Otto is a German project manager who has just moved from Hamburg to Riyadh to run a large-scale, theme park project in collaboration with a Saudi family business. His experience as a project manager includes a few complex projects in Germany and other European countries, and he prides himself for always exceeding expectations in terms of completing work on time and within the prescribed budget. Thus, he has arrived in Saudi Arabia with a distinguished record of achievement as a project leader.
The Saudi project is Otto’s first outside Europe, and he is excited to travel to the Middle East and have the experience of living there for the two years that it will take to complete the project. Otto and his company are confident that the project needs a manager with just such a record to achieve success and open the door for more lucrative operations for Otto’s company in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
His first meeting with members of the Saudi family and their senior management team, however, proves to be disappointing for Otto. Expecting an extended session at which he would present his detailed plan, including milestones for progress and potential areas of concern, instead, he finds himself at a dinner with lots of small talk about almost everything except business.
The next few days are stressful for Otto as he tries to meet with senior managers to discuss the details of the project. Again, the conversations are not focused on business, with a great deal of friendly discussion about Otto’s family and various personal matters. For their part, the Saudi support staff keep saying “Inshalla” (God willing) in response to the issues that Otto raises, though nothing seems to happen.
As the days go by, Otto becomes increasingly worried about his lack of results with the members of the Saudi team and requests a meeting with the Saudi general manager. His request is granted, and when he arrives, he is greeted by Abdullah, an athletic man in his mid-thirties, and his father, the firm’s founder, Majid. During the meeting, Otto voices his frustration with the Saudi team’s lack of responsiveness and unkept promises, and he leaves feeling satisfied that, at last, someone is listening to him.
The following day, Otto receives a call from his company’s headquarters instructing him to return to Europe for “discussions”. The following week, he was informed that he had been removed from the project and replaced by another manager.