Global Project Management: The Offshore Visit

Global PM

One of the roles of a project manager is to keep a working relationship with all the team members he or she works with. In a globalized domain it is a bit more difficult, but entirely doable.

With Codal being a global organization the management teams know the differing value structures of a meeting:

  • In person meetings have the greatest value (but are often the most expensive).
  • Phone Calls work but are supplemented by tools that simulate in person discussion, which presents an opportunity for a disconnect.
  • Email chains are the least valuable form of communication, especially if the prior two items are available.

Evaluate the Value of The Offshore Visit

The efficacy of the trip is directly correlated to how well a project manager understand the value of the trip. The visit is an opportunity to ensure project management will be smoother when he or she returns back to their home office. A wasted trip is a quick way to make life harder upon return.

Evaluation begins with identifying the reason behind the trip, not just for the company, but for the project manager him or herself.

Define Big Issues:

Going to the offshore office means coming with a plan. Project Management is the central resource for all the moving parts of an organization. This visit enables the most valuable form of a meeting: in person communication.

From this perspective a project manager can prioritize what needs the most in person communication and evaluate a hierarchy of needs.

It starts with identifying areas of improvement on a:

Organization Wide Basis
This would be the entire company, and based on where you as a project manager are situated, it can either be addressed directly, or to the immediate superior. If it so happens that the entire organization needs improvement, then all the leadership management needs to meet to be sure improvement is implemented and then executed after an offshore visit.

Whole Departmental Improvements
If one department is particularly in need of improvement, then they would be second in the evaluation. Addressing the leadership on an individual level can ensure that newly implemented management methods are properly executed on the floor.

Individual Departmental Teams
Teams within departments can often be less than encouraging to other departments, particularly if there is a cyclical handoff for product development to deployment to quality assurance. Directly speaking to these teams within a department can have benefits that further trickle to a better end product. To ensure a fair flow of information occurs, they’d be third on this hierarchal scheme.

Individuals within those Teams
Great talent is an asset that is often overlooked as a complex spectrum. Some team members can be all stars at their job, skilled and incredibly reliable, but often extraneous personality traits can cost productive choices. Speaking to them as a project manager, and not as a human resource specialist, can have profound effects. In fact, the discussion the project manager can have about performance with their team member provides a great deal of context making the conversation less “investigative.” A human resource specialist has to gather all of the context without the months, or even years of background the project manager may have. This might be last on this hierarchy, but it is often the most emotional and effective.

The crucial element here is coming preloaded with an agenda for each level. First thing listed is gaining a better context of how operations are currently unfolding. This will then provide a clearer mode of approach regarding the rest of the agenda. As usual, with the offshore visit, a project manager is going to gain a better understanding of what has transpired over the time he or she was not there.

Assimilate Yourself

As mentioned earlier, the key to effective project management is communication. That is based on trust. When a team trusts their project manager, he or she is now endowed with the knowledge that they’re receiving the most informed explanations to make a decision off of. How then is trust built? Assimilation.

In my own experience, I found that a great way to assimilate yourself depends on how foreign the offshore destination is, both to your headquarters and to the project manager’s own culture. The project manager, in an effort to build trust through assimilation, needs to first and foremost share a meal with their team. During my own offshore visit, I would be offered a taste of everyone’s lunch. I recognized literally nothing. But I ate, I tried everything that was offered no matter how foreign, all in an attempt to both understand the culture and build trust.

I also attended a wedding of one our project leads. I had never been to an Indian wedding in the United States, much less in India. It was a tremendous act of building trust with the groom, and all the team members who attended. We are all on the same team so celebrations do not need to only be in the office, and when you’re back at the office, the team members will have memories of something besides work work work.

Wedding

(This is the wedding I attended, you can probably guess which one I am)

Assimilating yourself builds team chemistry and as a project manager, allows you to make quality decisions in regards to a project based on experiences outside of the office.

The Value of Sleep

Sleep is the most expensive thing a person can do abroad. Managing clients does not stop when the project manager is abroad. Knowing this prior to the trip means game planning for this situation. Morning meetings in the States are very late evenings abroad. In order to maximize productivity, sleep needs to be minimal, 6-7 hours maximum. No sleeping in, because that costs the company a great deal in opportunity cost.

This is where the value of the agenda is so great, micromanaging every event on your trip can help maximize the utility of you being sent there. Otherwise, you might have to go back, which bring us to our final points.

The Super Recap Meeting

The entirety of the offshore visit is implement. Execution is left in the hands of faith in your leaders. Therefore a total, company wide meeting ought to occur. It is your last opportunity to leave a lasting impression on all the implementation achieved. As a project manager, you work with these individuals on a daily basis, you want to be sure your authenticity and sincerity are conveyed in a meaningful regard.

In this sense, it is important to orient your mind on “I shouldn’t need to come here for any sort of issue solving again.” If this is the case, your visit is a branded success, and if you’re tasked to go back to solve the same issues you were supposed to tackle this time, then it’s been a failure.

Finally, it’s important to remain as engaged upon your return as were there. Mention the wedding, ask about the kids, and care. It will strengthen the trust and improve the chemistry of the team. If this is done, then the execution of that was left in the hands of faith will begin to be realized.

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