Effect of time difference on global business

It’s a rainy Sunday morning, and I am at home with the youngest son, husband and mother-in-law. I wanted to listen to some music and turned on the radio (Usen 440). We have access to radio stations at various parts of the world, but as it has been for the past 2 years or so, I ended up selecting the station that was not location specific. Why? Because I wanted to listen to music that would enhance my enjoyment of morning feeling. The selection of music reflects not just what’s hot and popular in that particular location, but more than anything the time of the day. DJ’s character and attitude differs dramatically between morning traffic time and relaxing time of after work hours.

Because I’ve had to deal with time difference for for maybe 15 years and always being on the side who had to accomodate to the other side of the world, I did what I had to do, send fax, e-mail, call on the phone, participate in conference call. But difinitely, things would have been so easy if I was working with people who were on the same time zone as myself. Come to think of it, many years ago, I got worn out after 1 year of intense global projects coordinating communications between Tokyo, Paris, London, New York, Atlanta , San Francisco, Hong Kong and Bangkok, and I moved onto another position. And somehow, I ended up getting involved with similar situation recently, but it isn’t too bad because I am only dealing with two locations at a time besides Tokyo.

Reading Isaoblog’s entry (sorry folks, I thought the entry was in English but it’s in Japanese. Please use Babel Fish or similar traslation service to read it in English if you are interested) about difference in people’s attitude in a simultanuous meeting tighing up various parts of the world once, I thought, here’s another factor business people with no experince dealing with time difference thinks in working globally.

It is something we all take for granted, but we are animals who live in accordance with times and seasons punctuated with movement of our solar system. We are also social animal that take part in local behaviors. We have rules that are critical in building trusiting relationships, and one of them is being on time, reacting to behaviours and emotions of others. At midnight conference call, sitting in a dim apartment room, hush of the local world, talking to people in bustling daytime office, it takes much energy to synchronize. It takes so much energy, when we have been working for some period of time with such life, we begin to lose touch with local people. I think this is why projects fail, disharmony develops at local location.

No matter how convenient things become, easy connectability to communicate, reserve flight ticket, hotel and rent-a-car, this social and physical factor from regular rythmn of daily living, global business is never easy. Are there any company out there with real sympathy and good system to rigorously deal with this type of very hard to identify complex factor?

2 thoughts on “Effect of time difference on global business”

  1. Different time zone and customer relationship management

    Came back from Taiwan after an intensive customer training (yes, an excuse for my laziness in blogging), and found an entry at Suda Fujiko referring to my old comment. Before updating the silly pictures I took there, let’s elaborate it

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  2. I agree merely connecting people online never solves the communication gap we have and as you have stated, the freightening part is that sometimes we think the problem is solved while the gap is widening by adopting a quick solution. Nothing beats the face-to-face interaction, that’s what I learned (again) from the trip to Taiwan this week. I will blog this later in a different entry.
    And here it is for this topic.
    http://isao.typepad.com/blog/2004/02/different_time_.html

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