Jane is an ambitious, motivated, and talented project manager with a proven track record of success driving regional projects. She has just been put in charge of a global product development project. Her company is looking to leap over the competition by launching a “game changing” technology. This is a high visibility project where speed is of the essence, and the future of the company may ride on her success. Jane’s sponsor (the COO) tells her the project must get off to a fast start and there is little time for the project team to go through a normal development cycle. Jane thinks this is her ticket to a VP job. All she has to do is deliver.
Her core team will be selected from a group of cross-functional leads located in Malaysia, India, Belgium, Australia, the US and Brazil. Jane and her corporate support functions are located in Northern California,USA. The diverse and global nature of this team presents a new challenge for Jane; one that will test all her project management skills.
Projects that include remote and virtual teams have gone main stream as companies look to leverage resources, specialties and costs around the globe. Managing global, cross-functional teams is a required skill now for project managers. This is the first time Jane will lead this kind of team. She is excited by the opportunity, but concerned by the unknown this global initiative brings.
Jane and I sat down and discussed what will be the key drivers of project success and outlined seven actions that will help her lead this project:
Clarity of Mission: Jane needs the sponsor to make a powerful endorsement of this project to the organization. It needs to be clear about the objectives, priority and leadership of this initiative. This will allow Jane to quickly acquire the global resources needed to start this project and make it easier to build interest, momentum and buy-in. To get off to a fast start, the organizational “doors” need to be wide open.
Build Winning Team: It’s important that the project team be staffed with individuals who have the technical skills and motivation to be successful. But, Jane must also look for team members with the necessary interpersonal skills that will allow them to thrive in a global team environment. She should look for those with prior global work experience, who are open to new ways of thinking, and able to deal with the rigors of a project which will operate outside normal standards for business hours, travel time, and levels of stress. Jane has determined who she wants on her project team; now she needs to work with her sponsor and stakeholders to secure the best.
Execute Effective Kick-off Meeting: The kick-off meeting will be the first chance for the team to interact. For a large, global project, it is important that this meeting be held face-to-face in a neutral location. For global kick-off meeting best practices, see my post from February 2012. A productive kick-off meeting will help to insure that alignment, motivation and buy-in exists within the selected team.
Build Cultural Understanding: Jane must quickly learn to facilitate cross-cultural communication. In addition, the team needs to understand how cultural differences impact communications and team dynamics. A cultural understanding workshop will help the team better understand how they are all different, yet will work together toward the same goal.
Install Team Rules: The team needs to agree on a series of team rules that dictate how the members will communicate, interact, and resolve differences. This becomes the basis for team dynamics. An example of a team rule – all e-mails within the team must be answered in 24 hours or less. Team rules will help insure proper behaviors are followed, and provide a clear path to resolving conflicts. Jane can then enforce the rules by following the guidelines set fourth and agreed by the team.
A Well-Crafted Communication Plan: Jane and the team will build and implement a communication plan that regularly updates the organization on project activities. This action will help to promote interest, buy-in, and continued support for the project. Global communications are complex given the different locations, languages, mores and cultures involved. Jane needs to develop an approach that reaches the different levels and locations of the organization with a message that envisions future success.
Create Central Repository for Team Information: The members of the project team need to have access to the most recent project information – anytime, anywhere in the world. The team will spend a lot of time in virtual meetings where they’ll review key project documents and schedules. It is vital the documents being reviewed are accessible by all, and they must contain the same information. Nothing is worse then being in a conference call where team members have different versions of a document. Data accessibility and consistency will help make virtual meetings more productive.
So, how did Jane fare with this project? Was her team able to meet their company’s goal to jump over the competition? Well, the conclusion of this story will have to wait for another day. But, if Jane follows the actions above, she and the project team will have a good chance of being successful.
What other insights do you have for leading global project teams? Please leave your comments.