March 29, 2012 By Mythili Baker
Being aware of and managing subtle cultural differences can make all the difference when managing a successful Global project.
Recently I held a post project review session as part of closing out a global Business Intelligence project. The objective was to share and collate feedback on what had gone well or not so well and why – so this could be passed on to future project teams. At the end of the call, I found I could summarise the type of responses I would get on a topic from each region:
- One region was very positive and seemed careful to respect any ‘organisational rankings’ within the team in terms of their feedback.
- Another region’s feedback was extensive and mostly negative.
- The other region has some no-shows and virtually no comments or feedback despite during the project being the hardest region to implement.
Perhaps if you’ve also worked on global teams you can guess which region was which?
For me it was a perfect summary of the subtle cultural differences we deal with on global projects. There is definitely a downside to global projects. We have calls at unsocial hours (it’s always someone’s bed time, someone else’s waking up time and another’s lunchtime). The 24hr turnaround always means tasks take longer than expected to complete. And the effort of communication is always so much higher.
On the other hand, diverse teams can generate improved productivity, creativity and results. There can also be a sense of excitement and discovery working with global partners which can drive team performances.
So are you getting the most out of diverse teams?
Below are some tips to make the pain worth it!
- Try to include a budget for an onsite team meeting. This can be a real team-building exercise where you can agree how you will work together, how to exploit each team’s strengths, and it’s amazing what a difference it makes talking to someone over the phone when you can picture their face.
- Agree the processes for working together, how you will report, resolve conflict and what is expected from each participant and region.
- Spend significant time upfront sharing each region’s vision for success.
- Avoid difficult topics (including introducing anything new) via email; remember 70% of communication is non-verbal, and subtleties are better communicated when you see each other.
- Utilise technology such as web cameras, online conferencing with video, as well as custom conference call facilities. These are definitely a step up from phone calls and can be used to substitute for travel.
- Involve the regions as much as possible in planning and talk about how you will communicate. Explain and use techniques like sharing personal anecdotes at the beginning of a meeting as ice- breakers.
So those are my experiences and tips, I’d be very interested in any stories or tips you can share at http://altis.com.au/getting-the-best-out-of-global-projects/