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Planning in Intercultural Education

Updated: May 12, 2023

An application of the 12 Dimensions: Understanding how you and others favor either time or people when planning

Time-Oriented or People-Oriented Planning is the ninth of the 12 Dimensions of Culture that KnowledgeWorkx uses to map out the intercultural terrain. If you haven't already, you should read our introduction to the 12 Dimensions of Culture.

The main focus in the planning dimension is "How do you plan, and what is at the center of your priorities when it comes to planning?" It has two poles: Time Orientation and People Orientation.

Time Orientation - If you have strong Time orientation, then you put time at the center of your Planning scheduling. You might view time as “valuable”; “precious”; “money”. As a result, you try to “leverage”, “redeem”, “make the most of”, and “get the best value” for your time. You fill up your schedule with tasks and meetings with minimal breathing space, and you might work to make sure that meetings finish within the designated amount of time that is scheduled. Ad-hoc events might be more difficult to manage. In schools there is an obvious amount of scheduling that takes place on this pole.

People Orientation - If you are more People oriented then you would put people at the center of your scheduling. You are more flexible when it comes to time, and might be more used to ad-hoc meeting, and last-minute appointments. You might make last minute cancellations when other people are within your context and shift other things around to fit the people you have in front of you even if there were previously scheduled events and meetings. Have you noticed that some students seem to view time more casually than others and are chronically late for school? Parents or colleagues may show up unannounced and expect to be seen once they are in your presence.

When you have both preferences within the same team, that can result in all kinds of challenges.

Our International Director, Marco Blankenburgh, born in the Southwest Netherlands, was very time oriented in his planning. On a scale of 1-10 he would be at least an 8. Always five minutes early, he would get very nervous if he wasn't at meetings at least a few minutes before schedule, and would get upset and frustrated with people who did not stick to the times they set. When he was preparing to move to the Middle East, over 20 years ago, he was asked: "You are moving into a world that is very people-oriented in its planning, "How will you manage that?”

That question prepared him for the fact that people viewed time and planning differently. As a result he had to learn to plan in a different way as well. One of the most difficult things to learn is that, if you live in an environment where both people and time-oriented planning are living, you have to be ready for both. This is definitely true for international school settings.

On the Planning dimension you often have to learn to operate on the full spectrum of the two polarities, and this has consequences as to how you prepare for the meetings you have before and after school, and in your free lesson hours.

You might have a number of meetings scheduled, but you might not have a back-to-back schedule. And if somebody doesn't show up, somebody's late: then you have to mitigate for that in order to stay efficient and effective. You can read our article How to navigate “People” and “Time” for our tips on how to do that, and we've got some extra tips in this article.

Don’t assume that the meeting is going to happen just because it was scheduled and confirmed.

A positive way to ensure that it does happen is to make sure that you connect with the person before the meeting takes place on the day of the meeting (or the afternoon before, if it is a morning meeting). Connect with the person either by SMS or by phone, and say "Hi, I’m looking forward to meeting with you tomorrow, I hope that you received the documents I sent to you." By doing this, you confirm that you are looking forward to the meeting, and you will also typically hear if that meeting is still going to take place. By doing this, you also put yourself in front of a People-oriented person and make use of their attention on the people who are right in front of them.

Like all polarities on the 12 Dimensions, as a team you will need to decide how to move forward for yourselves as a team. Be mindful of the four key relational levels in schools:

  • Overseeing School Board and stakeholders relationship with Senior Leadership Team of the school

  • Senior leaders relationship with administration, registrar, marketing, teachers, and parents

  • Teachers relating to teachers, collaborative planning across curriculum, and teachers relationships with parents

  • Teachers with students

How do you deal with this dimension in each of these relational levels? And what, in your context, do you need to be ready for? How much flexibility will your people need to have to succeed in that particular context?

If you want to measure where people in your organization fall on the Planning dimension, or find out more about the Cultural Mapping Inventory and the 12 Dimensions of Culture, Contact us. You can also start your culture learning journey with our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.


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