CHARLES MARTIN IN UGANDA: WHAT TO DO WHEN A MANAGER GOES NATIVE
James Green, a vice president at U.S.-based Hydro Generation (HO), .was pondering a specific question: Should he retain Charles Martin for the construction phase of a major dam project in the African nation of Uganda? (See Map 2.5 for the location of Uganda in Africa and of the dam project in Uganda.) Martin had already completed his assignment en the preliminary phase of the project, and Green couldn’t deny that Martin results had been highly satisfaction —-he had finished every task on time and within budget. Green, however, was a little concerned with the means by which Martin tended to achieve his ends. In Green’s opinion, Martin was too eager to accommodate Ugandan ways of doing business, some of which ran counter both to HG’s organizational culture and to its usual methods of operating in foreign environments. In particular; Green worried that some of Martin’s accommodations with local stakeholders might have unforeseen repercussions for the company’s presence in Uganda. He also knew the philosophy and values of founder and current CEO Lawrence Lovell who had been instrumental in shaping HG’s mission and culture. A devout Christian and regular attendee of the National Prayer breakfast, Lovell believed strongly that business activities though secular
should embody Christian values. As a manager, he believed subordinates should be given full responsibility in making and implementing decisions, but they should also be held accountable for the results. Martin, however, wanted to stay in Uganda, and HG would be hard pressed to find someone else with his combination of professional training, experience with HO, and familiarity with the host country. (Martin, though only 29, had already proved effective in using his knowledge of local development issues to disarm critics of the power plant.) Hiring Martin to handle all preconstruction operations represented a new approach for HG. In this capacity, Martin, who’d been transferred to Uganda a year and a half earlier as project liaison specialist, had been given a threefold task:
1. To gain local support for the project by working with both Ugandan authorities in the capital of Kampala and villagers in the vicinity of the construction site. 2. To set up an office and hire office personnel to take charge of local purchasing (including lower-level hiring), clearing incoming goods through customs, securing immigration permissions for foreigners attached to the project, overseeing the Logistics of getting materials going from the airport in Kampala to the dam site, and keeping inventory and accounting records. 3. To help foreign personnel (mainly engineers) get settled and feel comfortable living and working in Uganda.
Martin was also responsible for establishing an operating structure that would spare incoming managers the hassles of such mundane startup activities as obtaining licenses, installing telephones and utilities, and finding local people to hire for the wide range of jobs that would be needed. In addition, although HG specialized on power plants (it had built plants in 16 countries and retained ownership shares in about halt of them), the Uganda project was its first African venture. Now, dam construction anywhere requires huge...