We live and work in a period where technology is making us more connected; this interconnectivity means that the chances of being involved in international projects increase exponentially. Any given project represents a significant challenge for many reasons, no matter what the location: budgets, tight deadlines, sharing resources, among many others. If that project takes place in multiple countries and different languages are spoken, finding a common language of communication always ranks high on the list of priorities. Thus, cultural alignment and the adaptability to be able to work with different time zones play a big role in the success of any digital and business transformation project.
At VIP Apps Consulting Ltd, we are an international team of consultants, coming from different countries and cultural backgrounds, together we speak up to ten languages. Many times, we have found ourselves working on projects where the common language of communication was not the client’s mother tongue. In these projects instead of considering this as a matter of concern, we leveraged it to improve our overall project performance. Here are 7 tips that will help you succeed in your next multi-country business transformation project.
1. Encourage bi-directional recaps
Before moving on to the next topic, ensuring that the choice of words is accurate and makes sense to every member of your audience. In many cases, the same word can convey different meanings. When you ask your audience if everything is OK, there is a considerable possibility that they will reply ‘yes’ or remain silent. They might be embarrassed by not being able to follow your speech or because they do not want to offend you by calling into question your communication skills. Encourage the client to share their understanding back to you, try to build a trust where everyone feels they can express themselves.
2. Cultural background research
It is always a good idea to be aware of the cultural interactions that might apply between participating countries. We probably think this is something from the past, but many of them remain active and continue to have an impact on certain attitudes and perceptions of today.
3. Be open-minded to new ways of expression
When having to deal with people speaking a language other than their mother tongue, do not expect everyone to pronounce every word correctly or express themselves in the way you do.
4. Be flexible and humble to new approaches; avoid the so-called ‘cultural arrogance’.
Besides the way you understand the world, there is a myriad of other ways as legitimate as yours. Similarly, many paths will take you to an effective solution.
5. Use the right communication style for your audience
Do not forget that different leadership and communication styles will impact how the message is perceived. Are they comfortable with consensus decision-making styles, or are they used to – and expecting – directive styles (or vice versa)?
6. Communicate and set the expectations
Share your approaches and your goals. Engage impacted stakeholders directly, at an individual level, to understand better what their expectations may be to bring them into decision-making processes and bring them onboard with the project.
7. Technology is your friend, so use it!
Being ‘culturally sensitive’ will be useful only if it is combined with the appropriate communication tools, especially when working remotely. Instant messaging, tele- or video-conferencing, you name it. Make an effort to consider the time zones involved, to be aware of national bank holidays, and local corporate norms regarding who should attend what meeting. Unfortunately, only a few years back we could not choose from the many PM tools we all have access to nowadays, and of the tools we did use, functionalities were quite limited back then. Now, there is a remarkable range of apps that will most likely meet your preferences/needs: from a traditional take of project management in Microsoft Project to more collaborative tools online tools to monitor and measure real-time project progress. Even though it is a whole different topic, please keep in mind the Millennials as they are demanding more and more flexibility in every sense. If they do, you do not want to be left behind.
Finally, we believe a project will be truly successful if you can reach a well-balanced combination of effective leadership, good doses of corporate creativity, effective use of cross-cultural communication, unwavering mutual respect, and a healthy appreciation for the diversity of cultural backgrounds of your team and your client’s team. At the end of the day what really matters is that we work with people, and people make the project succeed.
VIP Apps Consulting combines experience in the finance function and comprehensive knowledge of technology innovation, to help our clients in the leasing and financial services industry identify those areas of improvement in their digital transformation journey.
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