Global projects may involve people from the same international organisation based in different locations or may involve outsourced teams in India or China working on a project being project managed from another country entirely. The very fact that teams and people working on the same project are not located even in the same country is bound to lead to problems. Add to that language barriers and cultural differences and it’s surprising any of them are ever a success.
Yet global projects can be very successful, not least, because they can be a cost-effective way of delivering a project, but even the most successful global projects will have their up and downs, the most common being:
- Minimal Face-to-Face Contact
I have worked on projects (and still do) where team members are hundreds or thousands of miles away and sometimes I have never even met them. When there is no opportunity to build up a relationship with someone then minor misunderstandings can blow up out of all proportion so get into the habit of talking on the phone as much as possible, rather than always using email or Basecamp or whatever method of PM communication you use most.
- Time Zone Restrictions
When some team members are getting ready to leave for the day but others in another country are just arriving this can add unnecessary delays to a project when decisions cannot be made because all people concerned are not available at the same time. Try to make sure there is a period every day when everyone knows they need to be available in the office.
- Different Expectations
Differences in the attitudes to work quality, time-keeping, project schedules, status reporting etc are also common across different nationalities so make sure expectations of anything that is, or might, cause a problem is clearly documented and communicated.
It is always important for every project that the project manager gives regular, and constructive, feedback to the team but if you are managing a global project this is even more important. If a piece of work is merely satisfactory then you need to explain why and give a clear indication of how improvements can be made. If you don’t then how will the team members know what more is expected of them. But, at the same time, don’t dwell on trivial things that are not done 100% perfectly – remember perfection is the enemy of done.
- Team Spirit
Even if you cannot always meet or get to know all team members, make sure you do develop a relationship with key people on your global projects so that you can learn something of what motivates people in different countries. Also don’t forget to communicate regularly with them any news about the project such as feedback from the client. This way it will be easier to maintain high levels of team motivation.
These are just some of the specific challenges of managing global projects, but they are all difficulties that can be overcome.