Podcast interview on global and virtual teams

Thanks for Bas de Baar for proposing this chat on global and virtual teams and for the honor of his first audio interview.  The link to Bas’s post is here.

A little background… Bas and I had a great conversation on the topics as a warm-up for the interview.  Unfortunately, as we started to transition to the formal discussion, some Skype gremlins hit.  Fortunately, Bas had forwarded the questions — and I had bothered to prep a bit — so the recording ended up sounding coherent.  I guess that the “6 P’s” and a bit of risk response planning do work!

Of course, the interview was supposed to be 10 minutes and it is just over 20.  Hmmm… I wonder if I was confirming this PM myth.  Maybe you should think of it as a “gold-plating special”,  just perfect for you insomniacs!

PM Quote of the Day — Francis Bacon

A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.

“Fools rush in” should be the motto for anyone leading a global, matrixed, or virtual team.  While many projects and firms are going to English as a common language, many colleagues simply won’t have the background to know how to express nuances or translate cognates.  Sometimes the results are funny — in Singapore, I had a French counterpart spend ten minutes grilling me about the meaning and derivation of middlebrow

Too often, however, the results are time consuming at best and disastrous at worst.  Having a sense for when a colleague is struggling to express an idea is essential for cross-cultural communication.  One of the benefits of learning a foreign language as a youth is a sensitivity to translation problems, especially when trying to express complex ideas.  Here are three approaches that have worked for me:

  1. Now, when my counterparts say something that sounds “off” or awkward, I ask a clarifying question about the phrase or word — often they’re trying to translate an idiom from their native tongue. 
  2. If a clarifying question doesn’t work, then I try to re-state their position myself and highlight where I am unclear about their intent. 
  3. Finally, sometimes the misunderstanding is driven by a literal translation.  I’ll ask straight out — How do you say “fill in English word in question”? — in their native language.

SAP, India, and Innovation — this article understates the impact

It isn’t that this article by Navi Radjou of Forrester is wrong (here), but it misses at least three areas in which SAP leverages India’s talent and mind-set  Sure, what Ranjan and the SAP India team have done (and are doing) is impressive, but the impact of India and a globally adaptive approach are far more widespread:

  • Solution Development: I won’t belabor this, but many key parts of the SAP solution portfolio are developed in India.  The various SAP Labs sites in India moved quickly from coding functions, to designing modules, to delivering entire solutions.
  • Global Services Delivery: Jan Grasshof’s team is much more than a simple “me-too” outsourcing shop.  I was in Bangalore last week and saw the sophistication and speed with which they could bring value to the table.   A great example — coincidentially with Nokia, also in Navi’s article — was when SAP Global Delivery both supply chain expertise and rapid prototyping to accelerate an implementation. 
  • Management Development: My organization’s management program includes one week in Bangalore, a measure of how integrated a global mindset has become in our way of working.  SAP sends executives and managers half-way around the world so they can feel, taste, and touch what this new business world is all about.  We also have exchange programs — even within projects — to ensure better, more consistent communications and understanding among our various teams.
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