A Global Perspective
As originally published on April 29, 2013
Managing Overseas Projects
All of us have had a fair share of success in managing projects either in our own cities and/or across our country. While some of us on a few occasions have had the fortune of also engaging in projects that are overseas (the meaning of overseas as in something significantly different in its time zone from where we live, or culture of how the people think, or even in a region that is developed or emerging as an economy), the bumps and accidents did come with a hidden benefit of applying the lessons learned moving forward. I am sharing some of those experiences in a much summarized manner to help Project Managers (PMs) out there looking to initiate such projects on a global level.
Managing projects in these environments is never similar to what we have here in our own backyard. In Part-I, I would like to take some time talking about how PMs (Project Managers) van adapt and adopt a global perspective to suit their needs while working on projects that have tentacles of scope overseas.
So here is a list of areas I see that we should all be sensitizing ourselves while we manage projects with scope as they say, “beyond the pond?”
- Technology Barriers:
- Maybe their ability to connect online is not as robust as we do since we have a built-in seasoned infrastructure with the internet. Our attitude toward the internet providers in the US is simply ruthless. If the internet is down, we feel the provider has to compensate us for the business losses and so the providers take every care to keep their fibers and servers humming 24-7-365. This is not necessarily the case everywhere and even terms such as bandwidth can be unheard in foreign locations and speed and stability of connectivity can be an issue although they are getting far better now. This also applies to telephone, video, audio, web-conferencing, and other media based technology tools needed to interact when meeting online. I literally misplaced a file on one occasion and my colleague emailed it to me to save my day.
- Time Zone Differences:
- This can be a killer and understanding give and take one shouldn’t keep expecting others to match their own convenient time to meet but also share the burden reasonably. Yes, you do not wish to engage in a red-eye session all the time, however, doing so once in a while can send a positive image to those team members across and motivate them to success. Leverage the time-zone differences and don’t fall a victim to it! I missed a call time once not realizing the time differences and had to come online with the hair ferry having visited me the past night. Wasn’t fun, but managed!
- Efficiency and Effectiveness (EnE) of Meeting and Working Style:
- You may send them an email with attachments and an agenda and find that they just opened it when they arrived at the meeting. Recall this is not knew and also happened when you or someone you know was in that embarrassing spot. This takes time and tolerance is needed as team members haven’t seen each other in person and are getting used to each others’ styles. When they travel to your location or somewhere even close to drive to, make it a point to meet them in person. Invite them over when they come close to your location likewise.
- They may take time to adapt and adopt to some of the tools and techniques that are possibly mundane to you. Giving them the time and then setting high standards usually sustains far better than any other approach. The goal is never to embarrass anyone online publicly but handle the gaps diligently and offer suggestions to take them offline. What matters is that the project shouldn’t suffer and each of us has to contribute toward our roles sincerely and diligently.
- Online Meetings:
- The rules of online meetings are dependent on how effective the web-conferencing tool works and the features it offers. In today’s world almost every one of these providers have the common critical features when it comes to conversations:
- Recording a conversation for recap, training, recapture critical points and so forth.
- Video and mike mute to keep unwanted noise out when you are listening to the speaker.
- Sharing the laptop with others online on this meeting.
- Knowing when to speak and when to interrupt, without drowning out someone’s voice.
- …and so forth
- Understanding their Needs:
- Be it a customer, team member, or a vendor, they are all partners in some form or the other.
- Their needs are more than just a list that needs checking them off.
- Going beyond the mile of their world and then looping it back into their daily lives is a key.
- Demonstrating via example and leadership increases trust between and within team members.
- Bearing Traits of a Global Leadership:
- High Energy for a Positive Mental Attitude!
- Respond to their Need with Speed!
- Illustrate a Concept using Videos, Images, and Graphics
- Avoid the barrage of power point death bullets
- Use tools and techniques of technology (minimum internet savviness)
- Always Nurture Relationships
Creating success with teams beyond the pond is something special and doesn’t come easily, however, with each iterative project managed efforts, you can learn exponentially on getting those breakthroughs to success. Don’t be surprised if and when one of those team members moves into your geographical area one day and you would be the first one they would remember and contact and take you out to dinner for a special reunion. Rejoice, Reflect, and Revive these Relationships.
Good Luck with your next overseas PM efforts!
In Part-II, we will talk about “Minimizing Culture Gaps” in the role of a PM as they manage projects beyond the pond.