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When in Rome . . .

When leading a business meeting in France, don't sit at the head of the table.

And remember, a little small talk is crucial. In Japan, don't expect to debate an issue and make a decision at the same meeting.

GlobeSmart (www.globesmart.net), a Web-based training tool with information on how to conduct business with people from 30 different countries, won't help you master a new language. But it will help you find answers on how best to avoid insulting colleagues in Paris, Tokyo or Buenos Aires.

Produced by Meridian Resources Associates, a San Francisco global training and consulting company, the Web site was launched in January. Subscriber organisations, including founding customers Bechtel Group, Cisco Systems, Intel and Eastman Kodak, pay quarterly or yearly licensing fees to become members of the network, which offers information on culture and customs, communicating effectively, training and coaching, managing people and dealing with customers and suppliers.

The fees range from $US1000 for a quarter to $US16,000 for a one-year package, depending on the size of the subscribing organisation and the number of countries it wishes to access. Currently, there are 10 major subscribers, with roughly 1000 users each, as well as a handful of smaller subscribers, including university professors.

Self-assessment tests allow users to compare themselves with profiles of typical employees in France or Indonesia, while case studies require the users to solve business issues likely to pop up in target countries. The site also promises to help executives navigate sensitive situations, such as correcting the problem behaviour of a senior sales executive in Costa Rica, or informing a Chinese employee in Shanghai that he is not meeting company expectations. - Susannah PattoRumour KillerIf you doubt some of the things you read on the Net, despite their fervent claims of verity, bookmark one of the following sites. They track the origins and strange lives of Internet hoaxes, rumours and junk mail, and even find a legitimate item or two out there.

When you get that next heartrending plea for electronic signatures, go to your urban legend debunking site and, finding that particular message listed, rest assured that you are not being apathetic, just smart.

- Urban Legends and Folklore

(urbanlegends.about.com/culture) is the easiest to navigate and most joyously sarcastic of the bunch.

- Urban Legends Research Centre

(www.ulrc.com.au) lets you submit a research request.

- Urban Legends Reference Pages

(www.snopes.com) sorts items by category (animals, Coke, sex . . . ) and offers a good list of books and other sources of information on urban legends.

- Sandy Kendall

Can't Measure Heat With A Ruler

By Katherine Noyes

You may think your IT group is delivering significant value to your company's bottom line, but do higher-ups agree? Possibly not: In the wake of costly Y2K, ERP and e-commerce initiatives, there's been a widening gap within many organisations between the IT group's opinion of its value and top management's perception of that value.

What's a CIO to do? A recent report by Meta Group (www.metagroup.com) offers some suggestions. First, figure out how the IT organisation is currently expected to add value to the business. According to Meta, most companies envision one of three roles: 1) IT supports the business primarily by providing tactical support for current business processes.

2) IT operates like a business within a business, using its products and services to provide business solutions.

3) IT becomes the business by fusing operations and eliminating major differences between the business and IT planning, performance measurement and the like. Once you've figured out which one best matches your company's current expectations for IT, make sure you're measuring the value of IT appropriately - using the wrong metrics can hurt IT's credibility, Meta asserts. If your group is expected to fall within the first expectation, for example, value should be measured in terms of cost and efficiencies. For the second, the focus should be on effective resource investment. And for the third, according to Meta, what's most important is real value delivered to markets, such as IT's contribution to market penetration.

Finally, thinaction plan. Not surprisingly, Meta recommends using its Value Assurance Program to get your organisation headed in the right direction. But whatever route you take, thek about how you'd like the company to perceive your IT group.

Meta recommends creating a "value agenda" that defines and addresses the gap between current and desired value positions. That agenda should include strategies for bridging that gap: techniques for aligning value expectations, identifying value opportunities and creating a value "playbook", or end result - better alignment with the business - should be well worth the trip.

Cuss Control Academy

What the #%*$!

When the company stock drops 20 points in an afternoon, a shoot! or a darn! doesn't convey quite the same anger and outrage as a good ‘n' salty four-letter word. But before you shower your co-workers with enough profanity to make a wharfie blush, Jim O'Connor, author of Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing (Three Rivers Press, 2000) and founder of the Cuss Control Academy, based in the US (where else?), suggests that you pause and consider the consequences of your potty mouth.

"In the work environment, we all have frustrations and aggravations," says O'Connor. "But it's important to remain professional and have a can-do attitude." At the Academy, O'Connor teaches his students - often first-time parents shocked by junior's repetition of a naughty word or employees trying to kick the habit - that no matter how imaginative they are with their cursing, it will never earn them respect or admiration.

To help banish pernicious profanities from your vocabulary, O'Connor suggests choosing substitutes for your favourite oaths. We'd like to offer gadzooks, sakes alive and I'll be a monkey's uncle as excellent standbys.

Incidentally, O'Connor notes that because of the constant pressure of deadlines, journalists are among the worst offenders when it comes to office swearing. But we think that's a load of #%*$.

Visit www.cusscontrol.com. - Daintry Duffy

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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