The world is becoming smaller for corporations with engineering, product development, and manufacturing often located in different parts of the world. Cultural differences, language, geography, and time are all factors that must be considered if project stakeholders are to have a realistic expectation of the additional time and effort required when working with globally diverse project teams.
Staying Up Late or Getting Up Early-Share the Pain
Working with teams in different timezones can sometimes be challenging when you need to get the whole team together. Particularly if we’re talking about a time difference of 10 or more hours. For example, as I write this at 7:45 am local time, it’s 11:45 pm in Tokyo, 2:45 pm in London, 12:45 pm in Rio, and 10:45 pm in Beijing. The challenges of putting together a project team meeting with a globally diverse workforce sometimes are as basic as determining what time to hold the meeting. http://newtimezone.com
Nobody on the project team should be asked to regularly stay up until 2:00 am just to make it more convenient for you. Everyone on the project team should be able to share the burden of an inconvenient meeting time once in a while. A simple solution is to try to hold team meetings when everyone is at work, which might be early in the workday where you are and later in the workday where part of the team is located-at least everyone should take turns meeting at inconvenient times. (Here is where my mother would remind me about the Golden Rule and doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.)
Do You Have Frequent-Flyer Miles?
Sometimes you’ll just have to bite the bullet and bring the team together…
In Philip Crosby’s book, Quality is Still Free: Making Quality Certain in Uncertain Times, he says, “Quality is free. It’s not a gift, but it’s free. What costs more than money are the unquality things-all the actions that involve not doing the jobs right the first time.” Some of the money saved by working with global teams will need to be invested in enabling those teams to work well together-and sometimes that requires some time to physically be together.
If you’re working with global project teams, make sure you enroll in a frequent-flyer plan.
Sprechen Sie Deutsches?
The nuances of different languages beg for miss-communication. Even where your particular language is spoken as a second language, it’s critical that communication be clear. We need to be cautious, particularly where the lion’s share of communication is done via email, where body language and facial expression are not available to aid understanding. Video conferencing is a good option, but at the very least, make sure emails contain all the information necessary to communicate your ideas clearly. I try to address all my emails with a salutation and a name to remind me that I am actually communicating with a real person. Even amongst my co-workers, where English is our native language, we sometimes misunderstand and misinterpret an abrupt email.
If part of what defines a culture is our shared experiences, taking time for global team members to become better acquainted-and share experiences to create a team culture is important. This is true even if your team only spreads across the United States. Take the time for global teams to become familiar with their varied customs and cultures.