Let me give you an example: In one of my first projects I had to organize the relocation of the company to a new, much larger building. As part of the process, we needed to clarify a couple of issues regarding the alarm and security.
I duly summarized our questions in an email and sent it to the contractor responsible for the fit-out. Not that I expected an answer within a week (by the way: that’s what I’d expect sending this email to a German company), but after 10 days I would have been really happy to receive at least a mail saying “received – we will get back to you”. But the CEO of this company did not contact me, messages on his mobile box remained unanswered, as well as my “friendly reminder” e-mails.
Anyway, about two weeks later of complete “communication silence” I finally managed to reach him by phone. His reaction was a very friendly “it’s no problem at all, no worries”. We clarified our questions and just minutes later all the issues were sorted out, task boxes were ticked. I was happy, but couldn’t help thinking “why on earth didn’t this happen sooner?”.
Not, that I am feeling peeved, I am just a bit bemused. All I wanted to do was get a response in a timely and organized way, but without ‘nagging’ my partners or upsetting them.
This, by the way, is far from the end of the story: A couple of weeks later we have finally moved into the new building. My understanding of the role of a Project Manager includes cross-checking the initial quote and PO with the services and installations delivered to us.
And guess, what was the result? A quick look at what we asked – and paid for, and what was actually carried out revealed some inconsistencies, to say the least.
The response from the contractor: “Oh, my goodness, we have forgotten to install the temperature sensor in the server room.” And once again, in the friendliest of tones he added “it’s no problem at all, no worries”.
I am sure, by the time we were finished they would have wished I was anywhere else rather than on the project: This “smart project manager” is really checking everything and he does not give up until all is done … And I have since had heaps of other very similar bits of feedback, all about me following up, sticking to schedules and chasing deadlines.
I realize that my style of working is pretty pedantic (I’ve been told I won’t ever starve in hell…) but surely it’s not too much to ask for a project to be carried out, as agreed, on time?
I am still working hard on finding my very own German/Kiwi balance: So far it seems to be “stay relaxed, but not too relaxed”. So, does anyone else have similar experiences about working in another country? Is it a cultural issue, or more about the character of the individual?
Posted by Ralf Wittgen, Project Manager, Author-it Software Corporation