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What time is it? India’s Time Orientation

by Brandi Moore on March 14, 2011

Every wonder why time  = money? Its an American phenomenon that we all hold dear which flows through everything we do inside organizations. We think about time all the time, focusing on delivering on time, being on time, and not wasting time. In India, time is not thought of in the same way much to the determent of cross-cultural managers.

When time = money you can waste time. And when you can waste something,  you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to save it. Thus the billion dollar industry of time management books, software and workshops. In the US, we spend a fortune in both dollars and time to figure out the best way to manage our calendar.

Why is this? Its our origins. From the early 1600′s Americans began their fascination with time. Clocks were the rage and local communities decided to set a “time” that would be shared by all. As the railroads crossed the country, time became important in a different way: unless everyone shared time they would have no idea what time the train would arrive….thus the entrance of time zones.

As Americans started to rely on timing, they were enhanced by the puritanical thinking which despised idleness. Massachusetts set a law stating that “no person, householder or other shall spend his time idly or unprofitably, under the pain of such a punishment as the court shall think meet to inflict.”

Not longer after Ben Franklin stepped in to proclaim that time is money.

The rest is history, or perhaps a forgotten history because most of us have no idea why time = money. When we step into relationships with India we are immediately confronted with the reality that time does not equal money in India. This crushes our schedules and keeps us from delivering “on time and under budget” the American wish for all projects. Learn all about this cross-cultural challenge right now and how to solve it in our Online Academy.

How can we better manage time inside India? First we can acknowledge that we may not really be able to manage time. Beyond that there are a few things we can consider as project managers.

1.) Requirements: Have we established a solid set of requirements inside our project documentation? Do our teams in India understand the constructs and background for our decisions?

2.) Tracking Objectives: Do we have a way of tracking project progress? This is a common problem inside India based projects.

3.) Business Conversations: Have we developed a way to have a meaningful conversation with business stakeholders about the progress of the project?

Starting with these three questions project managers can begin to analyse their India approach. Want to learn more about time orientation in India? Check out our Managing Time in India course in the Online Academy.

Thank you for the image to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lenp17/

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