The Challenges of Managing Global Projects

Global projects are an increasing reality for those working in a Multinational environment. It is commonplace to work with people in far-flung corners of the world, across different time-zones, united by the goal to deliver the project on time. There are lots of advantages to global teams, eliminating the need for shift-work, giving access to niche expertise, and facilitating lower project cost through use of a blend of near-shore and far-shore locations.

It’s not all plain sailing once the global project kicks off. Everyday tasks are more challenging, trying to get everybody across different locations to reach consensus can be like herding cats – a challenging pursuit. A few months into the project and the initial positive outlook can be a distant memory, with cultural differences and mixed messages causing distrust and negativity within the team.

We at Aspira have the capability and experience to cope with these challenges and set up a global project team to be successful. Our experience of working on international projects with a team spread all over the globe helps us to assist and manoeuvre around obstacles in a proactive manner – we have learned how to gather up those cats.

“Building up trust between team members requires that you demonstrate consistency between what you say and what you do.”

Managing the Global Team

Trust is an important element for any high performing team. It takes time to build up, but can be easily lost. Poor communication and mixed signals can cause some parts of the project team to feel superfluous to requirements and exposed. Then defensive behaviours set in and the circle of trust gets broken. It’s downhill all the way after that.

As with some many things in life, the key to successful management of global projects is to have strong channels of communication. Communicate, communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more. Building up trust between team members requires that you demonstrate consistency between what you say and what you do. That means communicating clearly and then living up to what you’ve said.

It also helps to be mindful towards the others working on your dispersed team – be aware of the different time zones in which the individuals operate. It will not always be possible to get that perfect time slot that suits everyone, but having consideration for the team is important so that the same people are not expected to climb out of bed to join conference calls each week – the pain should be shared. There are various online tools which are available to help you to quickly work out timings for cross-time zone meetings.

Our experience is that global teams will appreciate you simply asking the team at the start of a project what their time zone is and explaining you will do your best to ensure that any online conferences or calls with take this into consideration. You explain that there may be the odd occasion where calls need to occur at an inconvenient time for someone, somewhere. Variation in the times is key as everyone will feel like their individual time zone is being taken into consideration.

“We are all guilty of pinging off emails and forget sometimes that we have a phone.”

Religious and National Holidays

Not as easy it sounds. If you are a global manager, understanding your team’s background is crucial. Being aware of local custom and events is definitely an important part of successfully managing a global team. National holidays can easily be picked up off the internet, it is always a good idea to put these into any project calendar, and then ask the individuals to check the project calendar to ensure these are correct. As religion is always a personal subject, a private email or message is recommended to ensure inclusion without prejudice. We use which has both time zones and holiday information collated in one place for easy access.

Collaborate Effectively

Checking in with team members and occasionally using the phone is a great way to encourage collaboration. We are all guilty of pinging off emails and forget sometimes that we have a phone. If you have a long list of questions, firing off emails might seem like a good idea, however we suggest that the occasional call , and sometimes a little bit of chit-chat goes a long way to getting the best out of the team. Speaking on the phone can often help to convey a complex message which might otherwise be misconstrued over email. It is good practice to encourage team members to do the same. Remote working can sometimes feel a little like you are disconnected with head office or others in the team so this small gesture can go a really long way.

Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Unless something absolutely impacts results, it’s important to try not to get too worried about people’s individual approaches to their work, or their unique work style. Everyone communicates differently and each person has their own style. There are many different ways to get the job done; one way isn’t always the only way and some of these variations might be because of cultural differences. At the end of the day, the project is about getting the right results, it’s about achieving goals.

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