Even if your current organization does business in only one country, you should be prepared for a shift to more global projects.
Global project management is a skillset that is becoming increasingly relevant for those of us who, up to now, have relied on single-culture communication skills and traditional PM methodology. And it’s not something you can master overnight.
Understanding how to effectively manage virtual teams is about a third of your battle. As I’ve said in the past, the best virtual PMs assemble teams comprised of people with the three As – assertiveness, accountability, and the ability to work independently.
They are crystal clear about expectations, defining roles, responsibilities, team rules, and protocols upfront. These project managers ensure that a clear line of two-way communication is maintained at all times, especially as it pertains to issues that are time-sensitive or require escalation. They make use of the best collaboration technology to remove assumptions and guesswork and allow real-time conversations and feedback.
In addition to virtual PM management prowess, however, today’s PM leaders must comprehend cultural challenges associated with global teamwork. When team members don’t speak your language fluently, or it’s not native to them, it’s easy to misunderstand emails, instant messages, or texts. Yet you don’t have an in-person relationship to fall back on when a communication snafu does occur.
Team members may also work differently depending on their culture of origin. For instance, in some Asian cultures, employees won’t openly question authority. In Germany, punctuality is prized, but in Brazil, not so much. Australia and New Zealand are known as low context cultures, meaning that less explanation is required before team members embark on a task. It’s important to ask around and learn about these differences, and to have patience with any initial disconnects that may result.
Global projects also come with operational, logistical, and legal concerns. In the financial realm specifically, your reporting, compliance, and tax requirements will vary by country, and you should account for these in your implementation plans.
What better place to solicit guidance for building your global PM skills than a project management site that advises on co-located projects? Supplementing what we’ve already discussed, Neil Stolovitsky at the Project Perfect site in Australia offered the following considerations and tips:
Developing a strategy where face-to-face meetings are scheduled periodically will ensure better team cohesion and more quickly address bottlenecks and other performance issues. The fact is, nothing can replace real human interaction that will keep leaders, stakeholders and team members grounded in reality, so setting aside time for these meetings is critical.
Finding a standard language of communication is critical, and where this is not possible, appointing a lead resource to address translation will improve communication. Especially with global teams, leadership and work styles will vary. These styles must be recognized and addressed so that the entire global team can maximize performance and leaders and stakeholders can establish similar expectations when encountering issues.
Working with international teams will result in activities and issues emerging around the clock. Project leaders need to design a strategy where regular strategic meetings include a group of selected key members to relay the overall goals and objectives to their respective regions. In addition, these regional representatives can act as the conduit of information from their regions to the global leadership.
More than any other project environment, a global team’s access to information can be the most challenging. A formal strategy documenting project details and providing the means to readily access information 24/7 is critical in effectively moving a project on a successful path.