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At APPEL, International Project Management Supports Global Collaboration

Participants gather for a brief break during APPEL’s March 2017 offering of International Project Management.

Photo Credit: NASA APPEL/Daniel Connell

A recent offering of APPEL’s International Project Management course united presenters from seven international space agencies with practitioners from ten NASA centers. 

In the 21st century, the vast majority of NASA projects involve an international component, from high-visibility joint ventures such as the International Space Station (ISS) to much smaller initiatives that nonetheless entail negotiations over issues like parts procurement or flyover rights. Regardless of the scope of the collaboration, cultural understanding plays a critical role in maximizing the potential of aerospace projects today.

For more than two decades, APPEL has offered a course specifically designed to help NASA practitioners develop the requisite skills to facilitate these global partnerships. Today, International Project Management brings together practitioners from NASA, international space agencies, and the commercial industry to learn from a multi-national cadre of instructors as well as from each other.

“I think the greatest strength of this program is the in-depth knowledge that participants gain from practitioners who have actually been working on international projects for years. The participants learn from each other what it takes to work on an international mission and how to collaborate successfully with different space agencies around the world,” said APPEL Director Roger Forsgren. “Overall, this course helps build key principles that practitioners can use through a lifetime of working international and global missions.”

APPEL hosted the most recent session of International Project Management from February 26 through March 3, 2017, at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Participants included NASA civil servants from across the agency as well as presenters from international partner organizations such as the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), ESA (European Space Agency), German Aerospace Center (DLR), Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), and South African National Space Agency. Industry partners were also represented, while instructors offered perspectives from a number of agencies and organizations.

One instructor was Dr. Dale Crossman, a retired NASA professional development expert who helped develop the course when it was first introduced and has taught aspects of it ever since. “There aren’t a lot of programs like this that allow people from all over the world to come together and talk about a common interest and talk about how they might enhance their effectiveness together,” he said. “[Participants go] through a discovery process about other people that allows them to grow and to develop contacts that they trust around the world. They’re building a network.”

Instructor Bob Chesson leads a discussion during the recent offering of International Project Management. Credit: NASA APPEL

Instructor Bob Chesson leads a discussion during the recent offering of International Project Management.

Photo Credit: NASA APPEL

Instructor Bob Chesson, a retired ESA veteran, agreed. “IPM is a very professional, highly interactive course, which always stimulates the trainees. The faculty and staff are world class, and it’s always a privilege to join the team.”

The five-day course utilizes case studies, presentations from experienced practitioners, and hands-on exercises to help participants explore how cultural differences can inform decision making, negotiations, and leadership styles. Participants also review strategies for identifying and avoiding some of the common pitfalls associated with international projects. A key aspect of the course is encouraging practitioners to learn from each other to better understand the challenges and opportunities of engaging with international partners. Over the course of the five days, participants begin to comprehend the cultural challenges, ethical and legal concerns, and teaming issues they may encounter when working on international projects. The goal of the course is to ensure participants leave with a heightened ability to collaborate successfully, a skill that is integral not only to NASA’s future, but to the future of the industry overall.

The next session of International Project Management will be held in September 2017.

Learn more about International Project Management.

Read an APPEL News interview with IPM instructor Dale Crossman.

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