Occasionally I will be hosting guests to post articles in this little corner of mine. I’ve invited one of our very own from Peritius, Ricardo Viti, to share his thought on managing global projects and cultural differences. Welcome Ricardo!
A friend of mine, an Argentine woman living in France, shared with me something that happened to her in a business meeting. She was introduced to a couple of German meeting attendees. To greet them she kissed them on the cheek; this is a common practice in Argentina. The expressions on the poor guys’ faces were ones of disgust, surprise and horror. I remember thinking that was not a correct move on her part, even if their reactions were a little exaggerated. And although I have many years of experience working on multi-cultural, global projects to leverage, even I can be taken aback on occasion. As a matter of fact, only one month later I was attending a business meeting in Buenos Aires and one the male attendees that I had met a couple of times before, greeted me with a kiss on the cheek. It shocked me… and I was born in Argentina!
So, I guess we all have things to learn… Below are the aspects of managing global projects that may be more understated, but nevertheless are key to the successful management of outcomes when working on global projects:
- Establish relationships. Yes, establishing strong relationships are always important when managing any kind of project, but it is even more important when working with Latin cultures. They are more relationship oriented and you will be rewarded by spending time attending to that orientation and developing a strong bond with your team members/stakeholders. If you are able to create that type of working relationship, you will be repaid with loyalty. This will help to ensure a quick response during a crisis and the determination to do whatever it takes to deliver.
- ‘Second class citizen’ syndrome. You will no doubt be working for the corporate headquarters and often priorities/compromise/objectives are acted upon based on the size of the local office. Always show respect for their demands and follow up on their requests, they will respond to you in the same manner.
- Face to Face meetings. Although they can be expensive, they can in the end reduce costs and avoid conflicts. In one of my recent global projects I met a very demanding executive. He was not collaborative and his attitude was passed down to his employees. I traveled to his office, met with him, discussed the issues and… just as important… I socialized with him. From that moment on things changed! The project began to progress and flourish in a more active and positive environment. There was one small sacrifice though… I had to eat a maguey maggot (a nutritious delicacy in Mexican cuisine) to win him over.
To summarize, do not take for granted that people from other countries/cultures will react to a situation the same way that you would. No matter how broad your experience. Understand that with different cultures come different understandings. What may seem innocent to you may result in discomfort for the other individual, but sometimes it can be far more serious. Do your homework. The best rule of thumb is to observe and remain respectful.