Assessment Case Study

Based on:
Author: Raef Khalid on 8 October 2013
Source: International Business: environment and operation (12th ed.)
Assessment Case Study 2021-2
The Ugandan Project
You are an HR consultant who has been brought into US based Triton Hydro Generation
(THG) to advise them on staffing a forthcoming civil engineering contract to build a dam in
Uganda. (See map below for the location of Uganda in Africa).
Uganda is a country of about 48 million. The official languages are English and Swahili. About
71% of Ugandans are Christian and about 17.3% are Muslims.
You have been asked to write a report for Graham Barclay, the Vice President (HR) of the
company, to advise him on the possible problems.
You first interview Barclay then, as a result of that interview, you also interview the proposed
Project Director, Craig Evans. These are write-ups of the notes you made in these interviews.

Based on:
Author: Raef Khalid on 8 October 2013
Source: International Business: environment and operation (12th ed.)
Notes on Interview with Graham Barclay, Vice President, Human Resource
His main concern was: should he choose Craig Evans as the Project Director? Evans has
already completed a smaller project in Uganda and the results have been highly satisfactory –
he had finished every task on time and within budget.
He is also concerned about following the philosophy and values of the founders and the current
CEO, Lawrence Colbert, who have been instrumental in shaping THG’s mission and culture.
A devout Christian and a regular attendee of the National Prayer Breakfast (evangelical
Christian group), Colbert believes that business activities, though secular, should embody
Christian values. Additionally, as a manager, Barclay believes that subordinates should be
given full responsibility for making and implementing decisions but that they should also be
held accountable for the results.
Barclay is concerned about the means by which Evans achieves his ends. In Barclay’s opinion,
Evans is too eager to accommodate Ugandan ways of doing business, some of which are against
both THG’s culture and its usual methods of operation in foreign environments. Barclay
worries that some of Evans’s actions might have unforeseen consequences for the company’s
projects in Uganda.
Barclay has reviewed Evans’s performance on the previous project. He is concerned not only
about some of Evans’s business practices but also about certain aspects of his lifestyle, not the
least of which was his participation in local tribal rituals. THG has no formal guidelines on the
lifestyle of the expatriate managers in its employ, but the company culture encourages
standards of living that are consistent with the values of a prosperous international company.
With what THG pays him, Evans could certainly afford to live in one of the upscale
neighbourhoods that are home to most foreign managers working in and around Kampala.
Evans, however, prefers a middle-class Ugandan neighbourhood and does not frequent the
places where fellow expatriates typically gather, such as churches and clubs.
As far as Barclay is concerned, not only is Evans’s lifestyle inconsistent with THG’s culture,
but his preference for isolating himself from the expatriate community also makes him of little
use in helping colleagues adapt to the kind of the life that would be comfortable for them in the
alien environment of Uganda. To complete this project, 40 to 50 expatriate managers and
engineers will be moving in with their families for several years.
As for Evans’s business- practices, Barclay is ready to admit that business in Uganda
usually moves at a slow pace. It can take months to get a landline installed, supplies delivered,
or operating licence issued. Evans, however, had quickly learned that he could speed things up
by handing out tips in advance. Nor could Barclay argue that such payments were exorbitant:
in a country where per capita GDP is about $1,100 a year, people might tend to take what they
can get.

Based on:
Author: Raef Khalid on 8 October 2013
Source: International Business: environment and operation (12th ed.)
Finally, Barclay is uncomfortable with Evans’s hiring practices. It is a fact of local life that
unemployment is high and so-called job searches are generally conducted through word-ofmouth, especially from family members. Evans developed the practice of mentioning openings
to local people and then interviewing, and hiring, the relatives they recommended. In a country
like Uganda, he reasoned, such family connections could come in handy. Hiring the niece of a
high-ranking Customs officer could not hurt when it comes to getting import clearances, for
example. He has had no reason to doubt the competence of most of the local people hired, but
nepotism comes with risks. An employee’s close connection with some government official,
for example, might encourage them to participate more actively in the extortion process. What
if a woman hired to work on import clearance decided to go into business with her uncle, the
customs officer, to charge a little extra for every import approval?
To Barclay, however, although such practices are both normal and legal in Ugandan business
dealings, they are unethical in a US context. He also worries about a variety of long-term
practical consequences. For instance, what if word got out that THG was paying extra for
everything (and, inevitably, it would); wouldn’t everyone start to expect bonuses for every little
Worse than that, if word reached the higher echelons of the Ugandan government, despite the
government’s anti-corruption stance he might find himself dealing with people in a position to
demand large payments for such services as, say, not finding some excuse to hinder the efficient
operation of the project in some way. Not only could these payments become costly, but they
might be illegal under U.S. law. What about adverse international publicity that could
negatively affect THG’s operation in other countries?
Already there has been a problem with tribal ritual. The new project will displace about 700
villagers. In early negotiations with the Ugandan government, THG assembled a resettlement
package that included the renovation of a school and a health centre in the new location. THG
executives understood that the package, valued at a half million dollars, was acceptable to the
people who were affected. However, two tribes living close to the site of the dam proclaimed
the river home to sacred spirits. One leader likened the site to the tribe’s Mecca. As news of
the claims reached the international press, worldwide support for the villagers began to grow.
After the end of the previous project and before he went back to the US on leave Barclay asked
Evens to oversee the matter. With permission from THG headquarters, Evans hired a specialist
in African religions, who advised THG to work with the religious caretaker of the site to find
a solution. When contacted, the official caretaker revealed that, although the spirits could not
be moved, they could be appeased at the right price. For the fee of $7,500, he sacrificed a sheep,
two cows, four goats, and a slew of chickens, while 40 diviners prayed and danced. For the
finale, blood was sprinkled on some sacred trees. Unfortunately, the Spirits were not appeased.
It seems that Evans had not participated in the ceremony. So, Evans paid another fee of about
$10,000 to repeat the ceremony, in which he took part, evidently appeasing the spirits.

Based on:
Author: Raef Khalid on 8 October 2013
Source: International Business: environment and operation (12th ed.)
Barclay was concerned about Evans’s part in the second ceremony, which he himself
considered pagan and probably a sham. Granted, Evans’s participation had allowed work to
continue, but Barclay worried that the episode might not only damage THG’s image but could
also offend many of Uganda’s Christian majority and many of the Muslims in the country as
well. On top of everything, Evans’s participation might be construed in some quarters as a
mockery of tribal customs, thereby contributing to a hostile environment for THG.
Additionally, it seems Barclay’s superiors at head office are questioning his competence at
dealing with the African operation. He set up the organisation for the previous contract there
with a flat structure but some local employees have complained that it was ‘disorganised’ and
‘no one seemed to be in charge’. In fact, THG does not seem to be good at dealing with the
locals in general. The turnover rate of local employees has been high and no one is able to
explain this. The employment contracts were devised by experts from the company’s HQ who
told Barclay that the terms were generous compared to other local employers. It was true that
Evans did seem to be good at dealing with the locals and Barclay was keen to be seen to be
dealing with the operations problems and not making them worse.
Having thoroughly considered the Craig Evans case, Graham Barclay now has to make a
decision about staffing the new project. He will need to transfer a number of managers and
engineers to Uganda, and he will soon begin interviewing. But, he was still left with one critical
question: is Evans still right for the job?
Interview with Craig Evans, proposed Ugandan Project Director
Evans is very critical of Barclay and of THG generally. He says that Barclay knows little about
Africa and has no understanding of the operational problems there such as motivating and
retaining local staff. He says Barclay sits in his office in New York City and thinks he
understands but his ideas about Africa are at least 30 years out of date. He says he has never
spent much time anywhere in Africa and has only made fleeting visits in recent years.
Evans, although still young by most standards, is well suited to the Ugandan Project. After
High School, he entered the University of Michigan, where he became fascinated with Africa
through a course in its pre-colonial history. Graduating with a major in African Studies, he
served with the Peace Corps in Kenya, where he worked with small business start-ups as well
as making side trips to Namibia and South Africa. Although he loved working in Kenya, Evans
developed a disdain for the Western managers and workers who isolated themselves in
expatriate ghettos and congregated in the capital’s first-class hotels. His own creed became
“Don’t draw attention to yourself and, above all, learn and respect the culture.”
At the end of his Peace Corps stint, Evans was determined to return and work somewhere in
Africa. After earning an MBA at the University of Boston, he took a job with THG, and when
he became involved in Ugandan Project, Evans made sure his superiors knew that he wanted
an African assignment.

Based on:
Author: Raef Khalid on 8 October 2013
Source: International Business: environment and operation (12th ed.)
Not surprisingly, THG saw the advantage of appointing someone who possessed both a home
country corporate perspective and a knowledge of the host country’s economics, politics and
culture. Evans now has a Ugandan girlfriend who has her own online jewellery business, so he
wants to stay in Uganda.
Points about Evans’s suitability
As Project Director Evans would be given a threefold task:
1. To gain local support for the project by working with the both the Ugandan authorities
in the capital, Kampala, and the 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 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
Evans will also be responsible for establishing an operating structure that is intended to spare
incoming managers the difficulties of such mundane start-up activities as obtaining licences,
installing telephones and utilities, and finding local people to hire for the wide range of jobs
Dam construction anywhere requires huge amounts of capital, and projects often face
opposition from groups acting on behalf of such local parties as the people who will need to
move because of subsequent flooding. Thus, to forestall adverse publicity and, more
importantly, activities that could lead to costly work stoppages. THG needs as many local allies
as it can find. Getting (and keeping) these allies is another key facet of Evans’s job.
THG would be hard-pressed to find someone else with his combination of professional training,
experience with THG and familiarity with the host country. Evans, although only 32, has
already proved effective in using his knowledge of local development issues to disarm critics
of the project.

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