Projects in other countries often follow a different approach to time management then Canada/USA.

The world is now highly connected so chances are good that you are working with people from other cultures (direct on your team) or are working with people that are in other geographical locations (other cities or countries).

Often in Canada/USA, when we put a time stamp on something (a meeting, a deliverable a start or end point) then we want to be exactly on that time stamp (not before, not after, but right on time).  PMI and other methodologies also teach that being on time is so critical since there are so many other interdependencies that could be impacted if the timing is off. Thus it can be said that Canada follows a much more rigid approach to time then many other cultures.  

Is this good or bad?   Had some great discussions about this topic on a webcast with another Project Manager from Brazil. 

Some neat ways to look at things included:

When we in NA stop at a stop sign, we come to complete stop.  They will slow down and only stop if it is necessary.  So in a PM perspective, it can be seen as:  
- in NA we follow the exact rule, like a waterfall approach, will have the plan and must execute the plan
- in Brazil, they can follow a more agile, fluid or dynamic approach, and have the guideline but the user has more power to decide exactly how much detail should be carried out in the plan

Food for thought, which way do you think is more advanced?    Which way do you think empowers the resources more?  Which way do you think people will also have more pride and ownership over the decisions they make?  Which approach  allows for more innovation and trust with the people doing the work.

Check out the webcast at where a Guest Speaker talked about this topic and lives it as he works on projects between South America Culture and Canadian Culture:

HOWEVER, on the other hand, it can be seen as disrespectful and cause conflicts if some people arrive on time or execute on time and others do not.  Also the level of interdependence of tasks within projects needs to be managed, thus being late for one thing may lead to being late in a lot of other things and lead to major risks in scope, schedule, cost, quality, etc.

The key thing the PM must do is to understand the culture operating within the project and how timeliness for meetings, deliverables, etc is to occur.  This needs to be reviewed, documented and formally discussed at the earliest stages of the project. Set foundations of how things should be for the life of the project.

More food for thought can include.........

Another way to look at time is what it means to that person in that specific moment and in relation to the longevity/randomness of the event:
  • 1/10 of a second to someone who missed an Olympic gold medal in sprinting
  • 10 seconds to someone who missed a gold medal in long distance marathon
  • 1 hour to someone who missed a high mortality multi-vehicle pile up
  • 1 day to someone who missed a massive earthquake or tidal wave

Another way to look at time in a more humourous way came from a recent blog by Jeff Mowatt:

Business Etiquette - Are you On Time?
Question: What time should you arrive for a 10 o'clock business meeting?
  • 9:50 - you're bright and early
  • 9:55 - you're early; but not so early you look like you're wasting time
  • 9:59 - you're there in the nick of time
  • 10:00 - you're exactly on-time
  • 10:05 - meetings don't get going for the first 5 minutes anyway

I learned the answer years ago as a first year business student at the University of Calgary. A HR manager from Trimac Trucking came in to speak to us about the real world of business, making a positive impression, and getting hired. He explained that if you show up for a meeting late, you're disrespectful to others. Showing up 10 minutes early indicates you haven't got enough to do. Arriving exactly on time or 1 minute early makes you look rushed and disorganized. Hence, the correct answer to convey courtesy and competence is b) 9:55.