E.g., 11/20/2019
E.g., 11/20/2019

Project Managers: How can cultural competency skills help us work smarter?

By: Jennifer Horner, Marketing Manager - MTM LinguaSoft

05 May 2015

Many LSPs already provide cultural competency training services for clients. However, we don’t always think about the fact that our own project managers are on the front lines of cross-cultural communication. The best project managers can maintain trusting and cooperative relationships with individuals of all nationalities while steering each project to a successful and timely conclusion. Cultural traits are often thought of within that culture as basic truths that are obvious and natural, needing no explanation. We don’t realize that these truths are not shared by or even visible to members of other cultures.  Like an iceberg, what we see of culture is obvious, but a great deal more of it is hidden below the surface.

In this globalizing world, we assume that everyone recognizes an “international” business culture, and in localization, we all know what constitutes professionalism. PMs provide clear instructions, answer queries quickly, and pay on time. Linguists provide quality language services, charge a fair price, and deliver on time. But there is a good deal of collaborative work between the project manager and the translator, and this is where cultural icebergs can sink your project.

Readers of this post are already aware that we work in a vast ocean of cultural differences. Although my examples are drawn from my experience as an American, I would argue that the process of questioning your own assumptions about the “right” way to handle things can be helpful to PMs from many cultures.

Here are some situations that every PM has encountered:

A freelance translator working in a high-demand language pair sends their CV through your recruiting portal. But when you ask for professional references, they refuse. Why would a freelancer refuse to provide references and, if this is the case, how can you verify their suitability for your projects?

A PM reviews a client’s source files and doesn’t see any problems with them, so she sends them to the translator with the note “If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.” Why is this “hands-off” approach appropriate in some situations and troublesome in others?

A trusted member of your team unexpectedly misses a deadline.  How do you communicate in such a way as to maintain the business relationship and minimize the chances of future mishaps?

A PM receives a translation from a linguist who is a valued specialist in his field, and the proofreader requires many changes and deems the translation unacceptable. How do you mediate and resolve the situation to the client’s best advantage?

How have situations like these affected your work in your culture?

In my next post, I’ll discuss the skills that can help a project manager navigate these particular obstacles, and I’d like to include some stories from outside of my own American experience.  Please tell me your experiences and ideas in the comments section. How can each of these situations bring cultural differences to light?  

Part II

Jennifer Horner

Jen Horner has been a member of the MTM LinguaSoft team since 2013, first as Partner Liaison, then as Marketing Manager. Jen writes about translation and localization for the MTM LinguaSoft blog: www.mtmlinguasoft.com/blog

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