Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Communicating across borders, part of Managing International Projects.
- We all know how important communication is in projects. When it comes to international projects, communication is an even greater priority. When communicating across borders there are extra challenges to overcome. The physical distance, time-zones, language and cultural barriers can all impact on the effectiveness of your communication. So, how can you insure you are communicating effectively? First, get the balance of information right.
It could be tempting to communicate a lot of information frequently to avoid confusion. In some instances this can be worse than not communicating enough information or not communicating frequently enough. For example, sponsors or senior executives usually need high-level information rather than granular detail. In International Projects, executives often will not pick up on points of interest that are outside their geographic area or the business line they manage.
You need to cut down the information shared and be precise. If you want the Senior leader of another country to take action or understand a particular aspect of your project. Make it short and locally relevant or you will likely not get the support you desire. Second, decide who needs to be involved in communication. In some instances, it may be necessary to involve a lot of people in making a decision. Involvement leads to commitment and supportive project objectives which needs to be encouraged.
However, in other instances it may not be appropriate to involve a lot of people in making a decision. This may because the Sponsor or Senior Executives want or need a decision quickly and that's not going to be changed or challenged. Rather than pretend that people can be part of a decision, it is preferable to make a decision and be clear that consultation is not required. It's important however, when deliberately choosing not to share information that you compile the risks associated with that action.
While it is efficient to establish and react to a directive, there is risk that people may become disengaged if they do not feel part of the decision, especially, with international stakeholders. This point of following directive decisions is critical but only relevant if you have sponsorship at the right level in your organization. If your sponsor doesn't have the appropriate authority to be directive, then decision via consultation and the needed communication to make that work will be your only chance to make changes stick with your international counterparts.
Third, insure you have a feedback loop in your communication. Don't be afraid to ask questions such as, "What business risks can you see with this direction?" It is a very dangerous practice to assume that you understand all of the ramifications of your project in other countries. Business risks, opportunities and the availability of skilled staff are critical items that you'll need to verify at the start of your project and regularly during the project life cycle.
The one thing that all of these points have in common is balance. As an International Project Manager, it is important to assess what communication efforts are going to create the least risk and provide the most benefit. Creating a communication plan early with significant participation from your international team members is vital. They will understand their local communication practices and tools, such as newsletters or bulletin boards that are most effective, which is very important.
Follow your communication plan strictly. Be predictable and balanced with your international teams. You will increase your probability for success.
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- Communicating across borders
- Bridging time zones and language gaps
- Finding and nurturing management "champions"
- Evaluating your communication style
- Keeping international projects on track