Sharpen your Cultural Sensitivity

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Hello and welcome to another short video from Scatterwork, this time about sharpening your cultural sensitivity within virtual teams.No work takes place without people and everything that happens in the working world is initiated by people and even when there is deep automation, what work is done and when is decided by individuals.

A key competence that allows that in humanity is the ability to communicate and how we communicate is profoundly affected by our cultural programming.So communication can be smooth when both sides use the same program but unconscious use of different programs can lead to profound problems and misunderstandings.

Now, culture has many dimensions: how we eat dress, speak, live, legislate and social rules for hierarchy, religion, motivation,morals, beliefs, attitudes etc are all cultural dimensions and the fact that there are so many has big, big implications for the complexity and risk of virtual teams.

The risks are multiplied by the number of dimensions so the more complexity there is, the more likely we are to trip up on something and the resulting communication risk is huge even in moderate size teams so we ask the question: how are we going to survive? And here we have a few tips. One of them is to dedicate a virtual meeting time to
listening to members, for example explaining why a particular day is a holiday where they live.This will
give us hints about background,history, locality, religion and so on and so on from the other place and of course if we do the same they will have the benefit of understanding us better.

Agree to delay the reaction to “funny” or unusual behavior.It may be something was totally
unacceptable but we need to stop and think.It may have been that what they did was meant to bring a completely different reaction because of our different programming.

Recognize that you yourself are programmed and are not culturally neutral.You can ask others what they find culturally exotic in your behavior.
And ask others who know the other cultures to brief you.This is a very easy way to find out.People who have worked in the other cultures that are in your team and see what they have to say.So Scatterwork supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

So if any of this is of interest to you,you have all the contact details on that page.

Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

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Leave unsafe travel environments behind

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Here is a short video from Scatterwork about the benefits of avoiding unsafe environments while traveling in the interest of training or coordination of virtual teams. We all know that it’s never 100 percent safe to travel. Everyday of the week there are car accidents and trains and much evidence of unsafe travel. We just have to accept that and get on with our business. Very often the alternative is poor telephone conferences, not very effective web meetings and so forth. One of the ways of counteracting ineffective meetings is to build more structure into how the meeting is held, how it’s supported and so forth. This is a skill that a virtual team will have. So, I’d like to suggest that to you. If you have project activities that need to be supported and you’d like to do it without traveling, do get in touch with me and we’ll see how we can help. Thanks very much.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional
face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but
virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training
features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

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How to schedule global meetings

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Hello this is Deasun î Conchœir from Scatterwork to talk about an issue that should be simple but frequently causes a lot of effort and frustration, how to schedule meetings across time zones.

The first guideline is to recognize that scheduling is an iterative process. So that means messages that come over and back. It requires quite a lot of messages to find the exact time. This can’t be done instantaneously. People who sit in the same office they say yes, no, check that out and so on. But, when you’re working in a distributed environment it takes longer for the process to take place. In addition to that, we have to treat it as a process and not just something that happens in the background.

Guideline number two is to use a scheduling tool that converts time zones automatically to find possible meeting times. If this is done, then the individuals get suggestions and they can read them in their own time zone and so on. It really is not practicable to send things are you available in this time zone. And, of course, if there are errors, the meeting doesn’t take place.

The third guideline is to offer as many time options as possible. If a very limited number of options is sent out, we find that no solution emerges and then we have to repeat two or three days later. So, it saves time just do it in the beginning.

The fourth guideline is to broadcast the options as far in advance as possible. I’ve seen situations where people need three or four meetings over a period of a couple of weeks, maybe six weeks in advance. People always have their diaries full closer to the current time. So, by going out as far in advance as possible, it gives a better chance of finding workable times.

Guideline number five is to not allow individuals to dictate their preferences before starting. If they do, then that limits the choice that is setup and the process doesn’t start. It’s much better to try and recognize these but not to force it on the system and offer lots of options. It may turn out that most of the people are available for a particular time and we have to go back and negotiate. In fact, not even the boss should be allowed to dictate times at the beginning. It should really be done on an open basis and that we find works best.

When we send out requests for availability, we should have a time limit on the reply, for example, 24 hours. Otherwise, people will come back four or five days later and undo the effort that you were putting into the scheduling.

Guideline number seven has already been mentioned in passing. If we look at the feedback from this process and find most people are free for a particular time, we can go back and ask the other person are they really, really not free at the given time. It might have been a preference rather than an absolute. For example, people don’t like to work late at night. But, obviously if they are in an airplane they usually can’t talk.

Guideline number eight is to close the process and say this time was decided. Then, send out a separate invitation with that time. This will make sure that it will show up in everyone’s calendar with their time zone.

So, there you have it. Treat setting up meetings as a process. Do it over a longer period of time. Use a tool that converts time zones and insist on having a wide variety of options.

So, I hope that works for you. If I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

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Clever Thinking delivers Project Value early

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Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork with another anecdote from my book, Overview of the PMBOK Guide. This one relates to costs, or indeed, getting the project value early from a project by a bit of clever thinking. A project manager in England was responsible for building a large supermarket, which would also sell cheap petrol to attract shoppers. The plan for the petrol station included the usual small shop for soft drinks, newspapers and so on.

The original plan was to build the supermarket and open it, a big project phase. Then, to build the petrol station, a small project phase. As most of the time and the value was in the supermarket, this meant getting value towards the end of the overall project. What they actually did, was simply reverse the phases. The petrol station was built first, and the customers started coming. They also got familiar with the main supermarket, because a selection of the products was also sold in the small shop.

Then, they built the supermarket. By the time it opened, it had already been a steady stream of customers who knew where it was and were familiar with the products. The moral there, is that the value in a project can be obtained much sooner, on occasion, by a bit of clever thinking. Thanks very much.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

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Time Management

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Hello this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork to introduce another little anecdote from my book, “Overview of the PMBOK Guide.” This one is to do with time management and the point is that we don’t usually need permission to use time. We can be late and we say, “We’re sorry.” For money, we have to ask permission in advance to sign it in principle. The story here is very short and I once worked in a company where long coffee breaks were normal. Nobody seemed to need permission. It just happened. Even if we were told to take shorter breaks, we could still have taken the usual long ones. If management demanded an explanation, we would excuse ourselves and probably do the same in the next day. In fact, we would probably say we were using the coffee break for a deep discussion.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% reduction on their first workshop.

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Quality Management

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Hello, this is Deasún Ó Conchúir again from Scatterwork for another anecdote from the book Overview of the PMBOK Guide. The topic here is quality management. This time I have two stories. The first one is about the quality of management itself and then the second one is the quality of the project.

The first one. The project manager had a small team. He told them there would be a weekly meeting every Monday afternoon. The first week, everyone was present. The second week, the project manager knew he was going to arrive late and telephoned ahead to ask the meeting to start without him. The third week, he said he couldn’t attend and delegated the meeting chair to one of his team members. Unfortunately, he did not brief this person about everything and in any case the manager didn’t want to delegate. The fourth week, the manager did not come to the meeting and just told the team that he was unavoidably engaged. The point of this particular anecdote, which of course really happened, is that quality applies in projects, not just to the deliverable, but also to the style of management.

Now, I have a second little anecdote here to do with quality in projects. I once worked in a computer factory which made standard models. As the orders came in from different countries which needed different keyboard layouts, the manufactured items were taken apart and reassembled with the right keyboard so the work that had been done was being wasted and then replaced by more work. It’s hard to find the value of add on in this process and I hope that such practices have long since gone.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Invite your colleagues to sign up for the Scatterwork Newsletter and they will also get a 10% discount on their first workshop.

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Do you use Expert Judgement?

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Hello this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork with another anecdote from my book, Overview of the PMBOK Guide. This time, it relates to expert judgement. Now expert judgement is something that we use to help us decide what to do in projects, and we as experts and we ask consultants, we ask senior managers and so on. Sometimes, the experts are not so visible, and as we see in this particular real story.

I once visited a factory making radiators for heating buildings. It was located near the Atlantic coast in the far north west of Ireland. The radiators were getting damaged in transit and various experts were asked to find out what the problem was. Eventually it was discovered that the packaging wasn’t good enough to protect the radiators on the road journey. In those days, the roads were really not good, and it was the delivery lorry driver who identified the problem.

Luckily, they were clever enough to include this experienced person in their investigations. Even though few would have called him an expert, but indeed his expert judgement was the thing that saved the day.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

Current testimonial:

Kai Halbach, Coordination SIA Form Suisse romande

In unserem Webinar zum Thema “Gestion des risques” hat Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir seine langjährigen Erfahrungen zum Thema Risikomanagement sehr interaktiv, professionell und gut verständlich an die Architekten und Ingenieure vermitteln können. Wir danken Ihm für das hervorragende Webinar!

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Tweet, update or post your workforce

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Image courtesey of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Challenge: Reaching a very diverse and globally spread workforce

As the working environment for many is spread globally and very diverse, it is of interest how a company can reach its workforce securely and without onerous CAPEX.

The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) decided that their solution was to provide twenty thousand tablets and smartphones to their remote workers, such as train drivers and ticket collectors.  The aim of this includes better communication with passengers, for example regarding disturbances to the timetable.  Timely messages about delays and diversions can help take the sting out of changes.

Not every company could rise to this level of expenditure and so it is worth looking at the alternatives, including unconventional means.

The Messaging Environment

How and when to use messaging inside a distributed company raises other points to be exploited for company or project communications and selected according to circumstances:

Reach: technically unlimited, but twitter-type messages scroll out of view very quickly, so their impact is short lived, unless the reader is specifically expecting a message.
Speed of Communication: effectively instantaneous, even more so than the telephone, as the recipient may be in a meeting and not wish to take a call but will read a message.
Data Security: one-to many communication is by definition visible, but can carry encoded messages.
Push v. Pull: The appropriate option can be used depending on the needs of the stakeholders (who are by definition the partners/ targets for communication).
BYOD (bring your own device): If a company (such as SBB) wanted to, it could invite workers to use their own devices, but it could then not as easily ensure that the communication would be reliable. There is a trade off between reliability and cost.

Tweet, Update or Post

Tweets (Twitter), Updates (LinkedIn), Posts (Facebook) and the like are all versions of a one-to-many messages, just like radio or television.  If however employees at any level of the hierarchy are encouraged to share their ideas, they can result in a significant increase the business tempo. Zappo’s social media marketing is a well publicised example of this:

The Pros and Cons: Public Messaging

The advantages of public messaging (such as Twitter) include:

  • messages can be broadcast one-to-many
  • reception is instantaneous
  • messages are visible to search engines (Google etc) and this can be of use when it is useful to “tell the world” for non-confidential matters, such as project progress or skills and capabilities of employees.

The disadvantages of public messaging include:

  • lack of confidentiality
  • this can be overcome by coding, but makes the messaging more cumbersome. Even with coding, the world can see that you are active.

The Pros and Cons: In-company Messaging

In-company messaging includes a function similar to “update” in LinkedIn or Facebook “post”, accessed eg via the email. The advantages include:

  • messages can be broadcast within the entire company, regardless of hierarchy. For example immediately after getting a new assignment, a project manager can ask who has similar experience, who he should talk to, who might be interested in joining the project team etc.
  • the interaction speed is usually far far faster than traditional chains of command. For example, a message sent out from a meeting may get an instantaneous reaction, compared with days or weeks by other methods. This fast response matters in connection with creativeness within a competitive environment.

The Pros and Cons: SMS / Text Messaging

Although SMS Messaging can be delivered one-to-many, it is more usual to be used one-to-one.  The advantages include:

  • Discrete, personal
  • Works nearly anywhere, even where the data networks are weak or non-existent, because it uses the mobile phone network.

Disadvantages

  • Usually sent from the phone, so not so easy for complex messages.
  • Tedious to archive.

Tweet, update or post your workforce?

Yes, but the format and option used should be driven by the communication objectives, the needs of the stakeholders and with regard to other issues such as confidentiality, as illustrated by the email usage of Hilary Clinton.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Mitch Panzar of www.dufry.com who inspired this discussion.

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Breakout groups by language

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Hello, this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork. I’m here to bring you another short video about one of the benefits of virtual training. We’re talking here about replicating the traditional classroom environment with the benefit of the internet.

One of the benefits is that participants can be put into groups for discussion, or for working on activities, or developing ideas according to language. Normally in a traditional live environment, the training is carried out in one language. With the internet interface, we can group people. For example, difference offices of the same company that are sharing the same training. Though this is really good because when people are discussing, they much prefer to speak their first language and although they may well be able to interact and understand and so forth, if a presentation in, for example, in English, it does improve the discussion if people are also able to work in their own language.

So that’s a very unique advantage of the virtual training environment. Now we’ve put together a list of these benefits in a survey and we invite you to help us write these benefits by going onto the link associated with this video and giving us the benefit of your thoughts. Also, if you’ve had any specific questions that you’d like answered before going ahead with virtual training from Scatterwork, then please make sure that we’re aware of what your queries are. Thanks very much. We look forward to hearing from you.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

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Shorter training sessions are viable

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Hello, this is Deasún Ó Conchúir from Scatterwork, continuing our series of videos about the benefits of virtual training compared to face to face training. We’re not talking about webinars, but more about duplicating the normal training environment with the help of the internet.

This has lots of advantages. One of them is that it’s easier to schedule the participants. This indeed could be a reason why training can go ahead that might otherwise be impossible. It’s fairly obvious: people need only to schedule the time of the actual training, whereas any other type of physical meeting requires time to get to and from the meeting place. Even when people are in one building, that takes some time. If they’re scattered out across the world, then that’s a serious overhead.

That’s one of the benefits. We invite you to help us rank these benefits by clicking on the link of the survey associated with this video. If you have any queries before proceeding with a trial of this type of training, then please do contact us. Thanks very much.

In the modern world, the optimal solution may not be traditional face-to-face training that everybody likes and finds very effective, but virtual training. Please help us to rank our list of virtual training features: Can Virtual Training replace traditional events? (5 minute survey)

Also, if you have any queries, then please select a time to call or send a message.

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