How to Resolve 5 Challenges That Come with Managing Global Projects

By Gabe Delgado
Senior Program Manager
projekt202

Having worked on many global projects throughout my career, I have discovered there are common challenges that project managers often face.

Here are five of the most obvious examples I have encountered and how you can resolve them.

1. PHONE VS. EMAIL

Have you ever found yourself in a lengthy email exchange? I find you can get so much more done if you pick up the phone instead and avoid the never-ending email cycle.

What you can do about it:
Minimize team calls and try to speak to people individually. Try not to rely on instant messaging when the phone works just as well; it also encourages relationship building. If a decision is made via a phone call, always follow up with an email. An email provides a chance to clarify mutual understanding; given language differences, this could be important. If a task was assigned, jot it down in a shared tool like Confluence with assigned owners and due dates.

2. MISUNDERSTANDING IS NORMAL

In any global project, you might expect the level of misunderstanding to be reduced since all team members share the same work objective(s). However, that isn’t always the case. Language barriers, lack of attention, and cultural differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.

What you can do about it:
Ask for clarification, especially if someone has been given a task. Pause for questions; the pause may seem like an eternity, but it allows others time to gather and express their thoughts. Never assume silence is an agreement. Clarify again. Talk S-L-O-W-E-R. Use graphics; this helps tremendously. Follow up with an email and/or jot it down in a shared tool like Confluence.

3. ARRANGING TIME-CONVENIENT MEETINGS

Arranging meetings for a dispersed global team is a necessity in today’s remote team-enabled environment. Juggling time zones to find a suitable time slot can seem like a daunting challenge.

What you can do about it:
If possible, use a scheduling tool to see everyone’s schedules. Ask for access to your team members’ calendars. I also Google time zones frequently to make sure I am not scheduling a meeting in the middle of the night for a critical team member. Often, it requires creating a separate meeting for that specific person/region.

4. MEETINGS TAKE LONGER

Why do virtual meetings always seem to take longer? Virtual meetings can feel like they take longer as everyone settles into the conference call and catches up, or as key members join late.

What you can do about it:
Send out an agenda prior to the meeting to ensure everyone knows the topics that will be covered. Try to keep meetings to a minimum. Keep your meeting under an hour (closer to ~30 minutes, if possible); you can still get everything done in that time. Test your technology in advance so everyone is comfortable with it, and you aren’t struggling with people joining the call late or using the wrong dial-in codes. If you have access to video conferencing, you can tell who is engaged, which leads to the next topic …

5. PEOPLE LOSE FOCUS

When you’re meeting as a global team, there is more opportunity for multitasking. After all, no one can see that you’re checking email or texting your partner, right? This is bad practice, but it’s common for people’s focus to fade during virtual meetings.

What you can do about it:
Stick to your agenda. Get attendees to participate by using graphics and by asking questions. It’s easy to invite everyone to a meeting, but If you don’t need someone on the call, give them the choice to drop off. Follow up with a recap email on what was discussed, what decisions were made, and who is responsible for the tasks, including due dates.

Often, it’s difficult to avoid the hurdles of managing global projects. Recognizing that a phone call might be easier than a lengthy email exchange or that virtual meetings don’t need to take longer than scheduled may be obvious. However, they are an inevitable piece of the management puzzle in dealing with global projects.

The common theme in these scenarios is obvious: communication. When managing global projects, clear and constant communication is your key to success.

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