Most Westerners joke about IST or Indian Stretchable Time (in contrast to Japan’s Just –In-Time management). When frustrations build up some people also refer to SomeHow InTime or SHIT-management in India.
For many western managers time and planning issues are always at play in dealing with Indian partners and employees. It is hard to understand why basic time schedules and deadlines are not upheld. It causes inefficiencies and logistic troubles. And why not give an early warning that some things will change so we can adjust our planning accordingly?
But to Indian people it is similarly difficult to grasp why Westerners stick to their agenda’s the way they do. How can anybody seriously believe that he or she can predict or guarantee how things will evolve in the future? What’s the use of making all those detailed arrangements if one expects things to change somehow? Because that is Indian reality; things change all the time. Family matters may intervene; authorities may intervene; accidents may happen, anything may happen. And yes, even shit happens.
In India, therefore, people make no strict separation of work and leisure. Appointments mean ‘more or less’. Waiting and delay are normal. Thus, planning is not always possible and not truly seen as useful. Better take plans as indicative but not final. In stead of buying into the ‘what if”-anxiety that Westerners would have (the assumption that things go wrong if we do not anticipate them), Indians just assume that there will always be a another time or opportunity if that is meant to be; if not in this life, than certainly in the next!
Dealing with time and planning in India requires Western managers to take a holistic perspective and manage on a short-term basis e.g. monitor and adjust your actions and those of others day-to-day.