Does Cold Weather Produce Better (More Effective) Planners?

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Allow me to relate an event that happened some years ago whilst I was the PM for a MNC on assignment in Indonesia.

In preparation for my first weekly meeting with the Factory Manager (Pak P) and the Business PM (Pak J) I prepared my report as the IT PM. The report crossed over to a single paragraph on page two. There was a dashboard on the front page.

In taking the printed copy of my report, Pak P immediately flipped over to the second page. I asked him why he did it. He responded that he wanted to see how long it was and proceeded by saying “We are lazy readers. We would rather talk about things, watch TV rather than read books”. A discussion followed during which he said – and I paraphrase:

Our country has benevolent weather. We have fruit trees everywhere. People do not die of hunger here since fruit fall from the trees. If it rains and I get caught in it, I will just pluck a banana leave and use it as an umbrella. If there is no banana tree, I will be wet for a few hours only and the sun will dry out my clothes. We do not have to plan as much as North Europeans do. Just think: if people in Germany or Switzerland do not plan months ahead and chop and store wood and feed for their animals for the long cold winters, they will not survive. We do not have that problem here.

Notes:

Pak P was one of the most successful factory managers and still with the company in a very senior position.

Once the system was installed, the factory took the Crown for the best-run factory in the company.

All his managers were degreed – BS.C / B.Com and even higher, and very professional.

I had – and still have – much respect for him and his team.

I am aware that the word “better” is a qualitative one.

Take Homes:

My report should have been one page only. Volume does not mean quality.

Factory Managers are busy people who look for the big picture. They will drill down as required.

The IT PM is responsible to alert points that need elaboration.

My Observations:

There are differences in how different cultures approach planning.

Certain factors may help to overcome or ameliorate differences but not erase them, such as training and methodologies

In some countries, political systems lead to “centralized planning” down to even local levels and ask very little planning capabilities from its citizens.

Question: How far does this affect even capitalist-driven multi-nationals and their local managers?

On the other side of the ledger: Many MNC’s also require their overseas units to follow a “central / standardized approach” to reporting if not planning. One example is that corporate PMO’s will provide strict methodologies and projects will be audited both internally and externally to ensure compliance.

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