In my initial article on this topic, I discussed how to approach the challenges related to distance managing global projects remotely. This article will cover how to handle the challenges language and time zones pose when managing global projects remotely.
Language & time zones
When project teams are located in different parts of the world, new challenges arise when team members live in different parts of the world and speak different languages.
Although it is the practice at my company that meetings be conducted in the native language of the facilitator (usually English), team members may speak with heavy accents based on where they live and therefore it may be difficult to understand them. This is not only a challenge with international team members because there are accents and dialects in the US that are not universally understood.
When there is a team member in one of my meetings that is difficult to understand, even after I have politely asked them if they could speak a bit more slowly, I will call or email that person after the meeting and ask them to send me notes summarizing the points they made or the questions they asked. I can then include them in the meeting minutes and urge other participants to review the minutes and raise any questions or concerns they might have. I have been in meetings where people were repeatedly asked to repeat themselves or Instant Message the information to the facilitator, but I believe those methods of handling the issue are counterproductive. I am trying to create an environment where everyone feels free to speak up and share an idea or opinion even when it is different from mine or other members of the team. That can only occur when team members learn that they will not be embarrassed or spoken harshly to in the process.
Ending your agenda five minutes earlier is another good technique for ensuring that anyone who has something they would like to ask or something they want to say has the opportunity. Then, before the meeting is adjourned, go “around the table” (virtually) and ask each individual if they have anything they would like to say or ask. This may seem a bit awkward at first, and you have to know exactly who is there, but after a couple of meetings, this will become second nature and people will feel more and more free to participate. After my first couple of meetings doing this, I finally added an item to the bottom of my agenda called “Roundtable,” and everyone knew they would have an opportunity to speak.
Phil Katz, PMP, SA, ITIL, has 25 years of project management experience spanning various industries and currently works at a major insurance company managing infrastructure projects and providing infrastructure support to application development. He remotely leads large and globally diverse project teams. His experience extends into the area of infrastructure procurement, and he advises stakeholders on the best way to navigate that process at a fortune 100 company. Phil writes about procurement and remote project management.