There is a very good chance that on one or more of your projects you will deal with teams which are strung out across the globe. This is an exciting way of working and can put you in touch with colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures.
However, there are also some very real risks to working this way too, most notably in the area concerning communication. To help you avoid these here are a few tips I have used in the past.
Know the Time
Working with colleagues who live in different time zones can be incredibly complicated or absolutely simple, depending upon how you do it. All I would suggest is that you have something to hand which tells you immediately what time it is for each of your workers. This could be something you have on your PC or it could simply be a bit of paper letting you know how many hours ahead of you or behind you they are. With this simple step you will never again call them out of office hours and wonder why no one answers.
There are few things more frustrating that not being able to contact someone you really need to. The project manager is always in demand and you should be prepared to get a lot of calls and messages through to you. At the start of the project you need to give all of your contact details to everyone in the project and let them know when you are available on each number or address. Setting up the whole team to be able to view each other’s calendars is another smart way of making sure that you each know what everyone is up to.
Schedule Regular Meetings
You will probably speak to each of your team members on an informal basis throughout the week but what if you don’t? There is a risk that one week runs into another and that after a while you haven’t spoken to someone in a very long time. You need to keep your team working together and pulling in the same direction and in order to do this there needs to be clear and regular communication scheduled in, preferably on a weekly basis. Even if you struggle to find time to do this you still need to make the effort in order to keep the project ticking along. This weekly meeting should involve a section where you go round all of the participants and find out what they been doing in the last week and what they plan to do now. This will allow you to guide anyone who slips off track for any reason.
Write It All Down
Nowadays there is no excuse for not having all of your documents, plans and meeting minutes available to the full team at the same time. By using a cloud based service you can ensure that everything you have written down is instantly accessible by anyone who has been granted access. This just leaves the issue of typing everything in the first place. There are always issues and ideas thrown around in projects which no one bothers to record because the people who need to know about them are all in the same room. However, when you have virtual team members you really need to think of them and make sure that you note down everything which they might need to know. Once you get into the habit of doing this it should become something which you do instinctively.
Get the Team Spirit Sorted Out
Every project runs more smoothly when there is a good team spirit keeping everyone happy and working on the same wavelength. This is relatively easy to arrange when you all work in the same building and can have lunch together or have a chat next to the water cooler. When your team are spread out geographically then this is a lot more difficult but it isn’t impossible provided that you put some thought and creativity into the matter. If you are lucky enough to have your team close enough together for you to organise face to face meetings then this will be a great help. If you can’t do this then another idea is to buddy up remote and local workers in small units and get them to work together. In this way it will be clear that there are no differences in your eyes between the different types of workers in the team and there will be more intense communication as well.
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