What Happens When You Build Global Teams?
According to business authors Jean Binder and Utkarsh Rai, many companies leap at the chance to save money by building global teams, without fully understanding the consequences of shifting work across multiple countries and cultures. Binder and Rai's definition of global project management emphasizes the need for company leaders to recognize the cultural implications of mixing skilled workers from many nations, along with the tactical steps required for teams to collaborate effectively.
A lack of trust among team members can hamper even straightforward tasks. Even among highly professional team members, assumptions about race and culture can act as roadblocks to getting things done. Tteam leaders must designate resources throughout a project to focus on team building, trust building, conflict resolution, and coaching. Successful practitioners utilizing a global model understand that the efficiencies of spreading work out globally can be reinvested into this focus on soft skills.
Connecting with colleagues across an office can be challenging enough, which is why the definition of this global business model emphasizes a set of tools for communication. Successful project managers develop templates for routine communication to help eliminate language and communication barriers. Because team members in different cultures might have reservations about communicating project status, developing regular rules and systems makes communication transparent and consistent.
Building a global team requires a different approach to human resources issues, such as recruiting and scheduling. Practitioners must spend time educating teams on the rationale for going global. Understanding the strengths and opportunities of each cultural group allows project managers the ability to make decisions based on data instead of on stereotypes and assumptions.
Without the right tools, global teams can quickly become unproductive. Going global means leaders must invest in systems and technology that allow team members to communicate and collaborate effectively across time zones and national borders. While collaborative tools can include some of the most advanced project management software suites on the market, successful leaders tend to help team members make more effective use of basic tools, such as email and conference calls.
Because team members from different cultures tend to share information in different ways, team leaders must develop strong collaborative skills. This focus on collaboration extends beyond the use of tools, into encouraging team members to learn from each other’s best practices. Effective global teams gain a cross-cultural insight that makes them even more valuable to organizations and to their customers.
What This Means For Your Organization
While the definition of global project management evolved from a need to get workers from many nations working more closely, many of these tools and principles can be applied to any organization. Understanding the cultural differences between team members can help most companies get past the trust and communication issues that may be holding them back. You can learn more about this in Ceil S. Cantoria's excellent article on Becoming a Global Leader.