Global Project Management--5 Tips to Manage a Global Team
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IT Project Blog Guest Article by Lynn Anderson
One of my colleagues asked me this question which I believe pertains to many of you out there. “With so many companies outsourcing services to places like India, China, and Poland, as well as having operations in countries around the world, how can a manager handle all the requirements to coordinate meetings, manage their people, and still find time for strategic planning?” I put together five basic tips to help her manage her global team and I hope you can benefit from this as well. Remember, no matter where your team is located there are still some basic concepts like trust, knowing what talents each member brings to the team, and positive motivation that will help you and your team achieve great results. Building synergies is as important as creating a plan.
Here are my five tips to help you manage your global team(s):
- Leadership by exception.
What I find with teams that are in many different locations and time zones is that the managers or leadership wants to have an unhealthy amount of meetings to help coordinate activities. Why is this necessary? Just stop all the meetings. If you have a great project management tracking tool that creates the right metrics, gathers the right information, and keeps everyone apprised of the status of the program or work efforts, there is no reason to have an exorbitant amount of status meetings. Stop doing it!
Ask yourself, what is the real purpose of the meeting? If the purpose is to update or is just one way conversations, then do not have one. Use another avenue to communicate the information or pull updates. If you are looking to brainstorm new ideas or work on critical issues that need immediate attention then by all means have the meeting. Also, when you do have the calls, be sure there is a published agenda and that you keep focused on the items at hand. Short, sweet and to the point meetings are what your employees are looking for. Chances are you are wasting everyone’s valuable time and energy on too many meetings, so evaluate the purpose and effectiveness of what you have in place. Look at other ways to track status and progress. Appoint key location leads to help gather critical information without having to get all your employees on a late night call.
Create team synergies. No matter where your team is located, creating a powerful and effective team that knows and trusts each other is critical. Look at ways to have fun and create momentum. Choose to have a few strategic gatherings but make it count. If that is not possible to do in person, create an online community using Facebook or another social on-line application that allows the team members to get to know each other remotely which they can check and manage on their own without additional calls. Do some fun team exercises per location and tie the locations together through video conferencing or Skype.
Building trust will allow you to gain momentum as well as realize the value each team member brings to the table. Be creative and challenge your teams to come up with some great team interactions. Investing upfront in your team will also go a long way toward success, especially when the tasks or timelines become critical.
Have clear goals and celebrate achievement. No matter where your team is, be sure that the vision for the team and the goals they are setting out to accomplish are clearly articulated. Create clear benchmarks and metrics that you track as a team, updating these goals virtually so that everyone can see the progress the team is making. Create success celebrations, locally and globally to share together the successes the team accomplishes, no matter how small.
When there are challenges, reach out to the team virtually to gather brainstorming ideas and suggestions on how to help solve the issue and recognize participation in that process. Create programs or awards for those that post or provide insights, ideas, or suggestions. Get everyone involved in the process and encourage them to participate, for every idea is a good idea whether you use it or not.
Respect. No matter what you do, respect the many cultures, holidays, and activities your team members participate in and do not let work boundaries filter into home/life boundaries. Showing that you have respect for your team and recognizing that they have a life outside work will serve you many times over. Employees who feel you care and respect them will go the extra mile when you need them to.
Create a team calendar on-line and at their location which is posted clearly for all to follow the many different holidays, vacations, etc that team members are part of. Celebrate these activities and holidays. Learning is a form of growing and having each member learn about the others cultures and activities will only serve to grow your team’s capabilities. Also find time to give back when asking to receive. For instance, you might have a key strategic meeting that requires team members to have evening calls. If so, seek out any challenges that requirement will bring to the team members.
Also, look at other options such as having those individuals come into work later in the day, or be flexible and allow them to attend some other family friendly or personal events during work time since you are asking them to give some of their personal/evening time to the team. Understand and respect each team member’s commitments both professional and personal. Flexibility and respect go a long way.
Planning and coordination are a must. When teams are working in multiple locations there is no substitute for a solid plan and coordinating that plan through sound project management techniques and governance. For any project or team, this is a critical step but for teams that are working in multiple locations and over multiple time-zones and countries this rule is a requirement. Without the proper governance and management practices, time and energy can be wasted and projects or work can really get off track quickly. There is no substitute for the basics and with global teams this is essential.
Ask yourself, how are our processes and procedures? Are they clearly articulated? Do we have the proper tools in place to manage the work, plan the work, and track the work? If your answer to any of these questions is “No” than you need to tackle this quickly and decisively. Chances are you are having to do all the meetings as we discussed in tip #1 because you did not have the proper tools and processes in place in the first place. So while this is the last tip I have provided, it should be the first one you tackle.
If you are creative and look for ways to build trust, respect, and teamwork, then no matter what the location, you will serve your team well. Studies show that workers who are provided freedoms to leverage their talents and are respected for what they bring to the table will be highly productive and enthusiastic employees. This universal principal will provide you support no matter where the employees or support organizations are located. If you trust and let your team get the job done, you will certainly have more time and freedom for your strategic thinking. Be bold and promote freedoms no matter what country you or your team is located in.
Lynn Anderson is Chief Executive Officer of Coaching4Abundance LLC (http://www.coaching4abundance.com ). Lynn has over 25 years working in the government, corporate, consulting and now entrepreneurial world. She focuses on the positive and continues to look at all dimensions of her life including those of a successful business women, wife, mother, tennis enthusiast and friend to those she comes in contact with. Her philosophy is to live each moment in a positive way, remember your true core values, and live life to the fullest in every possible way.