Where are the future international project communicators coming from?
Where are they developing right now? and,
How can their development be supported and facilitated so that there are enough of them available for future projects?
Firstly, as an optimist, let me say that I believe there are many people around the world right now developing their skills through working globally. Largely, they are learning by doing, with few of them learning in a structured sense. Few of them will really realise that, in performing their day-to-day tasks, they are really building a skill set they will later come to rely on heavily.
Furthermore, they are largely learning through trial and error. They will be working in global organizations where they deal daily with other offices and individuals, or they are working on international projects with individuals and teams from other cultures.
This “accidental development” is good to a point, but just imagine how much better your project would run if the errors your undeveloped project teams, including these enthusiastic learners, are now making, could be minimized. Their learning could become structured and supported, making your project teams and individuals more effective, more rapidly moving from a group of confused individuals to a genuine high performing team.
Organisations need structured international development programs
Every organization with any involvement in international projects should, in my opinion, have a structured development program to support its personnel. Helping them as they work to understand how best to communicate with their colleagues from different cultures. Many businesses have a plan to teach technical skills, many also have plans to teach the more conventional, more traditional interpersonal skills such as negotiation, technical writing, etc. But very few teach the communications skills for intercultural work.
Intercultural communication skills programs do not need to be hugely complex and expensive exercises. Simple short training and information sessions are sufficient for most project personnel, providing enough development for them to learn the basics of the cultural differences, enough so that they keep an open mind and, as Nancy Adler puts it in her book International Dimensions of Organisational Behaviour, “assume differences” when first dealing with other cultures.
Include advanced communications skills for core personnel
Project personnel with a deeper involvement with their global partners should also have access to more advanced and involved training, coaching and support to help them perform better when working with the project’s international cultural players. This training would include longer and more involved training modules, and should also incorporate a substantial level of coaching and mentoring, essentially providing the learner with someone to turn to for support and guidance when unfamiliar or unplanned situations arise.
What is your project doing?
Take a look around your project right now. How many of your people spend a reasonable proportion of their time communicating with your international partners?. Ask yourself, do they do it well?. When the do it, do they often express frustration with the people from different cultures they have to deal with? and, equally importantly, take a look at the other end of the communications chain, and see how the personnel in all of the other project offices are performing in their communications.
Next, ask yourself, how much more efficient and relaxed would your project teams be if they could all understand and communicate with each other better, how much is that efficiency worth to you, your project and your client? Imagine, when you do this, if you could have your project operate with all of the efficiencies of a co-located team, the added benefits of the multiple perspectives a truly integrated multicultural team will bring, without the pain and disturbance of misunderstandings being exaggerated through cultural insensitivity.
Now, try to imagine how valuable a intercultural development program would be to your business…
Share your experiences
Have you experience in international project communications you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear from you.
How can we help?
Ulfire specialises in supporting organisations plan, establish and run high performing virtual teams. We combine extensive practical experience from decades of involvement in virtual teams, with current, real world, academic research into the way members of virtual teams collaborate. Please contact us to discuss ways we can help your business, or sign up using the form below to receive our regular newsletter.
Please enter your details below to register for our newsletter containing updates and insights into effectively running virtual teams.