We are living in a Global Village.
Distance is not a barrier any more. Telephone, VOIP, Video Conferencing, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Viber have shrunk the world. We are able to do business in any part of the world from anywhere. Think of Uber and Ola Cabs and the brisk business that these aggregators are doing .
We have advanced leaps and bounds in terms of technology but have we been able to keep pace with adapting with the cross cultural nuances as well as cross cultural communication ?
I doubt it.
Cross cultural communication is a complex subject and can sometimes put you in very awkward situations. I will narrate an interesting anecdote which will elucidate this.
A typical situation in a Software MNC.
A project is in progress . The customer is a big US Financial firm. The software is being developed in India , in Bangalore. It is a Friday evening. As usual, the schedule is tight and the project team is chasing the deadline of delivering it on Monday.
Everything is almost ready , but a last minute change needs the testing team to test and verify things before the final delivery.
"Abhishek, please get two people from your team to work tomorrow - Saturday on this and then we will be good to go on Monday " , the Project Manager tells the test lead before leaving office.
"Ok Sir !"
Abhishek, the test lead, plans for Neha and Srini, the two most competent testers for working on Saturday. He asks Neha to call up Srini and convey to him the plan for the next day.
Both of them work the full day on Saturday on the software build but still there are are few test cases which are pending. The customer wants a conference call with Neha and Srini
"Hello Srini ... !" Anne , the customer representative greets the team.
"Hello Anne !"
"What is the Status ?"
"Well, my part is over , but Srini still has a few pending test cases which needs execution " Neha quips.
"Srini ... will you be able to complete them today ? "
"Anne... the execution of these test cases takes about 6 hours time and it is already very late ..." Srini tells in an apologetic voice.
"Hmmm... are you coming tomorrow for this ? "
A long pause at the other end.
"Srini .... "
"Yes.... Anne ..... "
"Yeah ... "
"It is my son's birthday tomorrow ... we have to go to the temple in the morning and in the evening Payasam will be cooked .... "
"Ok ! Thats Great ! A very happy birthday to your son ! "
That was the end of the conversation.
What do you think happened next ?
The project was NOT delivered on Monday.
Srini, when he said that it was his son's birthday and payasam etc, he thought that Anne would understand that he could not come for work on Sunday. In India, going to the temple on birthdays and spending time for worship is sanctimonious.
Anne , on the other hand, did not understand this cultural aspect . She politely wished "Happy Birthday " for his son , but assumed that Srini would be executing the test cases on Sunday so that the deadline can be met !
Indeed , a classic case of cultural differences a well as communication !
Every country has its way of saying things. The importance is that which lies behind people’s words.