True Story: The Axis of Planning in the Context of Intercultural Collaboration
We are entering the universe of cross-border professional collaborations where different cultural approaches to time management and project planning intersect and often collide. The axis of planning, a concept that delimits two great directions – strict and flexible – comes to give us a perspective on the way in which various cultures relate to the organization of time in the work environment. Next, we will focus on the relevance of this concept in building and maintaining effective collaboration within a culturally diverse team.
When I lived in India or other ‘flexible’ countries, often when talking about that country with other foreigners, I used – with affection and a bit of irony – the expression ‘Indian / Sri Lankan / African time’. The expression indicated that something scheduled for 9 o’clock could very well start at 10 or later. Or that the plans made may undergo unexpected changes. In general, the attitude towards plans or time seems much more relaxed. Very interestingly, for almost everyone who comes from the west of Romania, for example France, there is a ‘Romanian Time’, and the British or Germans think that the French are relaxed with time and with the approach to projects.
The Strict Approach
Characteristic of highly industrialized countries, such as Germany and Japan, this type of approach promotes an orderly work environment, where tasks are carried out one after the other, without interruption, emphasizing predictability. In a factory context, where Asian colleagues are already familiar with the industrial environment, there can be clear expectations of meeting deadlines and schedules, without resorting to “cultural exceptions”.
Implications and Adaptations
- Clarifying the consequences of delays, such as disrupting the production flow.
- Avoiding expectations of punctuality in social interactions, understanding that “Indian time” has a more relaxed interpretation of punctuality.
The Flexible Approach
This perspective, more present in cultures such as Indian, Sri Lankan or in certain African areas, promotes a fluid approach to time, allowing for delays and spontaneous changes of plans.
The term “Indian time”, often used with a touch of affection and irony, indicates a relaxed approach to scheduling and meeting deadlines.
Implications and Adaptations
- Developing a greater tolerance for last-minute changes.
- Appreciating flexibility and adaptability as an integral part of the work process.
The planning axis highlights the significant differences between strict and flexible approaches to time management in the work environment. Understanding and respecting different cultural perspectives on time can help avoid conflicts and promote a harmonious and productive work environment. Thus, teams can build a corporate culture that embraces the diverse approaches of time, encouraging inclusivity and mutual respect, essential aspects for effective and innovative collaboration.