. But I definitely like the idea of an exchange program and I think if we take language out of the equation and companies are brave enough everybody will benefit greatly from it. Other cultures and industries can teach you a lot if you are open to it. What such an exchange model will look like I have no idea.

A few questions and thoughts:

1. Would you look for exchanges within the same industry? Despite what people say about a PM being able to work in any industry, a PM unfamiliar with an industry won’t be very productive – even less so if they don’t speak the language well. No sponsoring company will want to take on a PM who will be a severe liability.

2. What’s the main purpose of this exchange? For Brazilian PMs to practice English? For Brazilian PMs to gain best practices? Or for Brazilian PMs to be challenged? If the primary goal is to practice English then trying to do so while working on a project is going to be extremely challenging and will put the project at considerable risk. If the primary goal is to learn best practices, I doubt this can happen if the Brazilian PMs don’t know English well enough to comprehend those lessons. If the PMs’ primary goal is to be challenged then they won’t gain any benefit by working on small projects.

3. Will the Brazilian PMs have some basic English proficiency? If so, how much? If stakeholders and the project team can’t communicate well with the Brazilian PM they will be frustrated, and the lack of clear communication between them and the PMs might cause the project to fail.

4. How can you guarantee that visiting PMs won’t take a company’s trade secrets with them when they return to Brazil?

From your description it seems only the Brazilian PMs stand to benefit much. Unless you can describe what a sponsoring company has to gain in this exchange, I don’t imagine many will want to participate.
That said, you may be able to broker exchanges between similarly-sized companies within the same industry. For example, Verizon in the U. S. might be willing to exchange PMs with Brazil’s Telefonica S.A.

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