Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Success Strategies for running a Global Project

After running a few successful global projects I have found some strategies that have helped and I figured I should list them for others to use.

1. Have the entire team present for the planning session.
This is a tough sell to management because it costs money. But on a large project it may only add up to 1 - 2% of the total project cost. Put it to management in those terms. They will agree that the cost savings you will generate by the team building and commitments expressd in front of the entire team will easily outweigh the initial cost.

2. Set up convenient status meeting times.
If your global project is US and Europe, you can usually find a time that works for both. Morning meetings in the US will become afternoon meetings in Europe but the further West you are in the US, the earlier you need to hold the meetings. But once you add Japan into the equation, your options start to fade. I have found that the Japanese tend to work late and I have been able to schedule status meetings that end after 9PM their time. Here's a link to a convenient World Time Zone map.

3. Learn about local holidays.
Every country has their own holidays. This link has a good listing of holidays and their implication on working days but it must be searched country by country.  I'm still on the lookout for a calendar that lists holidays around the world on a month by month basis that doesn't include things like 'World Snake Day.' Plan these holidays into your status meeting schedules and your project plan.

4. Don't forget about vacation time.
Don't expect much work to be done in Europe during August when it seems like the entire continent goes on vacation. But don't generalize this rule to the entire continent. Some countries prefer July so ask your team.

5. Greet Team Members with their correct title, time and greeting.
Making a small investment in learning a few words can pay off hugely in Team Member loyalty. Saying 'Konnichi-wa Sanwa-san' and 'Guten tag Herr Mueller' helps a lot. Acknowledge that the Japanese are heading off for the day while the Europeans are in their afternoon is also a nice sign of respect.

6. Learn about local culture.
Hofstede and Trompenaars have written excellent books that discuss the cultures of different countries and are a worthwhile read for any Project Manager. Learning that one does not approach a senior manager in South Korea the way one would in New Zealand is a lesson that should not be learned through trial and error.

7. Allow time for translations.
Team Members who don't have English as a second language are going to be struggling with rapid English conversations. Talk slowly, even to other English speakers. If some team members are translating, speak in short bursts with pauses for translations. As a Project Manager, take the lead in distilling long questions down to simple queries that can be directed to those of another language.
8. Before you end any call, check with the regions.
A great piece of advice I received and took to heart was to not end my calls until I went to each region on teh phone and asked the question, 'Anything else from Japan, etc.' Because we are so used to assertive Americans, we expect people to speak up when they have issues. In Japan, not so much. They must be asked to bring up issues in an environment where they know all regions will be asked.

Has anyone else found any more advise they'd like to add to this list? Comment below, please.

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