This post is published as part of a project management related global blogging initiative to publish a post on a common theme at exactly the same time. Bloggers from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UK and the USA have committed to make a blogging contribution and the fruit of their labour is now (literally NOW) available all over the web.
Victoria (Australia) is in drought, John Howard walks the early morning streets of Kirribilli is his Australian Olympic track suit, the internet is still miles behind mainstream media for accessibility and popularity.
I was a project manager.
The huge online classified sites are yet to be huge. Money flows to print advertising so steadily that the global newspaper industry dances and dances, unable to douse (or ignoring) the first few sparks that will eventually set Rome ablaze.
I was a project manager, in the newspaper industry.
In this weird digital dawn, newspapers are the most effective (and profitable) form of advertising to be had. Australia’s housing boom means that real estate advertising in particular sees a spike, with local papers in certain areas regularly carrying up to 80 pages of full colour “for sale” ads.
I was a project manager, in the newspaper industry, building production software for real estate advertising. OK. You get it.
It’s hard to imagine now, but print was so big, so powerful, so profitable, and the internet so (comparatively) slow, conference calling so tricky, SAAS so new, that we flew everywhere. All the time. All around the world.
My job was to manage (and work on) projects that would see our browser-based ad making software installed and in use by newspapers in different cities around the world. We were cutting edge (at the time), crusaders against the encroaching online profit thieves, purveyors of an internet tool that made it cheaper (more profitable!) to create print ads.
I’d start the project (a few at once) at home, then fly in, spend 3 days on site, train and dine with everyone, before moving on to the next one. I wasn’t away every week, but I’d go for up to 12 weeks a year. In that time I learned much about making business travel sustainable, even enjoyable.
So, here are my tips for the project management traveller. How to survive “Project management Around the World.”
1. They never weigh the suit bag
The airline I mean. They weigh your case, sometimes your flight bag, but never the suit bag. It’s possible to develop a natural looking stride with 30kg of disguised books, casually draped over your shoulder.
2. You can sleep on a suit bag
Think about it. 4 suits and an over coat makes a pretty good airport mattress. My suits weren’t the cheapest ones, but what did I care, the print dollar was gonna last forever.
3. Do something you do at home in the city you’re visiting
For me, it was sport. I’d go to a sporting event. You might find a yoga class, or a poetry slam. It’s the best travel blues trick I ever learned.
4. Get your project collaborators out of the house
These are people who share at least one interest with you. The project you’re on! You’ll be amazed at how many other interests you share once you’ve shared beer and/or food. Make some friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for some after-hours time from those you’re working with.
5. The plumbing in England is atrocious
There is nothing nice to eat in Norway.
Everything in America smells like artificially sweetened cinnamon.
Icelandic people are happy to eat whales.
South Africa is like being in a Ghost train ride. Scared 24/7.
You can find something wrong with every place you go. SO DON’T. That’s how they do it there (whatever IT is). Live it, respect it and appreciate the people you come in contact with.
6. The 7:00am Rule
Depending where you are in the world, 7:00am in your home town could fall at any hour. Whatever hour that is, whatever you are doing, when 7:00am ticks over in your home town, stop, put everything down and Skype your wife and kids.
7. You can buy pretty strong sleeping tablets over the counter in the US.
Asia is the place for cold and flu stuff.
8. Be a shameless tourist
If you get a day to yourself, don’t be ashamed to take the hop-on/hop-off tourist bus. You haven’t got time to mess around. Anyway, you don’t speak German.
9. Travel insurance
Get two policies, making sure you have excellent coverage for lost luggage. That’s going to happen and when it does, keep shopping until the airline rings you. Don’t ring them. They’re busy finding your case, besides, you’re busy shopping.
10. Fresh fruit
11. Project Management works (and fails) the same everywhere you go.
Regardless of the method, the people within the project are the key to its success. If you only have a few days, lead with energy and try to shake out any apathy (for the project) that you might detect. Energise the project team and try to leave them with momentum after you go.
12. Never ever forget that the world changes.
Today you’re on top, your particular industry is flying; tomorrow the story could be different. Count your blessings as carefully as you collect your receipts. Luckily, you’re a project manager, everybody needs ’em!