Excitement. Confusion. Energy. Miscommunication. There are many words that can describe global projects. They tend to be a mixture of great experience mixed with constant risk. Global projects can be exciting due to the diversity that is inherent from this structure but they can also bring many headaches when we forget about communication and more importantly about the people. I've had the opportunity to manage projects with teams that spanned the globe and learn from experience about some of the things that worked for me.
We Are Family
I've had many projects where some of my teams where in Spain, Argentina, Germany, India, and the Philippines; and the main thing was that to me they were part of my family. Families will laugh and argue, but at the end of the day they always have each other's back. It is important that you listen to your people not only when they have ideas for the project but also listen to them outside of work. Connect with them on a personal level so that they get to know you and want to help the person that is at the other side of the globe asking for all this work from them. Even if you don't have the budget to visit them in person, use the technology available to you so that you can see each other and make a connection that way. Having teams work for you because you are their boss can get things done, but having your teams want to work for you and help you when issues come up because they also like and respect you will benefit everyone involved.
Do you want your teams to call you at night for every question they might have when your project is working 24x7? Even worse, do you want your teams to not call you because it's late and they don't think the issue they are seeing is a big deal and you wake up to realize a days' worth of work has been lost?
We cannot control every detail of the project, even though we might try, but I avoided confusion within my teams by being very clear on what to do for certain types of situations. Never assume that everyone knows the right steps to take when something happens. It is important to create contingency plans and an escalation path. This will make sure the team knows what to do when you are unavailable and that they know it's ok to contact you for certain situations.
Many of us try to be very concise in our communications because we want to be considerate of others' time or because we are trained to get straight to the point when talking with our various executives. While this is a good skill to have, it is not appropriate in every situation. We have to get to understand our global teams and accept that when you are not available in person for questions, it is better to give too much detail than to have work done incorrectly because you didn't.
Make sure you show your appreciation for your teams. We might do our work because that is what we are supposed to do and don't expect anything in return, but a simple thank you might make a world of difference. Making sure people get credit for their work and setting up a team lunch or dinner to celebrate important milestones makes sure that people know that they are appreciated. Global teams can prove challenging to show appreciation in direct ways but use your creativity and network to help you. It's not about how much money you spend on them but rather about them knowing that you are thankful for their help, and that things could not be done without them.
Overall, projects live and die with its people and the better connection you have with your teams the more efficient they will be.