It’s during the war the Russians are waging on Ukraine and I got on a thread on a blog about why Putin is so violent. I replied that from Putin’s perspective – the US and Europeans represented an existential threat to him when they pull Ukraine into NATO and when the US pushes democracy eastwards.
On a much smaller scale it’s important to understand the culture in your clinical trial sites and manage in a fair process of being open and taking commitments, Technical/professional skills are not enough.
How cultural differences matter in your clinical trial
My friend Isaac Botbol told me that there is a famous but true story about a Texas oil company that was intensely involved in negotiating a substantial business deal with a major company in Mexico. The American team spared no expense in flying their experts to Mexico and presenting the benefits and long term rewards of their state of the art equipment, hardware and excellent customer support. Throughout the negotiations and long hours of working together, both the Mexican and American teams developed a camaraderie and respect for each other.
The Mexicans were satisfied with the proposal and agreed to proceed with the deal. The Americans were delighted. They phoned their legal department in Houston and instructed them to fax the contract to their Mexican counterparts. Since they felt they had completed their job the American team jumped on the next flight back home.
The Mexicans were incensed! They wondered how the American team could be so rude and insensitive as to just fax a bunch of papers and expect to seal such an important deal after weeks of working closely together. The Mexican team refused to sign the contact tried to have as little contact as possible with the American team.
Eventually, when the Americans inquired about the delay and discovered what had happened, they immediately went into damage control.
For the American negotiating team, the signing of the deal meant the final phase of a process. For the Mexicans, it symbolized the beginning of a relationship. They wanted to celebrate this milestone and make it personal. They wanted this important occasion to be marked by having all the major players and their spouses, from both sides of the border, to come together and enjoy a memorable dinner.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending because the American team was able to recover and the deal was finally signed. The lesson from this incident is quite significant because it teaches us the importance of being aware of the different cultural perspectives.
While the American business stance is to be task and results oriented, the Hispanic mindset places much more emphasis on the human side of business.
When dealing with clinical research sites in Europe (especially Italy, Israel and Greece) this lesson is just as valuable.
Clinical trial operations management in a global multi-center trial, is also about understanding the cultural differences. Whether they’re your customers, colleagues or direct reports – people want to see the business as well as the human side of your leadership abilities. They want to know that despite the language differences, you genuinely care about them and the work they do. Of course this is true in every workplace but driving home this idea and putting into practice, is much more difficult and challenging when there are different language and cultural expectations.