A short, intercultural dialogue (inspired by, and integrating the strategies from, this article on Accelerance)
Mark: Chief Technology Officer of a Seattle-based education company
Raj: Project manager for a Mumbai-based programming company
Setting: A phone conversation on April 15th at 7am in Seattle / 7:30pm in Mumbai. Mark and Raj have never met in person, but have successfully worked together on another project.
Raj – Good morning, Mark. Early your time, no?
Mark – Not if you’ve already had 3 espressos.
Mark – Raj, sorry to cut straight to the chase, but I have a meeting fast approaching, so I need to get to business.
Raj – Of course. Go ahead.
Mark – Thanks. Did you get my notes that I sent Friday? The project outline?
Raj – Yes. Reviewed it over the weekend.
Mark – Great. So is this something you think your firm can handle?
Raj – Of course. Delighted to.
Mark – And the timeline? I know it’s pretty steep. Can you make it by May 15th?
Raj is silent.
(1. A moment of silence often hides a problem or a NO.)
Mark – Raj, are you there?
Raj – Yes. Yes. Sorry. The line must have dropped.
Mark – The timeline? Will it be a problem?
Raj – Will it be a problem?
(2. Repeating the question often masks a NO.)
Mark – I really need this by May 15.
Raj – I will get back to you on this. We have a staff meeting every Tuesday morning. I will discuss with my team.
(3. Postponing an answer is often a NO in hiding.)
Mark – Come on, Raj, you gotta make this happen for us. Your team’s work is the first piece of the puzzle.
Raj – It might be very difficult. But it is not out of the realm of possible.
(4. A conditional YES is usually a NO.)
Mark – Raj, you’re the best! Our CEO will be thrilled. Thank you!
(Mark is only listening for what he wants to hear, not what Raj is communicating.)
Raj – Thank you.
Mark – How about the change in programming language? Can your team handle C++?
Raj delays a moment before answering. A heavy breath is heard on the line.
(5. Delaying in India often masks a problem or a hidden NO.)
Raj – You do not want to use Java, like we did last time?
(6. Answering a question with a question is often used in lieu of a NO.)
Mark – No. This project and the other three teams I’m coordinating are all using C++.
Raj – Have you not seen the latest Java platform? Huge memory and no problem with leakage. I just met with head of Java’s India office last week, Executive Vice President B.K.S. Shankar. Have you ever met him before?
(7. Changing the subject is usually a sign of a problem and a NO.)
Cut to: June 15, 4 weeks after due date.
Mark – Raj, my team and I just reviewed all the work your crew did and it’s wonderful. Top-notch!
Raj – Oh, thank goodness. So glad to hear.
Mark – But 4 weeks late? Raj, if we’re going to be able to use your firm again, you can’t be late like that.
Raj – I do not foresee us having any more problems.
Mark – What were all the delays about, after all?
Raj pauses, thinks for a moment.
Raj – I needed a few extra weeks for my team to learn C++.
Stunned, Mark gasps.
Mark – You’re telling me that your team didn’t know C++ and you still said yes to the project and, even more amazingly, got it done?
Raj – Thank you, sir.
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