All traffic lights are green but we are not reaching the targets.
Read this if you are interacting indirect or direct with India or Indians in various way at work. This article will help you understand one aspect of Project Management – the green colour of the Traffic Lights - across European and Indian culture context.
When I visit clients to discuss how to improve business or create strategic change, I often ask the question “how are the traffic lights?”. 9 out of 10 cases I get the initial response “most of them are green”. And after this I either hear the client saying that they should probably not be green (in a frustrated way), or they are more puzzled over the fact of that they are not hitting the expected business results.
When I ask if all traffic lights are green and get the answer “Yes” - My conclusion is, that there is a major issue.
Do you have green traffic lights across in your organization?
So why are the traffic lights green? Mostly the reasons are one of the following (or combination of them):
- I report green, because we have done the activities as planned so it must be green
- I report green, because I think so, but I must check with the team first
- I report green, because it’s sort of ready. It’s not exactly what is expected but I think it’s good enough
- I report green, because I don’t want to confess to any mistakes right now
- I report green, because it is actually green.
So how come we get these responses, despite the reality that it might not be green? What are the reasons behind this and what is our course of action going forward?
1. I report green, because we have done the activities as planned so it must be green.
The first thing is basically to ensure that right activities that have been accomplished, are the ones that will lead to the expected results. The activities must be questioned so we understand that these are the right ones. Often the persons close to the ground have the most knowledge about the details, but have less influence, so ensure that people at this grass root level are also included in the discussions.
2. I report green, because I think so, but I must check with the team first
It is very common that the expectations are not clear enough. Is there the one common understood definition about what green, yellow and red traffic lights means? Often not, and for a MNC (Multinational Corporation) working across different countries and culture this is very crucial.
3. I report green, because it’s sort of ready. It’s not exactly what is expected but I think it’s good enough
To all structure and processes there is always a softer element, the human element. In this case there is a culture context – how do we see things? And how do we perceive things? There is a Hindi expression called “Chalta Hai”. This means good enough. When I report, my “good enough”, it might differ from others’ in a significant manner. For me maybe it is 80% of the perfect result, and for someone else it might be 95%. It is therefore important to mutually explore and understand how we perceive and look at things.
4. I report green, because I don’t want to confess any mistakes right now
The other human factor that influences the ability of accurate reporting is the core leadership attribute – accountability. Therefore, encourage the leadership style you want to see, through a present leadership from yourself
5. I report green, because it is actually green.
This is success, and you will see that it leads to bottom line improvement. The advice is also to not generalise at any area, India is such a variety of all kinds, including the colours of the traffic lights, so don’t take it for granted that you can apply the same thought process for all of them! Be curious and explore.
Okay, but if it is red or yellow and not green, how come we are so much behind? Why is it yellow, or even red?
This is what we will elaborate more on it in another newsletter later this year!
If you want to understand or discuss more how to lead project efficient in cross cultural context, contact the author at email@example.com. If you want updates on the Indian markets, click below.