In a number of previous blog posts I have written about misunderstandings and miscommunication. Currently I’m doing some studies at the University of Oslo. As part of this study I have read a number of research articles regarding outsourcing and challenges that exists there. Quite a number of the articles points to communication as one of the main challenges.
In this blog post I will try to sum of some of my experience in the area and to give some experience on what can be done. As this is a blog post and not a research article, I have omitted quotes from articles and such. That will eventually come in some later more in-depth posts.
First of all I will point to the fact that it is important to know each other if you’re going to work together. Even more so when you work across different cultures. When you know each other quite well it is much easier to collaborate. Some cultures are much more sensitive to this than what the Norwegian culture is. When you work with people from this culture it is even more important to know each other.
Adjust the way you speak and confirm that the other person have understood you. This is probably one of the most important things I learned in India. There is no doubt that the English I speak today is different than the English I spoke two years back. I do probably speak slower now than what I did before. One trick I have found quite useful is to explain my message in different ways. Instead of just repeating myself and ask if the other part have understood me (in which the answer will most probably be “yes”), I do say the same thing two times but with different words. If the other person seems to be confused I know I have to rephrase myself again. If at the other hand, this leads to a fruitful discussion, I will know that the other person most probably have understood me.
Another tip is to create a communication plan. This is something I have missed in a number of projects (maybe due to the informal way Norwegians usually like to communicate?). To me a communication plan is basic tool for the project management. In addition to decide schedule for project meetings and such it should be clearly stated in this plan at what level the different decisions should be made. This is particularly important if you work with people from cultures where there is a very steep hierarchy in the organizations. Having a communication plan in place it will make it very clear for everyone who they have to talk to in order to get decisions to happen. Too often this has been unclear and too much time has been wasted because people have communicated at the wrong level. In Norway where we don’t care too much about hierarchies it is absolutely that a consultant speaks to, and even corrects a vice president. The same would not be accepted in a country like India. Here the communication has to follow the hierarchy and this must be precisely defined in the communication plan!
Do you have any other hints or suggestions? I would very much like to hear from you!
Talk to you soon