Project Management Around the World – (London, England, UK, Europe)

March 14th, 2014 | PMO Blog

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This blog is part of the #pmflashblog 2014, which has been kindly facilitated by the Sensible PM (see all of the activity on Twitter)

Diversity – I’ve been working in London now for many years, and on any project in the UK there will be people from may different nations and cultures.

The last UK’s census showed 37% of London’s population is born outside the UK, and 24% are non-UK nationals; add to this the millions of internal migrants of British citizens from outside London (I’m originally from Manchester, and educated in Leeds), its difficult to find someone in London, who was born and grew up in London.

Organisational cultures will vary, but in my opinion, Projects in the UK tend to be a culture of individuals constantly challenging others on ‘if we are doing the right thing’, as opposed to ‘the decision has been made, just get it delivered’; I guess this can be partly seen as a stereo type that the English can be perceived as always seeing themselves as being right (not always the case), and politely apologising as to avoid causing offence.

Projects in the UK generally have a high element of collaboration with colleagues and suppliers. This high level of collaboration is a great experience does result in great creativity and design (I mean, who doesn’t want to work in teams right?), which in most circumstances results in a great finished output for the project,  however, there are times when the high level of collaboration can also result in disagreements and delay, and as a result there can be an element of internal politics.

Back to the ‘Diversity’, every project I have seen in the UK has involved working alongside many different cultures and foreign nationals, which means the language used can be critical (even though we are all meant to speak the Queen’s English!); some of these language differences apply to national level within the UK (you can drive 10 miles in parts of the UK and hear a completely different accent); I am from the north of England and I’m commonly referred to as a ‘Northerner’, yet people born in the south are referred to as ‘Southerners’. Northerners in the UK are often said to be friendlier than Southerners, to the point that Northerners often refer to other people as ‘love’ or ‘duck’; at times, calling someone ‘love’ in an office environment might not be an appropriate term in certain situations.

A couple of weeks ago I was working with ‘our friends from across the pond’ (the dear ol’ US of A). I learned the hard way that a ‘Fanny’ in the USA is very much different from a ‘Fanny’ in the UK (google it), and our cousins from down under (Australia) they didn’t understand that in England a thong is an underwear garment which a lady wears, yet the Aussies argued wearing thongs on your feet.

I often find it amazing how we are often speaking the same language (the Queen’s English), but meaning different things, and if we are to get better at delivering more effective projects and changes, the language we choose, and the context in which it is used can improve the output for our project customers.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.

Nelson Mandela

So what has this got to do with Project Management?

A Projects greatest achievement is made by the people involved; some of a Projects greatest failures can also be from the people involved. In Projects we deal with many people from different organisations and from different departments within organisations, each having its own microclimate of culture of ‘it’s just how things are done round here’.

Working on Projects in London develops individuals in understanding diversity, involving the benefits of having rich relationships with many different cultures from across all continents.

England has strong relationships with it’s neighbouring country’s in Europe where there are over 200 languages, and the strong ties with Commonwealth country’s (Historical British Empire and Colony’s) and has maintained very close relationships with the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Indian region, Middle East, South America, and Africa. The more successful project manager’s in London have a strong awareness of themselves, and how others perceive them. With this strong sense of self-awareness a great project manager understands how they can adjust how they are perceived to help the project get the very best performance out of the people it impacts; understanding and language is key if a project manager is to communicate more effectively, getting the most out of their project teams through high engagement and collaboration.

As they say in the east end of London (Rhyming Slang)……PM’s can get it a bit arse about face, getting some aggro from the ol’ trouble and strife,  especially if arguing with a Septic Tank over a Sky Diver in the projects bread and honey. A great PM stays out of barney rubble avoiding the project to go all Pete Tong, if they can avoid having a darby and joan, and av’ing a dickey bird with the team, putting your best foot forward in your whistle and flute, and keeping your loaf of bread, placing a bit of adam and eve in yourself you could end up being chuffed to bits. Some blokes think this is a load of ol’ codswallop and that I’m taking the gypsy’s kiss (telling pork pies), but being aware of another culture can help keeping your project from becoming brown bread… I’m now of t’ boozer for a pint 😉

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