How to Avoid the Pitfalls of International Holidays on your Projects

Time to gear up and get your schedules all organized. It might sound pretty simple, but it takes some planning and forethought to keep it all straight and to make sure you aren’t leaving anyone out or forgetting about anyone’s specific cultural holiday observances.

As we become more culturally diverse and grow with more global affiliates and international projects to manage, it is critical to understand and recognize all the various holidays. In doing so, we can minimize downtime and unplanned delays in our projects due to meeting cancellations, absences and no-shows. With close to 200 countries world-wide, each with their own religious, cultural and national government holidays, we can face  a lot of downtime in our schedules. And, this isn’t even including vacation time ! Factor that into the equation and there are a lot of days in a year to account for and keep track of.

Here’s a list of 10 key ideas to help you and your team avoid suffering from these oversights.

  • Be mindful and respectful. Other team members in other locations have the same rights to take their holidays as you do, so don’t be surprised if they tell you about it one week before. It is your responsibility as the Project Manager to account for these dates in your plans.
  • Be cognizant and identify your global team members. For example, if you have important team members in India or China, avoid planning an important customer meeting during India’s Diwali holidays or the Chinese New Year.
  • Get organized. Create an “Online Project Absence Calendar” or OPAC to include all the important dates, and set it up on-line for easy access:
    • Google Calendar is a good tool. It is free, convenient and extremely easy to use.
    • For Apple users, check out various iCloud apps.
    • Online calendars can be set as private-view or shared, with either read-only or with full-edit control allowing all or certain team members to access them. Once installed, all your team members can immediately see when others in the team are absent and for how long. See more links below.
  • Get input from everyone and encourage on-going, open communication. Ask all your team members to provide their local and national holiday schedules plus vacation time and any personal planned absences well in advance, and add it to your OPAC.
  • Keep your records up-to-date. Make sure the information remains current and accurate. Review it in your team meetings on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
  • As new team members come on-board or others leave, it is important to update the OPAC with any new dates so it remains precise and reliable. If your project OPAC contains irrelevant information, it won’t be of much value and your team will be less likely to use it.
  •  Include other important dates: important company events, annual social corporate events, product launches, quarterly or year-end financial deadlines are great to include as reminders.
  • Don’t forget to include local holidays in your production or manufacturing schedules and adjust task durations as necessary.
  • Expect the unexpected. Regardless of how thorough you plan, your project will probably face unexpected absences due to illness, emergencies, natural events, or even things that team members forgot to tell you about. So be prepared and understanding!
  • Avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. From a human relations standpoint, it is important to respect others’ differences. Effectively working with others requires mutual understanding. And, it is crucial for good project management. It helps foster a friendlier and productive working atmosphere. If your team members feel that they are being respected and understood, they will be more willing to work with you and get the project completed satisfactorily.

With it being so easy to sync everyone’s holidays and schedules together in one easily accessible online location, there is no reason not to get started and be organized. Improve your project management and make this the year to proactively harmonize your calendars!