Major corporations regularly embark on global projects that involve teams in diverse geographical locations. If you are considering embarking on a global project, or are already involved in one, then consider these factors that will have a huge impact on the success or failure of your project.
Diverse geographical location
When a team cannot regularly come together for face-to-face meetings, communication difficulties will arise. Small issues can become big problems because they will not be resolved during the course of regular conversations. Email becomes relied upon too heavily, with all the consequent opportunities for misunderstandings to arise. Instead, you could use a service such as Slack to improve communication. You also need to have a good document management system in place so that all team members can easily access the files they need.
Time zone constraints
Diverse teams should adjust their typical working day, wherever feasible, to ensure that there is a reasonable period of overlap between all the teams involved in the project so that there will be a response to phone calls and emails within the same working day. Even on days when there are no scheduled conference calls or reports due, every member of the team should be available for impromptu discussions at a certain time of day, every day. By ensuring this, there will be no unnecessary delays whilst information is unavailable or whilst decisions need to be made. Moreover, there is even more emphasis on holding productive conference calls when dealing with a global team, as this is your one opportunity to move the project forward.
Attitudes in the workplace vary greatly from culture to culture. In some environments, problems will not be reported soon enough in the belief that extra hours and manpower can overcome any potential issues. This can often result in the problem becoming worse than it need have been, but entrenched attitudes to admitting there is a problem are difficult to change in some cultures. It is important that everyone makes an effort to understand and respect cultural differences so that friction does not arise.
Lack of team spirit
It is difficult, but not impossible, to instill team spirit into a diverse group of teams with different first languages and cultures. There can often be rivalries and resentments between the teams, yet it is vital for genuine project success that all the teams work towards a united common goal. The global project manager should aim to understand what motivates the diverse teams at the outset of the project through frank discussions with the key team members. Building good working relationships with the local project managers will help enormously in understanding and motivating the project teams and in building up an environment of trust and loyalty between the global and local staff members.
If you focus on the above elements, you can increase your chances of project success. There is no denying that there are some clear challenges when it comes to global projects, but it is nothing that you cannot overcome.