The globally connected project team

-3 techniques to stay connected to your team

Managing a global team and working as a team member in one should be a very rewarding experience for everyone involved. The “global team” is the penultimate design for any project team, leveraging the diverse perspective of everyone involved.  By global team I do not only mean a geographically dispersed team across the world, but more importantly a team that includes people from across the world with different perspectives and working styles.

The reality for most of us however is that the definition of global or virtual teams includes at least to some degree a geographically dispersed team, and it is therefore important that the PM sets the stage for a collaborative workspace allowing for both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.

1-      Dynamic virtual meetings, make the experience as “real” as possible

Others authors on this site have covered their experiences with various collaborative tools and I find the development in this area fascinating, mainly because the experiences that global teams have while using the tools help further develop and define the optimal way to collaborate globally.

While I utilize a specific set of collaborative tools in my work every day, I believe the following applies to global teams working with any product suite. From the PM’s perspective it is critical that you establish a “rich” environment.  A “rich” environment draws on various technologies to help the project team communicate, collaborate and work effortlessly across the technologies employed.

Video – Video – Video – The most important element to allow the project team to get familiar with each other.  Multiple technologies now allow the project team to share real-time video while in meetings, but I believe that it is equally as critical that “offline” conversations or presentations between team members that do not occur while everyone is present are captured and shared.  In my work we have had much success capturing meetings, whiteboard brain-dumps or hall-way conversations on hand-held videos and sharing them with team members across the world. The team gets a sense of the communication that takes place outside of the regular scheduled team meetings.  The hand-held video can also be used to record short videos for the team from stakeholders, project sponsors, or project updates from team members who are not able to make meetings. Engaging the project sponsors and stakeholders in this type of information sharing can help build relationships and goes a long way to include the entire team.

2-      Establishing the collaboration landscape – ranking your preference

Helping the team understand the landscape of the collaborative tools available to them before engaging in the project can prove to accelerate your progress. Global corporations have many collaboration tools available and continue to add an increasing amount of options.  The challenge however is teaching the teams how to utilize the tools most effectively and how to chose the right tool for the right occasion. In addition, helping the teams understand how the flow of documents and information can be carried from one tool to the next can also be helpful.

The PM can help the team be more effective by asking each team member to identify and rank their preference for communication from others.

Mine for example is 1-Instant Messaging, 2-TelePresence, 3-Virtual Meeting/Desktop Sharing. 4-Phone and 5-TXT/SMS.

3-      Take time-out to get to know your team – workshops analyzing and discussing your work styles and preferences

As mentioned in a previous post, I believe that the success of a project depends not only on the effective management of the traditional project elements such as scope, schedule and budget, but increasingly how teams work together and how well they know how to work together.

Taking time-out to conduct working sessions that focus on the dynamics and cultural make-up of the team will prove to be worth the initial investment. In my work I have seen the effects of these types of workshops reach beyond the initial project and spill over into the long term relationships that team members build with their co-workers. Getting the project stakeholders and projects sponsors involved in this process can also be rewarding and insightful.

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