Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Global Lifestyle Time Challenge

I had a subtle career milestone today. Today I became fully aware that I was now "Global" ... with a capital "G" I think.

At about 6:30 am Central time I checked email at home before leaving for the airport. I saw an email from a business leader in the UK which set off alarms in my head that an important business decision my client needed to make was not being addressed. Knowing that a politically important deadline is approaching, I fired off a "this is a big issue!" email designed to alarm my readers that something important was not happening.

About 8 am Central time today I was waiting for a flight at the airport and my cell phone went off. It was that same business leader in the UK who took notice of my alarm. I don't know about you, but I don't get cell phone calls from people I've never met from other countries every day.

Shortly after arriving at my destination on the East Coast of the US, I scheduled a web meeting for tomorrow morning between people in Baltimore, Raleigh, California, and Beijing.

Later I was on a call between the US and Canada talking about interfaces to a system in China.

Still later I discussed architecture diagrams showing system components in Rochester (NY), Boulder, Dallas, Tulsa, Phoenix, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Toronto. I tried to figure out if the component in Hong Kong was really necessary. Could it be co-located with the rest of the stuff in Beijing?

I ate a hurried dinner of Tandoori Takki with two co-workers. One is a Norwegian citizen born in China but holding an American green card and the other was born in India but has been working in the US for a while. My history is boring compared to theirs.

Five minutes after checking into my hotel, I joined a conference call between the US and China but the co-worker from China didn't make the call. My co-worker later came online in China on instant messenger later and I pinged him about the call he missed. It turned out he was double booked for that timeslot. Heavy sigh. When are we going to solve time zone issues for calendars? I made sure he had the information for the web meeting in 9 hours.

This globalization thing isn't all its cracked up to be. Exactly when is it I am supposed to have some calm moments to think? When is it I am supposed to get more exercize like my doctor told me? Will the guy in California get up to make the web meeting at 6 am his time? Did I even have a right to call a web meeting that required someone to be there at 6 am? Will the guy in Beijing who has to join at 9 pm his time have a decent Internet connection? Did I have a choice on the time given that the guy we want to talk to was available then and it was a comfortable 9 am for him? Will my flight home on Friday be on time so I can make my daughter's piano recital? How early do I set my alarm clock for tomorrow? Early enough to hit the hotel treadmill or late enough to get another hour of sleep?

I have another trip to China coming up in two weeks. It is still fun for now. I can see how this could get old. I would love to hear how my readers in similar situations are handling the demanding hours, encroachment upon personal time, cultural differences, etc.

FYI, globalization has been a frequent topic of mine. You might take a look at some previous posts such as:

(Dec 2007) English not your native language? I've begun making podcasts of popular posts and they are available at Listen online at that URL, with the MP3 player below, or subscribe to the podcast using the RSS feed and listen with your favorite MP3 player.

Copyright © 2007 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.


scott said...

Phil - I'm working with people in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Sydney and have been thinking about a similar post for awhile now. The time zones actually get ridiculous - I have been on calls at all hours of the day, as have my colleagues. You are spot on about the rest - I feel like I'm always on!! I also think alot of US-focused colleagues think I'm skipping out when I take a mid-day break sometimes.

Tiring, but exciting!

Philip Hartman said...

Mark - Thanks for taking the time to let me know I'm not alone. It sounds like you are experiencing the same thing but haven't found a solution yet either. Heavy sigh. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe its permanent.

Peter Kelley said...

I'm sure that you have already seen it but has a meeting planner at which can at least let you know the least worst time to schedule international meetings. They color code time slots. Green = Awake and at work, Yellow = Probably awake but not at work, Red = probably asleep. If there is a timeslot with no red in it this tool will help you to find it.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered "Team Analytics" which is an offering on the Technology Adoption Program (TAP) website
It has a feature called "Timezone Pain" which lets you see the normal working hours of the individuals and where the most likely time might be available for all of you. It doesn't look up the time in their Calendar but it does give you a graphical representation of Your Timezone and Theirs and where the typically best available time for a meeting might be. There are so many other useful features of Team Analytics as well.
I chose to integrate Team Analytics with Lotus Notes as described at the TAP site. Now when I receive a note from IBMers in different timezones I can click on my Team Analytics button and I see Graphically where our work hours coincide. I also see their organization, blue pages and other data automatically which helps me visualize their relationships and where they fit in a matrix organization.
Shawn Flynn