The growth of the global economy has spurred the development of international teams working together more frequently, but their projects face many hurdles. Distances between offices and differences in communication styles and cultural values can create barriers that inhibit productivity and efficiency.
To collaborate best between worldwide workspaces, consider these four suggestions. Here at Citrix, where our teams are spread out all over the globe, we find they can be a huge asset for everyone involved.
1. Time it right. If your group will convene in real time, the World Clock Meeting Planner warns you immediately if, for example, your audio or web conference scheduled for the morning on the West Coast would force your counterparts in Australia to wake up in the middle of the night. It may be necessary to have some meetings at night or early morning for participants to include everyone due to time zone changes. Respect that fact, and make sure your meetings start and end promptly to keep everyone satisfied.
2. Know who’s in charge of what. Establish a project manager for the group who knows how to handle cultural sensitivities as much as technical issues. He or she should not only set responsibilities and deadlines but also unified procedures for work. These include promoting transparency while sharing information and even having a contingency plan in case of environmental or other change. The project manager who does this creates a groundwork for smooth cooperation across national borders.
3. Mind your words. Even if English is the native language for all involved, slang is confusing to those unfamiliar with its use. Keeping that in mind, minimize jargon and maximize clarity when talking and emailing others on your team. Follow up to see that everybody understands exactly what you are trying to convey. Adapting a more formal communication style may be temporarily inconvenient, but it will save you from having to spend extra time and make many corrections in the long run.
4. Learn the customs. Researching team members’ cultures in advance will aid immensely in preventing confusion and distrust. Diversity training courses can dispel myths and improve comprehension about how and why your counterparts overseas act and react to professional situations. Project managers should consider assigning global team members shared projects so they can learn from each other while getting to know one other. Companywide relationships will be strengthened as a benefit of this process.
International collaborations are becoming the new normal for many businesses, and top professionals realize that these are most successful when they observe the needs and traditions of fellow employees. If you have more advice on what’s best to follow — or to avoid — when working in multinational teams, let us know in the comments below!