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Low Hanging Fruit: The Sweetest Kind in Global Projects, Part 2

In my last post, Low Hanging Fruit, Part I, I outlined some quick and ever-so-easy tips that make communicating on global projects a bit smoother. These are things we know but just may not do as we are running so fast:  Share the pain of time zones (easier said than done, admittedly,) share photos even if it is not something you would normally do; sprinkle in a smiley or two to ease the threat of misunderstanding and use “scrap time” to build a relationship with virtual colleagues.

1. Conference call as Pod Cast

For some people, attending calls outside of works hours is just not possible because of personal constraints. Or maybe they really cannot think at their 11 PM when the other global project team members are meeting. (I must admit that the only thing I can do past 10 PM is mindlessly read cooking blogs.) One of the women on my team in Bangalore has our conference calls recorded so she can download them and play them on her way to the office.

I told her she could just read the meeting notes, but she said listening to the calls gives her an immediacy that she says is lacking when she reads the notes. She can gauge people’s level of interest or concern by the sound of their voices. And knowing the calls were recorded seems to help us make the team meetings a bit more focused which is never a bad thing.

2. Hmm, so what is this call about?

OK, be honest. How many meetings do you get pulled into and you don’t know why you are there? And how many agendas have you sent out that were not, shall we say, robust?

When my conference calls lagged more than I thought they should recently, I realized the participants did not know the expected outcome of each agenda item even though I thought it was clear. Obviously, it was clear only to me.

I began writing down the expected outcome of each agenda item so participants would have a target to aim at. No more mind reading either…The desired outcome of each thing on the agenda was usually a plan, a decision, an agreement, or an understanding of something.

Example:

Agenda
1. Updates re: Backup plans

Objective: discussion followed by finalization of plans

Our meetings were instantly more productive…and shorter!

3. Make your mother proud: Be a great host

How many times have you seen a global colleague in the hallway at work and exclaimed, I didn’t know you were going to be in town. We should get together! But the week flies by and in a blink the person is back in her country.

Business travel happens much less frequently these days and so is all the more precious. Maximizing face-to-face opportunities makes such good sense on many levels.

I recently gave a Working Globally presentation to 25 HR leaders. I asked them what was the one action that made a biggest improvement in their global work. Every single one of them said it was meeting face-to-face.

Human beings are made to break bread together. The human face has 10,000 muscles and we are hard-wired to be able to read the nuances these muscles makes. Expressions are the same across cultures, and when we sit next to someone, it is amazing what we can pick up. And just think of what gets revealed over a glass or two of wine!

If global colleagues get the opportunity to visit your site, crank up the host machine! Maximize this time together. Make sure your colleagues have someone to eat lunch with each day. Walk around and introduce them to folks. Invite them into meetings they would not usually even know about so they can get a broader sense of what is going on. What about those long and lonely weekends? Picnic? When a group visited HP from India, we dug out our old frisbees and played in the parking lot. (Sorry if you were the owner of that blue car which was parked near the door…) Yes, we really put in a lot of effort, but we made a great deal of progress that week on our projects!

4. It’s Complicated

I read this comment in the New York Times recently: Marriage is complicated… People tend to inflate their contributions, downplay those of their partners, and judge others.

Hmm. It feels like this quote could fit global teams, too. If it is hard to see the contributions and sacrifices of the person you live with, it is even harder to do so with your global teammates as there are no spontaneous conversations in the hallways or even much overlapping time for phone calls.

As with many things in life, I have found this to be an especially helpful mantra: Assume the best. My global teammates are doing work I am not even remotely aware of. They are going the extra mile just like I am even if we do not see it.

When our project team uses these simple tips above,—all simple, low hanging fruit,— our work together is richer and less stressful. May you have the same success.

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About the Author

Lu Ellen Schafer, founder of Global Savvy, has been working with global teams since 1991. The primary focus of Global Savvy’s consultancy is to strengthen the productivity of complex high tech teams working across distance and cultures. Her particular expertise is working with India. A frequent speaker at conferences as well as an experienced consultant, Lu Ellen has personally trained over 24,000 professionals to work successfully on diverse, global teams. Clients include Cisco, Juniper, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, IBM, Intuit, Polycom, Novartis and Pfizer among others. Lu Ellen’s academic studies were at the University of California and the University of Sussex. She has taught at the University of California Extension and has contributed to articles and books on the subject of working globally. Lu Ellen has the amazing good fortune of combining deeply engaging work and joyful travel. She has lived in the UK, India, Costa Rica and California. Lu Ellen can be reached at LuEllen@GlobalSavvy.com
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