Tag: people

Point/Counterpoint: Let the interoffice games begin!

by on Nov.06, 2009 , under facilitative leadership, program management

This article was originally published in slightly-edited form by Multilingual magazine, Index 2008 & RD, 2009 volume, and is reprinted here with permission. Erin Vang would like to thank both Multilingual and her co-author, Tina Cargile, PMP, for graciously consenting to republication of these articles in the GlobalPragmatica blog.

Interoffice games and politics are nothing new; the trick is to avoid gunplay in the hallways. Few office relationships are more tenuous than those between project managers and salespeople. The following is an attempt to uncover what drives both crazy.

While both parties share a common goal—the overall success of the company—their individual stress points are quite different. Sales is concerned with client retention and frankly, making a decent living. Project managers are concerned with client retention and having a decent life. It turns out that your “decent” and my “decent” are often in competition. —Tina

Point: Top Ten Ways to Drive a Salesperson Crazy

Tina Cargile, PMP

#1: Keep bad news close to the vest

When a project is going south, please don’t let me know.

C’mon! I am trained to finesse the situation and provide solutions for the client. Your proactive communication helps me come up with alternative delivery scenarios. Often client-side milestones can be adjusted with early-enough discussion.

#2: Don’t address hazardous turnaround times.

Saying “well, OK” to tight turnarounds is great, and seems like a team-friendly attitude.

C’mon! When the turnaround is perilous, let me know! Better to arm me with an immediate counter-offer than to wait until the last minute to declare the project at risk (or hopeless). When a client asks for our best turnaround time, don’t ask me what they want, since the answer is typically “yesterday” and we both know that’s not going to happen! Tell me  instead what we can reasonably offer and I can try to make that work.

#3: Argue with me about “freebies.”

Sometimes it is necessary to shave margins to bring in a new client or to keep an unhappy client in the fold.

C’mon! I understand that you want to keep your margins in good shape for your next annual review, but keep in mind that some margin is better than none at all. You might also keep in mind that lower pricing means lower commissions for me, too. It’s not like I’m giving away your farm; I’m giving away a few acres of our farm to keep us in business.

#4: Accept escalated deliveries from the client no matter how questionable.

No need to call special attention to problems; I can read your mind.

C’mon! You might be copying me on project communications every single day, but you can’t expect me to realize when your polite “no problem” emails really mean “big problem!” I’m not involved in the day-to-day workflow, and your gracious, patient replies to the client look as calm to me as you mean them to look to the client. When there’s a problem, you need to speak up and get my attention!

#5: Send me a laundry list of questions for the client, rather than proactive suggestions.

Phrase every possible concern or objection in the form of a polite question.

C’mon! We are supposed to be the experts in our industry. Many of our clients are not as well versed, and consultancy on linguistic issues is part of the service we sell. Asking a client new to localization questions like, “How do you want us to handle text expansion?” is not a winning strategy. Instead, suggest options based on your expertise—nine times out of ten, the client will be grateful for the guidance.

#6: Tell me what you think I want to hear.

Tell me everything’s on schedule and on budget, and there are no risks.

C’mon! Happiness is a private matter; this is business. I have a job to do, and ugly information is best served sooner rather than later. I promise that I won’t resort to violence. Or even sarcasm. Well, maybe sarcasm.

#7: Keep me guessing

I don’t really need to know what’s going on until it’s hopeless.

C’mon! Both of us are probably working a 24/7 schedule, but please make it possible for me (and you) to fit in a little “private” time by letting me know about problems before they’re emergencies.

#8: Tell me you’re “swamped.”

C’mon! I probably am too, but learn to ask for help when you need it. Keep the focus on client needs.

#9: Keep customer complaints under wraps

It’s better to hide problems and hope not to get in trouble.

C’mon! I can’t address issues if I’m in the dark. I’m your partner, not your adversary. Don’t worry about failures; they are an opportunity for lessons learned and continuous improvement. Think of me as a client/PM advocate—I truly do see both sides.

#10: Give me grief about my “glamorous” travel schedule.

I’m just flitting around while you’re working hard, so it’s okay to give me grief.

C’mon! Yes, I travel frequently and stay at nice hotels. But most of the time, it’s just another hotel, I rarely see the city I’m visiting, and the presentation—whether at a conference, a speaking engagement or a client visit–is fraught with sore feet, exhausted facial muscles from smiling, time away from family, and airport misadventures.

Counterpoint: Top Ten Ways to Drive a Project Manager Crazy (whether you’re my colleague or a vendor)

Erin Vang, PMP

#1: Keep bad news close to the vest

When you’re running late or can’t get a component working, please don’t let me know, even though I know the schedule and feature lists were just best guesses that would need to be updated as reality came into focus. It’s really better to leave me in fantasy-land.

C’mon! Let me know what’s going on! If it’s a minor change, I can probably juggle things to make it all work. If it’s a major change, then I need to get started on helping management come up with a Plan B.

#2: Don’t address hazardous turnaround times.

Keep it to yourself when the official schedule is bogus, because it’s not your job to announce when the emperor has no clothes.

C’mon! We’re often asked to sign up for “fantasy schedules,” knowing that the true release date will be much later, but who does that really serve? The boss? No, the boss is staking his or her credibility on it, wants to know the truth, and s/he probably doesn’t realize how afraid you are to say it. The customers? No, the customers have production schedules riding on our delivering when we say we will, and they don’t really care if that’s sooner or later—they just want us to say when and stick to it.

#3: Argue with me about “details.”

Sometimes it’s hard to get all the niceties of a new locale working—like currency formats that don’t expect decimal places. Why can’t we just show prices in yen with two digits for centi-yens?!

C’mon! I understand that these things are tricky, but prices in Japanese yen don’t have decimals except on the Nikkei. If we don’t get the decimals right, we might as well not support yen at all. It’s not “a picky little detail,” it’s a requirement!

#4: Shrug and say, “Sure, we’ll make it work,” even when you know you can’t.

You might be rolling your eyes and thinking I see that over the phone and know what it means, but when you say you can do it, that’s what I expect you to do.

C’mon! If it can’t be done or it can’t be done on time, or you’re just not sure, say so! We can work with the truth. Empty promises get us nowhere.

#5: Send me a laundry list of doubts rather than your best estimate of what will happen.

When I ask you to estimate your time (colleagues) or quote a project (vendors), please list the eight million things that could go wrong.

C’mon! I know you need to cover your… um… bases, in case what we deliver is wildly different than stated, but do we really have to dwell on every possible risk? Can’t we just agree on baselines and come up with a contingency plan to resolve the inevitable discrepancies?

#6: Tell me what you think I want to hear.

No matter what I ask, just smile and say, “Right away, ma’am.”

C’mon! What Tina said! When I come to you with questions, it’s not to be polite, it’s because I really want your advice. Vendors: if we’re doing something stupid, tell us, and help us figure out a better way! Colleagues: if my questions are bizarre, don’t just answer them—help me figure out what it is I don’t know. I promise not to get defensive or embarrassed. Well, maybe embarrassed.

#7: Keep me guessing.

I don’t need to know what’s going on until it’s hopeless.

C’mon! Both of us are probably burning the midnight oil, so I understand that you feel bad about it, but your delay of “just a few days” is my headache of telling twenty people that our deliveries are late and, yes, they could have taken the holiday weekend off after all, now that it’s too late for them to book train tickets. I’d rather know sooner, and so would they.

#8: Tell me you’re “swamped”

It’s okay not to answer my emails if you’ve got a lot going on.

C’mon! I’m short on sleep just like you. You know that some of my questions need answers right away, and getting back to me two weeks later doesn’t help. Please give me the courtesy of a yes, a no, or an “I’m stuck until I get a decision from so-and-so.” I might be able to get so-and-so to make the decision that gets you unstuck.

#9: Keep problems under wraps. (This is another one for vendors.)

If you can’t figure out what our strings mean, it’s okay just to do a word-for-word replacement and hope the customers never see it.

C’mon! Some of our strings are lousy, but that doesn’t mean our customers don’t need to understand them. I’m your partner, not your adversary—don’t feel stupid about having to ask for explanations. The truth is you’re the best editors our product has ever had, and if it weren’t for you, even our English product would be a mess. I’m grateful when you call attention to the problems.

#10: Give me grief about my “glamorous” travel schedule. (Back to colleagues.)

I fly a lot, stay in hotels, and eat out on the company dime, and you’re stuck at home, so you have every right to be jealous.

C’mon! Yes, I’ve got “platinum-butt” status with the airline, but it’s not like I’ll ever have time to cash in all those miles on a vacation. What you might not realize is that I’m “on stage” from 8am until 10pm and then I start dealing with email. There’s never any time to do laundry, so I’ve worn my underwear right-side-in, inside-out, frontwards, and backwards. I’m gaining weight from all the meals out, I’ve watched all the TV shows on my iPod twice, and I miss my dog.

Look, we all face challenges and endure anxiety —that’s why it’s called work. If we’re honest about what’s difficult, though, and if we cut each other a little slack on the tough stuff, we can usually find a path to mutual success, or at least avoid dismal failure. Finger-pointing just makes us all bitter, but sharing responsibility and accountability for the bad as well as the good brings us together and enables us to grow as partners. Later on the “war stories” will unite us in laughter (if we remember to celebrate with a few pitchers of beer). Nobody will remember the easy successes.

1 Comment :, , , , , more...

Point/Counterpoint: Two Approaches to Project Management for the Translation/Localization Industry

by on Nov.02, 2009 , under facilitative leadership, localization, program management

This article was originally published in slightly-edited form by Multilingual magazine, July/August 2008 and is reprinted here with permission. Erin Vang would like to thank both Multilingual and her co-author, Tina Cargile, PMP, for graciously consenting to republication of these articles in the GlobalPragmatica blog.

Tina Wuelfing Cargile, PMP, began her career at the Chronicle of Higher Education, as Director of Business Operations, moved to Austin, where she supervised the construction of a recording studio and managed that operation for several years. She found her way to McElroy Translation in 1988, fell in love with the industry and the company. She has served as Production Manager, Senior Project Manager, and has finally crossed to the “dark side” as Business Development Manager (aka Sales). [Note: Tina has since left McElroy to pursue other opportunities that we cannot reveal just yet.]

Erin Vang, PMP, is International Program Manager of the JMP R&D division of SAS, the world’s largest privately-held software company and serves on SAS’s corporate terminology management steering committee. She combines her enthusiastic study of facilitative leadership and her Project Management Professional credential with considerable domain expertise gained through twenty years of experience in statistical software documentation, quality assurance, project management, and localization. [Note: Erin has since left SAS and founded GlobalPragmatica.]

About this new column…

Tina Wuelfing Cargile and Erin Vang had never met each other when they began collaborating on a presentation for the Translation World Conference in Montreal in March of 2008. They had both submitted proposals on project management, and when they were asked to share a session, they decided to present a debate, because their original proposals took essentially opposite positions. While working out their game plan together, they found that their views both converged and diverged, and it soon became apparent that the challenge would not be how to fill the hour but how to pare down their many ideas to fit into the hour.

Both are seasoned project managers and PMPs (Project Management Professionals, certified by the Project Management Institute), both have music in their career histories, both rely on caffeine to get through days that are too long and too busy, and that’s about all they have in common. Tina works in sales for a localization vendor, and Erin works in R&D for a software company. Their professional responsibilities could not be more different, yet both are considered localization project managers! They decided to compare their perspectives on many facets of localization project management in a series of point/counterpoint columns for Multilingual Computing.

POINT: Establishing a project management culture unlocks team potential.

Tina Wuelfing Cargile, PMP

My first exposure to project management came years ago in the publishing industry, as we tackled the monumental task of converting from hot-type printing to electronic printing. We ultimately succeeded, but it took many more hours of effort and coordination than I ever could have thought appropriate. After transitioning to the translation/localization industry, I found that the complexities of project management were only multiplying as I gained experience.

In getting to know other project managers in the industry, I learned that I was in the majority for having had little formal training. We were churning and burning ourselves out in an effort to keep projects under control, monitor what was afoot, and try to learn from our mistakes

I also realized over time that many of my clients had become successful by adopting a structured approach to project management for their own work, which set me on a course of study and ultimately certification in the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) approach.

I recognized that many of the techniques put forward by PMI were far too complex and time-consuming for the average translation project, but it occurred to me that there were plenty of techniques that would be useful for our teams doing production, editing, translation teams, etc. That realization, along with my mounting frustrations from using my “hub of the wheel” top-down approach, led eventually to my reaching the following conclusion:

Traditional project management tools and techniques can work, even in our industry. However, traditional project management structure, with its centralized, top-down approach, produces little of benefit. Instead of greater productivity we get a baffling array of plans and graphs that are meaningless to the diverse needs of stakeholders in our industry.

I propose that we find the middle ground. By letting go of the centralized control but teaching project management knowledge, tools, and techniques to more stakeholders, we can empower them to manage their part of the process more effectively. Basic PM techniques help all of us reach the benchmarks of our particular specialty.

As Erin and I stressed in our debate in Montreal, context is everything. Readers who have attended industry events or read Multilingual Computing and other publications are aware of the diversity of structures and processes in the vendor side of our industry. Some companies have in-house translators, others outsource most of their work, and still others, like my company, employ a hybrid. Between my arena, and Erin’s, on the client side, the challenges are even more disparate.

We have clients, translators, and partners worldwide, in virtually every time zone. The challenges inherent in creating communication plans alone can be daunting.   Making smart use of technology and empowering virtual teams to work autonomously keeps us out of the “all-nighter” business and allows our project management team to stay lean and mean. (The mean part becomes most evident when I’m requesting a scope change for the third time.) We have hundreds of projects in process at any given time, and we have a combination of  routine work that fits into our defined workflow system and more  customized work that demands a creative, hands-on project manager. We struggle to define and manage myriad constraints, and our list goes way beyond the usual game of Time-Cost-Quality-Scope-Risk whack-a-mole

These are all subjects for future columns.

Another benefit of learning traditional project management is that it gives us a common language with our clients who “speak PMI.” Both as a PM and in sales, I’m process-oriented and try to get as much information as I can about my clients’ internal (sometimes infernal) processes, and having a shared language makes syncing up our processes that much easier.

Keep your company’s structure and needs in mind when determining which techniques to adopt. Equip yourself with whichever tools you can handle and need the most, and help your stakeholders learn how to navigate them and thrive with less pain. But don’t box yourself or your stakeholders in. There are many approaches to project management, and the body of knowledge, whether sanctioned by PMI, or not continues to evolve.

If you’re starting at zero, for heaven’s sakes learn some project management basics! Don’t reinvent the wheel. Project management will help you get rolling and stay organized.

COUNTERPOINT: Traditional project management isn’t suited to our industry; facilitative leadership is what really unlocks team potential.

Erin Vang, PMP

Like Tina, I started learning project management by managing some localization projects, getting really frustrated, inventing lots of wheels, and taking a lot longer to figure out basic tools than I care to admit. Believing there had to be a better way, I set out to learn project management properly, but the more I learned, the worse I got at doing it and the less I liked my job.

I went to PM conferences, I read books, I went through PMP training and certification, and I never stopped thinking, “Yeah, right. As if I would ever get away with any of this with my team!”  There was just no way that any software developers I’ve ever worked with would put up with that kind of bureaucracy or allow their creativity to be hampered by committing to detailed plans. But I kept trying.

Then I went to a class on facilitation, where ideas about how to serve groups by being neutral on the content while owning the group process sounded great, but once again I was thinking, “Yeah, right.” How could a localization project manager be neutral on the content? If an LPM doesn’t ride herd on every detail and make most of the decisions, disaster follows!

That’s when I had my epiphany. Where I was going wrong was by trying to be in control of things. In practice—especially in client-side localization project management—we’re often the only people in our organizations who care about and understand localization well enough to make decent decisions, so we end up taking charge. But in theory, a project manager is supposed to serve stakeholders, get decisions from them, and generally run things according to guidelines set by them. Somehow I needed to get my stakeholders to take control.

I found some possible answers in facilitative leadership, which is all about sharing control and optimizing processes to achieve fluidly evolving goals.

I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have much to lose—I hated my job and my team hated me. It’s not like I could make anything worse. So one day I abruptly let go of all control. I announced at the beginning of a much-dreaded project review meeting that I was going to be neutral about the projects and just serve the group, and if anyone caught me showing opinions or trying to take charge of anything, they should call me on it.

It worked. In the space of two hours the team went from avoiding structure to asking me for more structure. They took responsibility for the project’s problems, they started listening to each other and collaborating, and they proved me wrong about them. They were a good, talented team who wanted to work together better. They’d just had a lousy project manager.

I’ve never looked back. My teams and I are all a lot happier. My stakeholders are making educated decisions. My groups are making plans, committing to them, and sticking to their commitments. They’re raising red flags to me. When I stopped trying to control things, they stepped up.

Facilitative leadership is all about guiding your groups to work better together. Facilitative leadership puts people and communication ahead of process, empowering diverse kinds of players to learn from each other, to evolve process improvements, to discover innovation opportunities, and most importantly to design and build group agreements, commitments, and plans.

When you succeed at that—when you get the right agreements and commitments up front, and when you enable the people in your group to work together well—your group can succeed no matter how lousy you are at traditional project management.

Bottom line: if people are the key to your effort, then I think facilitative leadership is the key to your success.

For all we might talk about the promise and benefits of technology in this industry, the challenging and inspiring fact is that the most important work is done by people, now and in the foreseeable future. This is why it is crucial for localization project managers to maximize our facilitative leadership abilities, to bridge the cultural, technical, and stylistic gaps among the many participants, and to resolve wisely the inevitable conflicts between technical issues, market needs, and resource constraints.

Like Tina argues, it’s all a matter of proportion. Project management has its place, and I use some of the basic techniques like Gantt scheduling and budget spreadsheets all the time. If I could get my team to adhere to a responsibility assignment matrix, I’d be thrilled. I just think all those tools are primitive compared to facilitative leadership, which adapts to and exploits the best part of working in localization: the fascinating people who do it.

Leave a Comment :, , , , more...

Artwork

Global Pragmatica's artwork includes paintings by Zsuzsi Saper and digital photographs by Erin Vang. Further notes on specific pieces of art are given at the bottom of pages in which they appear. All artwork is copyright 2009–2010 by Global Pragmatica LLC®. All rights reserved worldwide.

© 2009-14 Global Pragmatica LLC®

All content © 2009-14 by Global Pragmatica LLC®. All rights reserved worldwide.

Global Pragmatica LLC® is a registered trademark of Global Pragmatica LLC. The ® symbol indicates USA trademark registration.

Contact Global Pragmatica LLC®

info@globalpragmatica.com
+1 415.997.9671
Oakland, CA 94611