The most common element of life and work is “time”. Some call it a non re-chargeable bank account, one that zero’s out at the end of each day and is confined to one hundred sixty eight hours per week. The use of this valuable asset is said to be the determining factor between successfully completing both large and small scale projects or lead to their failure. Its characteristics allow for it to be gained or loss, leveraged or mishandled, and used effectively and efficiently, or not. Time is the one common element in project management that is being burned at the same rate for all team members, no matter what country you are domiciled in.
As global teams work together, they collaborate on problem solving tasks which lead to increased performance. The rate upon which the solution is attained is said to save time and money, now and in the future. In manufacturing, a number of acronyms have been created to give a name to these problem solving tasks; such as MTTR – mean time to repair, MTTD – mean time to diagnose and FTC – first time through capability. Nevertheless, teams are confronted with challenges that take on ever-changing new dimensions during the process to uncover the root of the problem. Similarly, teams need to quickly be given the highest priority task by the global leader. Execution of challenging tasks can be handled more effectively when all team members collaboratively work towards a known goal or desired expectation.
Priorities by the global leader must be set and time must be managed to not only survive the challenge but to prosper as a functioning team unit. Through my experience, I have developed seven prompts to achieve a given task that include:
- Set the desired goal. Not many things have more impact on time than the efforts of a team marching to the same beat, mapped by a plan and tracked with measurement. The act of goal setting helps identify those tasks with the highest priorities. Classify such tasks as mission-critical, urgent and important, nice to do, or true bottlenecks. Here is where the global manager must be able to create a focus, remove roadblocks and quickly laser in on the critical few steps necessary for success.
- Sketch out a timeline. Placing tasks on a piece of paper is only a partial step in task completion process. The other critical step is defining deadlines and a timeline. Some tasks may be interlinked and predicated upon the completion of a previously scheduled tasks, therefore a timeline gives the visual of the when tasks are estimated to be executed and provide for team preparation of such event. Global leaders need to become experts at displaying the timeline to team members through the use of Gantt and PERT Charts or other software programs. When a timeline sketching is put on paper, overlooked or out of sync tasks will be uncovered more easily.
- Time is money. To be successful as a global leader, the cost of the time the team spends on the project must be paramount. In so much that the cost of the groups and its members must be broken down to hourly, daily and weekly rates. This will supply a measuring device to determine the costs of task completion, this added to the timeline chart will result in a percent of time spent versus the percentage of tasks performed ( or complete).
- Prevent against distractions. Different cultures and different customs throughout the world place competing demands on team member’s time. Map and forecast out each team members expected schedule. Know who is available to work on the tasks at hand and regulate the execution or lack thereof through active team member reporting. Distractions will surface in the wash once a task is delegated with an anticipated completion target and an expected quality benchmark.
- Collaborate with other global leaders. Don’t be an island, especially if it’s your first global project. Leverage the talents or at least the advice of others that have had global projects, such as off-shore development projects or international strategic ramp-ups. Remotely managing a team can pose its own logistical challenges and those who have once been there possess time-saving solutions to advance the fluency of the project.
- Pick your power performers. Global leaders are also learners. The process of regulating the completion of tasks will surface best practices of team members that can be incorporated into the project timeline itself and provide guidance to other team members in need of time management assistance. Watch, compare and obtain feedback as to what went well and what went wrong with the assigned project tasks. Highlight the bottlenecks, it may have been technological snafus or communication hiccups that worked as project anchors. If solutions and short-cuts were uncovered highlight those to team members.
- Interaction can cause friction. Be sensitive to the time of others and look to limit excessive interaction once the tasks have been assigned and ownership or its completion passed. One of the most detrimental acts a global leader can do is get in the way of progress of highly skilled team members. Certain acts and over-interactions in many cultures are seen as a lack of confidence or a disgrace to the performance of the team. Star performers will seek lofty plateaus in most every global society, poor time management by the leader can shut down progress and hinder moving on to the next task to perform.
In all, global leaders have the responsibility of demonstrating leadership, disclosing a goal, mapping the plan and tracking the progress. Leaders and team members must collaborate upon the task to be performed along with leadership protecting team members from distractions. An important time saver is the ability to say no. Global leaders may have a number of projects all at once and certain tasks need to be delegated, delayed and eliminated to keep themselves and team members on track to successful project completion.
Do you have a concise and quick process to assess time to tasks and explain quality benchmarks? Would you say your leadership approach fosters team collaboration, how?