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Managing Time across Cultures
JohnBing,President,ITAPInternational,Inc.
Princeton,NewJersey,USA
Purposeandlearningobjectives
By providing the participant with specific information about how time is perceived and
organized in the country of interest and by facilitating discussion about the implication of
differences and development of coping strategies, the participant will be better prepared to
avoid time-related misunderstandings and to successfully accomplish his or her business
objectives in the designated country.
To make the participant aware of how culture can impact attitudes about time
To provide the participant with specific information about what typical daily, weekly, and
holiday or vacation schedules are like in a designated country, and how these compare to
corresponding schedules in his or her home country
To facilitate discussion about the strategies that the participant may need to employ to
adjust to differences in how time is perceived and managed (in a business environment) in
the country of interest
Targetaudience
This activity is geared to relocating international assignees or business professionals who will
be spending substantial periods of time conducting business in another country. It is gener-
ally best co-facilitated by a trainer and in-country specialist, but can be facilitated solo by a
trainer with the requisite expertise in the country of interest. It is ideally suited for use with a
single individual, but can be modified for use in a small group.
Time
10 to 20 minutes for presentation of information and discussion, depending on the partici-
pant’s interest and focus
Materials
Handout 1, “The Business Day,” Handout 2, “The Business Week,” and Handout 3, “The
Business Year—Vacation Holidays” prepared in advance by the trainer or by a country
specialist, if available
(Optional) Flipchart and markers
50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetency
182
Procedure
The procedure is the same for all three sections: 1. Daily schedule; 2. Weekly schedule;
3. Holiday or vacation schedule.
1. Have the participant jot down what each of these schedules typically looks like for him or
her in his or her home country.
2. Provide the participant with the country-specific information relating to a typical schedule
in his or her country of interest, either verbally or in a handout.
3. Discuss with the participant the implications of time-use differences between his or her
home country and his or her country of interest. Examples of discussion questions include,
but are not limited to, the following:
How and when are meetings with colleagues and clients scheduled?
When are reports due?
How are deadlines and priorities handled?
What are the expectations of superiors and subordinates?
How important is punctuality?
If the differences between the participant’s home country and their country of interest
are great, what adjustments or strategies might they have to employ?
What might the participant need to know or clarify about their particular assignment
or project regarding time-use issues?
Debrief
(Optional) Discuss with the participants what were the most surprising or significant learn-
ings and discoveries from doing the activity.
ManagingTimeacrossCultures
Reproducedfrom50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetence,byJonamayLambert,
SelmaMyers,andGeorgeSimons,editors.Amherst,MA:HRDPress,2000,2008
[Handout1page1]
The Business Day
National (or even corporate) cultures vary in the way in which time is managed during the busi-
ness day. Please sketch out below one of your typical days. Use the capital letters below to indi-
cate the timing of the following features of your day:
A. When you rise
B. Any work you do before you get to your office (including use of your cell phone)
C. When you get to work
D. Morning meetings
E. When you have lunch and for how long
F. Afternoon meetings
G. When you leave work
H. Whether or not you work at home and, if so, for how long
I. Bedtime
Visualize a typical day with your current workload; lunch is a business lunch with a client or
supplier you have met once. Plan two morning meetings and one afternoon meeting.
Example:Atypicalday
ABCDDEFFGHI
6:30 8:30 9:00 9:45 11:00 12:00 -
1:00
1:30 3:00 5:00 6:30 10:30
50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetency
Reproducedfrom50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetence,byJonamayLambert,
SelmaMyers,andGeorgeSimons,editors.Amherst,MA:HRDPress,2000,2008
[Handout1page2]
Typicaldayofamanagerinyournewculture
(To be filled in by the trainer or by the in-country specialist)
A B C D E F G H I
Yourtypicalday:
A B C D E F G H I
Notes:
ManagingTimeacrossCultures
Reproducedfrom50ActivitiesforAchievingCulturalCompetence,byJonamayLambert,
SelmaMyers,andGeorgeSimons,editors.Amherst,MA:HRDPress,2000,2008
[Handout2]
The Business Week
National (or even corporate) cultures vary in the way in which time is managed during the busi-
ness week. Use the chart below to compare typical weeks in your country of origin and your
destination country. Place the days in the blocks to show how you picture a typical week.
Yourtypicalweek:
Typicalweekofamanagerinyournewculture:
(To be filled in by the trainer or by the in-country specialist)

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