A rather large military-looking dude entered the theatre with his female companion in tow. They made their way through the empty theatre and directly to our isle where they moved in until they stood right in front of us. He had a freshly shaven and glistening head. She had a knowing smirk.
He began to address me angrily in German (is there any other way to speak German other than angrily?).
I had no idea what he was saying. I only knew he was really agitated. Finally I mustered up the nerve. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak whatever language it is you are yelling at me with”. His brows furrowed. My son looked at me hastily -- have you lost your mind?
The militant German broke the silence with a thick accent, “You are sitting in our seats” as he held up his tickets and pointed to the seat numbers on them.
Holy cow. Are you kidding me? Movie theatres in Switzerland assign seats? I’ve never heard of such a thing. And then, as I glanced around the otherwise empty theatre the absurdity of it all hit me. “I’m sorry man, would you like us to move?” Begrudgingly he said “no” and they slowly took their seats. Right next to us. And we all watched the movie. Together. Awkwardly.
It was a funny experience and it offers several lessons that apply well to technology projects. We weren’t familiar with the culture. We didn’t understand the language, and we had no idea what the rules were.
Large organizations can present the same challenges to the vendors they work with. Each organization has a unique culture, language and rules of engagement. From unique organizational structure to an overwhelming use of acronyms, it can be a big job for any vendor to fit in well.
If a vendor working on a complex project does not understand your culture, your language and your rules they will fail. And when they fail, your stakeholders will become large, militant, shaved-headed Germans who wear all black and shout obscenities in an unintelligible tongue. Trust me, nobody wants that.
At our company, WMtek, we are serious about understanding the culture, language and rules of our clients. We want our partner’s technology initiatives to be successful. It’s important. Our partners are doing the work of the Kingdom, and we have a responsibility in the matter.
How about you? Are you serious about taking the time and making the effort to help your vendors become “insiders” in this regard?
Here are three quick suggestions you might keep in mind:
Introduce new vendors to the nuances of your organization, including internal knowledge about how key stakeholders think and how the chain of command works.
Add a Glossary of Terms to the first Business Requirements Document you provide to vendors so they can understand your “insider speak” and Acronyms without confusion.
Negotiate the rules of engagement early. If you have very specific non-negotiables, such as the project management software that will be used, reveal your wishes before the contract is signed.
Most importantly, be flexible.
Sometimes vendors can introduce new culture, language and rules that will make your organization better. Make it a point to consider what they have to offer in this regard.
Your culture, language and rules really do influence the success of your technology projects. Give it some thought, and until next time, ”Gute Reise”.