The 7 Deadly Sins of Global Projects

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.


When project teams have to work together across different continents, languages and cultures then problems are almost inevitable. Whether the teams are within the same international corporation or from two or more separate companies, the issues that arise are typically the same.


I have worked on many successful global projects and ultimately they are successful because they utilise the very best skills available in the most cost-effective way. But if you are considering embarking on a global project, or are already involved in one, watch out for these 7 problem areas. If they are not actively managed, they are likely to knock your project off course.


1.      Diverse Geographical Location

Small issues can become big problems because those involved do not have regular and impromptu discussions. Avoid relying too heavily on email and try and pick up the phone more often.


2.      Time Zone Constraints

Ideally there should be a minimum two hour overlap between all the teams involved in a global project, every single working day. In practise this is not always possible unless one team adjusts their typical working day to allow for the overlap. I have known this to happen on several projects and it was a key factor in avoiding unnecessary delays to many aspects of the project.


3.      Cultural Differences

Issues can become exacerbated when entrenched cultural attitudes to work schedules, to quality of work and to senior management are not addressed. This is a two-way problem that can be alleviated by both sides voicing, documenting and managing expectations of each other.


4.      Language Barriers

Misunderstandings can arise when the common language of communication on the project is not the first language of every team or team member. Both verbal and written communications are potential areas of misunderstanding but the issue is compounded by the teams being based in different locations. Native speakers of the common language should take care to avoid overly-complex language.


5.      Reporting

Because of the very nature of diverse teams working on a global project, the reporting requirements will vary from local to global level. This added effort to the reporting workload, if not to it’s complexity, also tends make it more difficult to remain focussed on the Business Case and the reporting requirements of the Business sponsors.


6.      Feedback

A global project manager should always provide detailed feedback on every completed work package. This is necessary not only as a measure of how satisfactory a particular piece of work has been, but in order to clearly define future expectations. Failure to do this can lead cumulatively to unsatisfactory work.


7.      Lack of Motivation

It is vital for the global project manager to understand what motivates each diverse team and its members. Talking frankly and openly with the key team members as early in the project as possible should clarify different areas of motivation and it is rarely as simple as money. Remember that one of the best ways of motivating people, that is often neglected by managers, is to show appreciation for work that has been done.


Many project management training courses focus in detail on the specific challenges of managing global projects. They can equip project managers with all the skills they need to deal with the challenges, and overcome the difficulties, of global project management.


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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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