Global Projects add complexity.
Culture gaps are difficult to detect. When you think about it, how can we step outside of the mindset that we learned from our family, teachers and friends. The insidious nature of Language shaping our thoughts is a barrier setting expectations.
For example if we think about the future. The core of Projects. How people construct the future actually depends on culture. For example my western upbringing and English Mother tongue, predispose me to construct future references using the future tense. For example
It will take two weeks.
Sounds pretty positive perhaps 95%. The same construct in Japanese literally is
Two weeks is.
The interesting thing is in Japanese there is no need to modify the verb to discuss the future, it is the same tense. Perhaps, if you are a westerner it might sound very strange. That is a cultural gap. Is it a big deal? The answer is yes. The present tense in English means 100% one plus one is two. The is in that statement means equals.
Documenting the requirements on global projects we need to close the culture gap. Interestingly, the NASA Systems Engineering Manual explicitly recognizes the vague qualities of English and states. On Page 131 Requirements Validation-
Are Requirements Written Correctly: identify and correct requirements `shall` statement format errors and editorial errors.
The NASA rule book instructs their project managers to format the requirement.
It shall take two weeks.
Good projects managers will use a kind of rule book or a team charter to manage these kind of expectations. Facilitating this can be fun on a multicultural team. Having an understanding of what exactly does; plan to, expect to, hope to, like to, want to…. mean for a team in the beginning of a project will prevent misunderstandings from happening on global projects. A very nice discussion presents this argument on LinkedIn http://bit.ly/1cKcb2 have to be a group member of Global Project Managers. You can also enjoy a video from a Japanese and Saudi Arabian PMP perspective below.