International projects

Projects are executed more and more in an international context. With participants from countries close to eachother, but particular in IT teammembers are originated fom India or China. It is not only the cultural aspects, but also slight differences in work ethics. The latter you can experience even when crossing an European border.

But... The biggest hurdle is language. In most cases none of the participants has the formal language as its native language. Communicating becomes an intensive and exhausting process. There is room for error and mis understanding, literal translations, using of wrong synonymes or homonymes. Not understanding or catching small thing. An example in two countries, even sharing the same language:

"ENERVEREND" has in The Netherlands and positive vibe (exiting), where in Belgium it is negative (annoying).

Culture courses will help in creating a mutual understanding, in one of our projects we had 7 nationalities present. So 7 courses? Makes no sense. even less when you acknowledge that your counterpart is high educated and has worked in an international environment before. Cultural courses in general focus in traditions and generalize the people. Not all Ducth walk on wooden shoes and smoke pot.

When we share our experience in a short workshop, we do not focus on the the cultural aspect. We focus on simple tools to help the communication and understanding. Some examples:

  • use pictures, tables, diagrams to explain a problem
  • avoid a lot of text, do not focus on grammar, but on the text being clear
  • never repeat, but rephrase
  • enforce confirmation, when a sentence is repeated, you can bet it is not understood.
  • build a relationship, ask for family, holidays, hobbies. But avoid religion and politics (this will come when trust is gained)
  • there is a life outside the office, especially for expacts this can be a lonely life. Go for a drink or dinner. When friendship is established invite at home.

Simple things with a large impact. We can help, as in our motto: Keep it simple.

Don't generalize

It is very easy to generalize, but be aware this is not representative to your team members.

Communication gap

to bridge the distance gap we try to use phone conferences to communicate. It is a way, but less effective than face to face. Face to face contact helps in communication.

  • participants are forced to give full attention (not working on other things
  • you can judge the facial expression to see if it is understood or agreed.
  • white boatds can be used, desktop can be shared.

Keep the quality

The delivery must be fit for purpose. Not more and not less.

Ensure the end to end process is covered.

Keep your customers(s) in sight, there are normally more than one departments impacted bij the implementation or change.

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