“Tzu-lu said ‘ If the Lord of Wei entrusts the government to you, what will you do first?’ ‘Correct names, surely!’, Confucius (551-479) BC.
Project Management is a global language. PMI and many Organizations have been promoting Project Management as an efficient way to close the Communication Gap. August 2009 PMBOK Cafe held workshops in which Project Management was discussed in detail by more than 20 Project Management Professionals from diverse industries and more than 5 countries. These people have extensive experience in conducting projects in Cultures out side of their Native Culture.
One of the overriding themes that has emerged is the reduction of the Culture Gap. The Culture Gap are ideas that are difficult to express across cultures. When you are working across cultures their is a greater Risk of Ambiguity. Case in point our Current 2009 World Bank President Robert Zoleick Stakeholder. As recently as 2006 during High Level government meetings between China and USA were stalled on the word Stakeholder. The finest translators in the world had issues with what does “Stakeholder” mean.
The practical methods to overcome this are email, messaging, voice, video and face to face travel. Finding the correct people who have the critical; language, cultural and technical skills is the first step. The Second step is Spending time to elaborate requirements is the best practice for management to mitigate this Risk of Ambiguity.
Project Management has been influenced by countless people and cultures. Japanese business Philosophy of Kaizen 改善 or continuous improvement have been synonymous with Project Management. Which was in turn influenced by Henry Ford. The Agile Manifesto is a child of this concept. I acknowledge that Agile concepts are a refinement to Project Management. The problem is Slang or Jargon that is meant to be something that keeps groups together and keeps people out.
One of the issues with the Agile Methodologies are the growing trend of labeling Project Management as “Traditional”. Traditional Project Management is most likely rarely practiced anymore. Traditional Project Management is something from the 60′s. For example the Apollo Program that successfully in less than a decade from initiation, safely flew 2 men to the surface of the moon and returned them to Earth. Fulfilling those requirements is a text book example of Traditional Project Management. The Apollo Program and the Project Managers who crafted the tools by combining humanities best practices are the true owners of arguably mankind’s greatest achievement.
People can call it Modern or PM 2.0 or any numerous labels. The bottom line is call it what it is, Project Management. Veteran Project Managers such as Glen Alleman of Herding Cats. are unconvinced that there has been a radical revolution that warrants relabeling the vocabulary of Project Management.
Global Projects require us to communicate across cultures. We need to drop the posturing; jargon and lingo and communicate in the clearest most easily translated way possible. Believe me if you walk into a team members office in Shanghai and tell them we are not performing Project Management anymore we are Scrumming, you will be viewed with some apprehension. Why, because Global Project Management has been practiced in Asia for thousands of years and the concepts in the Project Management Book of Knowledge are translated and being implemented globally. Having the PMBOK as a baseline is a first step in planning a Global Project.
Using the Project Management Book of Knowledge is an inclusive tool. With a Global Standard that has been translated into many of the languages around the world we can reduce the Cultural Ambiguity that is present on Global Projects. Working on a project in China, make sure that your Chinese team members have a copy, same in Japanese, same in Arabic, same in Spanish. Teams of global volunteers have been working to Create a way to Manage Projects across cultures. Having a common set of names, that can be used across cultures is a giant step to governing your project and reducing risks of cultural misunderstandings.