Beyond Tin Cans and String – Project Communication in the Digital World, part 2

May 29, 2015

The Global World – English Is Not Always English

Working with a global team requires some special care.  Even with companies who conduct their business in English, there are unique considerations.  While everyone may be using a common language, each word may not mean the same thing.  In some instances, they may have a completely different impact on the operation of business.  Here are some hints for the use of English:

  1. If you will be using multiple terms for a singular action, you may want to consider creating a glossary of terms which the full team can reference.
  2. When sending out communications to different parts of the world, consider having separate communication for each area which uses familiar terms. This will be especially helpful when communicating to Users and Stakeholders who may not always understand the nuances of the terms.
  3. When introducing a new term or concept, make sure everyone understands what is being discussed. Do not assume everyone is fully understanding.
  4. Limit or stay away from any adjectives or phrases which relate to sports. For example, saying “if we do this, we will hit a home run.” This is understandable to someone in North America, but maybe not in other cultures.

The Global World – Allow for Regional Adjustments

In addition to the complications with the use of the English language, there are other communication challenges due to regional differences.  Certain countries or cultures may need to have their communications written differently.  There are some cultures where you can come right to the point.  Others may require some type of preliminary conversation before getting into the business of the communication.  This will be more evident when on the phone or on teleconference.  You may want to consider:

  1. Using one of the many global business/culture web sites which outlines insight into conducting business in various countries. I particularly like using: and
  2. Keep in mind that being on time in a culture may mean something completely different. Plan accordingly.  In Germany you are considered late if exactly on time – they usually join the meeting early.  However, in some Latin based countries, they will consider themselves on time if they are 20 to 30 minutes after the announced start of the meeting.  Yes, this is challenging.
  3. If your team is global, consider a different start time for each meeting or call. That way the same people will not need to be up in the middle of the night to attend.  Everyone gets inconvenienced.
  4. Remember all time zones do not start on the hour. There are some that are 30 minutes different.
  5. Remember to consider the International Date Line when scheduling. You may be scheduling something over two different days.
  6. The weekend is different in some countries due to religious observances. Know which days these are and try to accommodate.

Be Flexible

Working on a project is always a challenge, and even with the best of planning there will be items which come up that will change or need to adjust the scope of the project.  Be sure to accommodate these changes in your Communication Plan.  You will create the initial plan with the best information you have at the time, but as you get into the project, changes may need to be made.  That is a normal process in a project and with communications.

Users and Stakeholders

Don’t forget that your project will oftentimes impact Users or Business Stakeholders.  You will need to communicate with them differently throughout the project.  They will not need to know the specifics that your project team will be hearing.  Follow these simple rules when dealing with Users and Stakeholders:

  1. Start communications early. Once you have an agreement of the project plan dates, consider announcing the project to the user communities.  Use vague target dates (such as a Quarter or season) to accommodate for any project plan contingency.
  2. All communications should focus on the benefit of the new process or software on the user community. That may require specialized communication for each group.  Use your best judgement.
  3. Consider having fun with the communications. Perhaps creating a project name or newsletter.  Maybe have some contests or games (with minimal awards) to keep interest in the project and heighten the desire to use the new process or system.
  4. Keep in mind that all communication with Users and Stakeholders should be focused on getting everyone to adopt the new process or system.
  5. Don’t forget that a vendor can also be a user. Remember to communicate with them any changes which may be coming.
  6. Keep the focus with this group always positive and on the benefits.


The Messenger Does Not Get Shot Unless the Messenger Is Late.

Keep everyone informed with timely focused communications.  With a customized approach, communicate both good and bad news about the project.  With exceptional communication, you can advert many of the bumps and issues many experience during the project, and end the project on a positive experience.  Rarely can you communicate too much.