PMI UK Chapter

July 2020 | Building Global Project Teams in Times of No Travel – The COVID Caveat presented by Ilse Kerling and Rochelle A. Hood

July 2020 | Building Global Project Teams in Times of No Travel – The COVID Caveat presented by Ilse Kerling and Rochelle A. Hood

Webinar Description

If there is one group ahead of the curve where it comes to virtual work, it is project managers. But COVID put that into an entirely new spotlight, as even the initial kickoff meetings are being held virtually. Team alignment and relationships established early on in projects may lack a strong foundation when they are entirely established via webcams and Zoom meetings.

Now add in the element of cultural differences. Video conference team meetings reduce the ability to easily observe team members (do you have buy-in, is a team member shying away from speaking in the meeting, is a team member agreeing in principle but not recording actions into their notes and validating understanding of expectations). When team bonds have not been as forged as strongly, your antenna needs to be elevated to the next level to pick up warning signals, especially as business priorities may be changing due to COVID.

In this session, you will learn:

  • Outcomes from a 6-week project that turned into 56 weeks due to team gaps
  • Techniques to enrich team leadership and performance in virtual project delivery
  • How COVID reduces the timeframe and increases the need for proactive team development

Video Link to Webinar Recording

About Ilse Kerling

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During her study, Ilse became fascinated by Asia. Equipped with 1100 US Dollars, a return ticket, and a huge amount of courage she left for Hong Kong in 1994. Her goal: find a job and figure out the key to Asia’s rapid growth. After a successful career at Verizon, she returned to the Netherlands in 2009. She observed that professionals underestimate how Asia is different. That they learn from trial and error. The same errors that she observed her European and American colleagues made. She founded Global Business Academy help western multinationals be more successful, faster. The top three results reported by clients including KPMG, Infosys and Dow Chemical: improved meeting of deadlines (73%), increased efficiency (73%) and increased quality of work (64%).

About Rochelle A. Hood

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Rochelle Hood is the President and Managing Director of PINK Consulting, a project management, process intelligence and customer experience consulting firm. Rochelle is an experienced program manager, operations leader, and process optimization professional with specialization in Shared Services, Contact Center Operations, Procure to Pay Service Delivery and IT Project Management. She is skilled in designing solutions, building capabilities, and leading teams in the creation of value for stakeholders. Rochelle is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. She holds a BSc in Accounting and a Master in Business Administration (MBA). Rochelle’s professional experience includes project management, process excellence and service delivery roles at IBM, QVC and companies in the defence contracting industry. Rochelle served in multiple board leadership roles for the Project Management Institute (PMI) Space Coast Chapter Board of Directors and is a member of the PMI UK chapter. She is a member of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) where she has served as a committee chair and mentors small business owners.

Q&A

Q1. (Covid Caveat) do you think removal of "visible cues/body language etc" eliminates perception?

A1. The removal of "visible cues/body language etc" does indeed eliminate what we can see. However, a lot of global project management was already remote. The added importance of corona is that trust-building has become even more important. And the second vital element is that our ears and deductive skills become more important. By that I mean the heightened ability to hear rather than see problems as well as the ability to anticipate reactions and read between the lines.

Q2. (culture ciphers) did you do any comparison against the previous studies, e.g. Hoffstede's culture dimensions, and find similarities/difference? also, do you think if those earlier studies been impacted by the covid (e.g. Swedish attitude against covid v. uncertainty avoidance)

A2. According to come of the intercultural theorists, culture doesn't change. We don't agree. In many countries, we see that the younger generation is vastly different from the older generation. Rather than putting behaviour into numbers, we really slice down behaviour into what is (not) said to whom and why. As well as address the generational differences.

Q3. You referred to Western vs Indian differences; in your experience, Chinese or Japanese are closer to Indian?

A3. Just like Europe is vastly different, there are also many similarities - especially when you separate western, southern and eastern Europe. Asia is vastly different too, but the skills you learn can be applied in all countries (getting feedback, anticipating and recognising problems etc). The basis for all three countries is the trust element we learnt today.

Q4. Current view on what 'Asian' teams are doing to acknowledge differences and addressing them and moving towards the West

A4. Asians are always astounded to hear westerners take the time to learn about their culture. They think they're the only ones learning and adjusting! Most Asians have a real hunger to grow and learn. They hugely welcome the knowledge how to work more effective with their western peers as better performance drives good careers.

Q5. How to do know, what key markers show that you are gaining trust with regions?

A5. When people start to open up, you know you’re doing well. By opening up I mean giving (unasked) feedback, sharing thoughts, voicing disagreement etc.

Q6. Does this change when you have Asians in the European side?

A6. Having Asians in the European side definitely helps. At the same time, you have to be aware of creating bottlenecks and adding costs. When all work has to go through a few people, efficiency drops. When you have too many e.g. Indians, they tend to sit and eat together, and you lose the integration that you set out for. So, a big thumbs up if they are in key roles. A thumbs down when they've been put in place because Europe and Asia can't work well together. Then you're better off applying a proper training and getting the remote teams to understand each other.

Q7. Is there anything to keep in mind dealing with the middle East culture?

A7. Middle East is yet again different but there are some similarities. It's too long to go into here, but I'd be happy to discuss by phone personally with you Quinton.

Q8. How does working across different time zones impact trust?

A8. The times zones can be difficult, especially US-India. But in the EU, we're well positioned time zone wise. When you show you're mindful, it's hugely appreciated. Sadly, I still provide trainings that the client set up at 2pm CET which means that the US participants have to start at 5am. Just a little consideration goes a long way.

Q9. Is there anything that ALWAYS works globally to build trust? (I think you answered “no”)

A9. Attention to the person works best outside western countries. BUT… I believe that it will make you more effective in western countries too. In other words, becoming more people oriented and go 'the Asian way' will drive more results globally

Q10. Within a single country or workplace, do you think the same range of characteristics are present for distrust? In other words, is it just the average that’s different between countries and global regions, but the skills are needed in any team?

A10. The scale or level of trust required and how long it takes to earn that trust may differ between countries. However, you are on point that even within a single country or workplace environment, trust can vary between teams, departments, divisions. This may be tied more to organizational culture than home country culture.

Q11. With Covid-19 we’re all working from home. Does this help or hinder when reaching out across continents vs working with people who you might have shared office space with?

A11. Before COVID we treated our office colleagues a little differently simply because we were able to catch up next to the coffee machine. It's one of the things that is missed most. Covid has equalled all that out. It has also increased our empathy skills, so needed for the people related ways of building trust. We're all in it together so I think it helps.

Q12. How much does it cost to get these relationships and trust wrong? For example 6 weeks to 56 weeks is nearly 10 * the cost (or was it?)

A12. What does it cost when a project goes wrong? Or if it's delayed, even by just a month? What does it add to your stress levels and work pleasure? 86% of transformations fail. Not because of technology or budgets, but because of people related factors. That can cost millions.

Q13. What are the barriers that westerners face to learning and understanding different cultures, and are there differences USA to Europe/ Canada?

A13. There are no barriers, just a lack of awareness. In this age of AI, soft skills will be the most important skill. Being able to communicate, collaborate, lead, influence and give pushback in a local context is the skillset of this decade. And yes, there are vast cultural differences between Europe and the US. Rochelle and Ilse would be happy to talk to you about this in a personal call.

Q14. Do you think that each culture’s highly rated Trust-building characteristics are the characteristics most rare in their own culture, e.g. timekeeping in India? In other words, have they picked genuine trust builders or the characteristics that only a few people have?

A14. Yes. There is always a historical background that explains a lot of those values. That can be a national challenge like time. It can be deeply impactful historical events and it can be strong national values. It is my personal belief that a lot of this is also influenced by affluence.

Further Reading

Rochelle and Ilse shared the following information:

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0.5  Leadership

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PDU Code C075NV5D32