Technical teams want to collaborate but don't know how. Here, learn skills about accepting others, conversations for a purpose, establishing commitments, and problem solving.
- One of my clients, a Global Automotive OEM, invested heavily in several technologies, and software to help their global teams collaborate across time zones. Nonetheless, many of their projects suffered delays, and extra costs due to poor collaboration. In my experience technology is not enough. Software can help make connections, but it does not create collaboration which is powered by people. Here's some skills that will help strengthen your team's ability to collaborate successfully.
First, appreciate others. I believe it's the foundation, because it highlights our interdependence with other team players where our success depends on their success and vice versa. Show that you value their knowledge and competencies, it will help open the channel needed to share information, and resources. Second, plan your first conversations to build relationships, and to establish trust. Every minute invested in this will help avoid a transactional relationship which can work against a collaborative environment.
Instead, share your hobbies, sports that you enjoy, and perhaps a bit about your family which will introduce the human side that helps form a trusting relationship. Next, train team players to establish commitments. People from different cultures understand commitments in different ways which means that you might think somebody agreed to do something by next Friday, only to find out they understood something different. For other cultures, a yes might not mean they understood, and accepted.
Therefore, ask people to tell you what they understood, and what they're going to do next. Clarify until their commitment is clear. Also, facilitate real teamwork. It's hard enough to work as a team when players are close to each other, so with the added complexity of distance, language, and culture, it's harder for people to identify themselves as members of one team. In such cases, team facilitation skills are strongly recommended, which can be acquired through training programs, and by participating in facilitated team building workshops.
The goal is to create a one team culture. Lastly, train on problem-solving skills. Any systematic problem-solving approach inspired by Total Quality Management, or Lean, and Six Sigma practices are widely used, and are designed to work in a cross-functional way where different viewpoints are considered. These tools have the advantage that they take away the use of opinions, or jumping to conclusions, and in its place encourage data-driven fact gathering.
Sure, it's easier to go out and buy software to improve file sharing, calendars, and conferencing, but the effect will be limited. Instead, using a combination of these skills will improve the success of your project.
- Effective supplier and customer communication steps
- Bridging time zones and language gaps
- Finding similarities with global team players
- Emailing and texting in global situations
- How power distance affects decisions
- Proper communication via drawings and specifications