Today is a "snow day" in Washington, D.C. For regular folks, yesterday’s forecast for 6 inches of snow meant braving massive, panicked crowds at the grocery store to stock up on canned goods and other essentials in case the roads became unpassable (once, I saw a frantic woman empty an entire shelf of canned green beans into her shopping cart – she is probably still trying to eat or give away that mountain of cans). For the Federal Government, the forecast was enough to close most offices in the city. I’m from the state of Michigan, where it takes several feet of snow all at once to cause this kind of reaction, so winter behavior in D.C. has fascinated me ever since I moved here. However, the occasional snow day can be very productive. A little extra sleep, a little extra time to get caught up on critical thinking tasks which would inevitably have been interrupted in an office - and for me, time to get caught up on prep for my CSC adventure.
Which brings me to the real point of this post. In addition to being a snow day, Today is February 17. This means that I will be boarding my plane to Morocco in exactly 10 days. Between reading through pages of material on Morocco in an attempt to be prepared to work in this foreign land and wondering how the prep time flew by so quickly, something occurred to me.
We’ve been spending a lot of time in our pre-deployment phase focusing on what is going to be different in Morocco. We studied our cultural and individual work style and compared it to how Moroccans approach their work. We compared our work style to others on the team to see where the differences where. We’ve talked about how to dress in this different environment and how to conduct ourselves in meetings. We’ve talked about how our CSC roles are different from normal IBM work. All of this is absolutely appropriate, but to be really prepared I think we should also be turning these ideas on their head and consider not only how we are different, but also how we are similar to Moroccans and to each other.
In working through some team building activities we’ve started talking about what individuals on our team have in common with one another – but we really haven’t broached the subject of how our collective experiences, personalities and skills are the same or similar to those of the folks we’ll be working with in Morocco.
A program like CSC would not work if there were not significant things our team has in common with both each other and with Moroccans. The common space is the foundation we will build on to understand our clients and help them identify solutions; it is also the lens through which we will be able to identify and understand our more significant and relevant differences. It’s what enables IBM as a global company to do business effectively in every permanently inhabited continent on this earth.
A snapshot of the things I think we have in common with our Moroccan clients and with each other – which I’m sure I’ll be able to improve as we actually get to work together in Casablanca:
- We are all highly motivated professionals looking for new work challenges and skills.
- We all recognize the value in collaboration with highly skilled partners to find innovative solutions.
- We are all experiencing some economic uncertainties in our home nations – globally, unemployment is high and markets are constantly shifting.
- We all want young people across the globe to have access to quality jobs, civil society, and stable social communities
- We are all mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, spouses, and friends to others in the places we call home – and we miss these people while we are away from them
- None of us are 100% representative of the country which we call home; there are different opinions, cultures and operating environments in every country and none of us can speak for them all because we are unique individuals
- We have all been in situations where we needed help to identify the best path forward in our professional lives and in our personal lives
- We have all been in situations where we helped someone else identify the best path forward in our professional lives and in our personal lives
- At one point or another, we’ve all had trouble communicating an idea at work
- We’ve all had some great ideas and some not so great ideas
- We all understand the importance of technology, communications, and innovative problem solving to make tomorrow an improvement over today
- We all hope that the work IBM’s CSC teams do in Morocco this March will make a lasting positive improvement on the Moroccan clients we are supporting and are willing to work hard to make that the case.