Thursday, April 19, 2012

Leading Global Teams-Mastering technology

When I address "Mastering Technology" I need to be clear that the global leader needs to use every means available to establish multiple pathways of interaction that lead to deeper relationships among team members.  I do believe nothing replaces face to face interaction.  My own hypothesis is that when we met face to face we form literally millions of different data points about others....most unconsciously...variations in voice tone, body language, sense of humor, verbal language idiosyncrasies....the list goes on and on.  However, by definition, global teams are separated by space and time.  Unlike teams where the members are co-located and face to face interaction is frequent, an effective global team has to master technology.  The key elements of an effective team communications/technology strategy would include the following elements:

Face to Face-  In the early days of team formation this is essential.  Team thinking style diagnostics(mentioned in my 11 April blog), agreement on behavioral norms, ways of working together, team building....all need to be addressed in face to face meetings..  As teams mature, the agenda of these face to face meetings can shift.  In a mature team, I'd advocate three of these a year. One in the first quarter of the year to ensue early execution of the annual plan, a mid year check point, and year end to review progress and set strategy for the new year.  If three isn't feasible, then I'd advocate Q1 and Q4 meetings supplemented by virtual meetings.  The agenda for face to face meetings should be heavily weighted towards strategic issues where dialogue is necessary.  Day to day operational issues should be handled in virtual meetings.

Teleconference.  This "old" technology can be quite effective.  It's inexpensive and commonly available about anywhere in the world.  Any number of service providers can provide toll free dial in numbers and pass codes to participants.  Agendas several days in advance and the prudent use of pre-read can make these meetings very productive.  I ran several global teams for many years using only face to face and periodic teleconferences.

Video conference.  More expensive and requires greater infrastructure.  You do get the benefit of non verbal communications.  It's also more difficult when there are US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia participants.  Someone ends up having to go into a video suite at an odd hour in order for everyone to meet simultaneously.  8AM in the Central US time zone, is 2PM in London, 3PM in Frankfurt, 5PM in Dubai and 9PM in Singapore.  SKYPE or similar desktop video conferencing can be used to mitigate the hassle for those participating at odd hours.

Computer.   Email is pretty much ubiquitous in today's business world but not without its limitations.  The sharing of large embedded files, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations ultimately leads you to some sort of document repository.  Sharepoint, a Microsoft product,  or some other document sharing/collaboration tool is essential.  In Shell, we also had a fair number of on-line communities of practice, connecting staff in different organizations in different parts of the world tackling similar problems.  These on-line communities of practice also require some sort of electronic collaboration tool.
I'll end this the way I started by saying the global leader needs to use every means available to create pathways of interaction.  I'll tackle challenges and dilemmas tomorrow.

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