Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Planning horizons in Russia and the Netherlands: a wedding example
Just came back from a week-long meeting of multicultural project crowd (context)... One of of the big things regarding project management in this case is about recognising cultural differences of the project partners and establishing working practices that work across those differences.
There is a lot there to reflect upon, but for now I'd like to focus only on one aspect of it: time-frames in relation to planning. The example I'd like to use is a bit personal - it's about wedding planning.
Last January we were looking for locations for two wedding parties - in Moscow and in Enschede - for beginning of May. The reactons of restaurant people were surprisingly similar. In Moscow they were laughing - trying to book a restaurant in January for May didn't make much sense to them. In one case they were not sure if the place would exist, almost everywhere they were not prepared to discuss the prices saying that everything could be different in May.
In Enschede restaurant people were surprised as well - we were too late to start looking for a location :)
I guess that the reasons for those differences are not because restaurant business is so different in Russia and in the Netherlands; it represents a deeper cultural differences in relation to long-term planning.
In the Netherlands you have to plan well in advance. It's more easy to get used that with busy colleagues you will not have a chance to schedule something for coming two weeks, than learning to plan a dinner with friends two months in advance (recently I did :). People also tend to rely on their schedules and to get irritated when something has to move to another moment.
In Russia its different. You can try making longer-term appointments, but usually it would be "let's call each other closer to the date and see". Things are changing fast and everyone knows that planning for the future doesn't make much sense ("Man proposes, but God disposes" says everyday wisdom). Uncertainty is part of the equation and any changes in schedules are tackled as something usual.
As a result planning horizons are dramatically different. The "fun" starts to happen when there is an event with both sides involved. Russian people could suggest rescheduling an internationa project meeting one month in advance, while Dutch people have to plan it half a year before to be able to make it. Or a wedding with Russian and Dutch guests (in Russia an everage wedding is planned and prepared 2 months in advance, while in the Netherlands it's 12)...
Could you imagine how scared I was when 2,5 months before the date the wedding register office in Moscow decides to move a working day from Wednesday to Sunday because it's more convinient to work before a national holiday and not after it? It wouldn't cause any problem if I would be in Russia/with Russians only, but our Dutch party had to be booked earlier and our Dutch friends booked their tickets to Moscow already...
Friday, February 10, 2006
The 'and' way and the 'but' way
From the stellingen for the dissertation of Renata Guizzardi:
There are two distinct ways to collaborate with someone one their research work: the 'and' way and the 'but' way. In the 'and' way, one focuses on the positive aspects of the ideas being presented, adding new insights on top of them. Conversely, in the 'but' way, one identifies the limitations of the proposed ideas, focusing solely on negative aspects. Although both ways are valid, there is a risk in taking the 'but' strategy, since looking at the obstacles before an idea is sufficiently mature may lead to a creativity block.
So easy to recognise :)
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Tagging four things
Ton says that this should help me to get my blogging rhythm going again, so I guess I should try :)
Four jobs I had:
- Teaching kids how to organise parties
- Designing and facilitating training sessions on understanding people with disabilities
- Managing training and professional development of people who were my own teachers a few years before that
- Reseaching blogs and all other strange things
Four movies I can watch repeatedly:
Four places I've liked:
- 20 meters below sea level at night at Bali, Indonesia
- Sintra, Portugal
- Jaipur, India
- Olympic mountains, WA, USA
Four tv shows I like:
Four places I've vacationed:
- Moscow - strange, isn't it?
- Baikal lake, Russia
- Bali, Indonesia
- Assisi, Italy
Four favourite dishes:
- Pancakes by my grandmother
- Seafood in all strange combinations
- That lambsteak with cranberry sauce and cheese of last Saturday
- Raspberry cramble, ideally by Nancy
Four sites I visit daily:
- Web-based access to my work email
Four places I would rather be right now:
- On the couch in my parents' kitchen
- 20 meters below (warm) sea level
- Don't know. I guess I'm pretty happy letting time to travel arrive with its own speed
Four bloggers I am tagging:
- Anjo because I can't forget his "42" comment to one of those question lists I blogged
- Liz because I miss having a lunch together
- Andrea to remember to talk soon
- Stephanie to send her even more good vibes for finding what she is looking for
Blogging about disabilities
You never know what referrer logs bring... This time it's a post by Lorelle VanFossen (Lorelle on WordPress) on PhD bloggers (which suggests that I'm an author of several books :)
What actually grabbed my attention is not the post itself, but a link to the earlier one - Blogging about disabilities. I browsed through the links a bit - thinking how much understanding I could get from those weblogs 10 years back while working with kids with disabilities.
I always find it special to be able to look at the world of others with their help - as a person, but also as a researcher (and wearing a researcher hat I should forward those links to my colleagues working on technologies to support those who provide care for people with dementia).
Monday, February 06, 2006
Readings on under-management
This came in one of my email newsletters - an article questioning is the UK facing an under-management epidemic?
I did a bit of search to trace the orinal references - “The Under-Management Epidemic” (executive summary, .doc) from Rainmaker Thinking (US-based research/consultancy/training company):
There has been so much talk about the engagement of workers: Are your employees “engaged” or not? But that’s the wrong question. The key factor affecting employee engagement is the relationship employees have with their immediate supervisors. Therefore, the question you should be asking is this: Are your MANAGERS “engaged” or not? From our ongoing research, we have become convinced that too many of those in leadership positions ----at all levels---- are disengaged from their direct reports on a day-to-day basis. Too many leaders, managers, and supervisors are failing to lead, manage and supervise. [...]
Specifically, we define under-management as a condition in which a leader with supervisory authority (“Manager”), due to influence, inclination, or circumstances, fails to provide regularly and consistently any employee directly subject to that authority (“Direct Report”) with any of the following “Five Management Basics”: (1) Clear statements of performance requirements and standard operating procedures related to recurring tasks and responsibilities. (2) Clear statements of defined parameters, measurable goals, and concrete deadlines for all work assignments for which the direct report will be held accountable. (3)Accurate monitoring, evaluation, and documentation of work performance. (4) Clear statements of specific feedback on work performance with guidance for improvement. (5) Rewards and detriments distributed fairly.
The report covers:
Proportions of under-management - "35% of managers DO NOT provide every direct report with all five management basics even once a year" (refers to the US data, see more in the report on the sample)
The impact of under-management on a manager and his/her reports
Individual causes for under-management
- Lack of time and/or resources
- False "nice guy" syndrome (not accepting responsibility for the authority and influence that comes with managerial position)
- Lack of skill
Environmental factors that support spread of under-management - an interesting overview of how all kinds of external forces are reflected in changes of organisational structures and relations inside companies. My favourite bit:
Traditional sources of authority are being supplanted by new sources. Seniority, age, rank, and rules are diminishing. Organization charts are flatter; layers of management have been removed. Reporting relationships are more temporary; more employees are being managed by short-term project-leaders, instead of 'organization-chart' managers. Managers are losing their old fashioned long-term hierarchical power, a form of power that (once acquired) required little effort to wield.
Best practices of higly-engaged managers - I feel that this is the most interesting part of the report. Makes sense to read it whole, so just a quote:
They [highly-engaged managers] understand, accept, and even embrace the new reality that managing people has become a day-to-day negotiation.
The report is good inspirational reading if you managing others and it's definitely worth giving to those who are managing you :)
Friday, February 03, 2006
When you work on your PhD your horizon may shrink. At least in my case - I'm constantly falling into delineating life into BD and AD (before the defence and after it). Before it is about focusing and hard work and only after that time comes for all interesting and exciting things that do not fall under "PhD" label (not sure if it actually helps focusing :)
I'm not happy about it, but still figuring out how to get into long-term thinking and preparing for the things to come AD without deviating too much from PhD work...
Thursday, February 02, 2006
On blogging and book writing
Clotilde of Chocolate & zucchini documents her work on the cookbook:
Here is a little story from the first post:
But first things first: how did the book deal land on my doorstep?
It probably won't come as a scoop to anyone that this very blog you are reading was vastly instrumental. Creating and maintaining C&Z showed me that food writing was something I loved, something I was serious about, and something I was ready to work hard at in order to make it an actual job thing -- you know, the kind that pays the bills and the shoes. This realization came early on, after just a few months of blogging, but back then it sounded completely wild and unrealistic, just a dream I could pet and play with in the privacy of my own mind.
But as time went by, and to my utter surprise I might add, I started receiving more and more encouragement from readers, people neither I nor my mother had paid, who told me I should really keep it up, and that they could totally see me writing a book. A book? The idea started to stretch tiny wings, flapping them tentatively to see if there was anything to it. [...]