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My project requires me to work with individuals in another country…

How am I supposed to do that?

Amy has been assigned to work with individuals from India, China, and Ireland on her project. She is the project lead for one component of a major project. She has never worked with individuals outside of the United States and is concerned about how successful the project will be if she is not working right alongside her teammates.

Amy was frustrated when she tried to arrange a phone call with everyone. The time differences were impossible to deal with! She couldn’t figure out a good time for everyone to meet. Additionally, it was difficult for her to do phone calls so early in the morning or even in the evening because she had to take care of her children.

Then, during one of the phone meetings, she specifically asked if everyone was all set with what they had to deliver and due dates. Everyone committed to the schedule and said everything was fine – they were on schedule. When she checked in with everyone a couple of weeks later via email, Siraj in India told her they were going to miss the due date on their end.  And she still hasn’t gotten a response from Kelly in Ireland. And then Yujian, who headed the team in China, sent an email to the entire team saying he wasn’t happy with the direction they were taking and was looking at new options using new technologies so he needed at least another month.

Amy couldn’t understand it. She was sure everyone was on the same page and now it seemed that they were all moving in different directions. She didn’t know how she was going to get her part of the project delivered on time now. What was she going to do?  How should she handle it?

Options for Amy to improve the situation

There are a few things Amy should consider to resolve her issues and get her component of the project moving in the right direction.

  • Learn about the cultures of the others on your team. Every culture approaches things differently. When working with individuals from another culture – even if they are located right in the next office! – learn a bit about them – what makes them tick, how they interact with others, etc. The more you know the better you can interact with them and work effectively together. There are many websites and books available that describe other cultures and expectations of individuals.
  • Get to know the individuals on the team. Amy may want to consider holding a team building event. It’s OK to have it be virtual since it is unlikely she’ll be able to get together with the team. For ideas on team building, see a previous post: Kicking Off Your Project Team. Additionally, every team goes through the 5 stages of team development. Any project lead should understand how a team progresses through them. Part of the project lead’s responsibilities is to guide his/her team through the stages.
  • Have one-on-one conversations with the team members. Amy should consider having one-on-one conversations with the team member leads – Siraj, Kelly and Yujian – to discuss expectations and concerns about the project. She needs to get everyone back on track and moving in the right direction. It will also help her to understand the challenges they are facing on their end with team members and, likely, with other responsibilities they have.
  • Have a team meeting with the entire extended team. Once Amy has had one-on-one conversations and come to agreement with the team member leads, she should have a virtual meeting with the entire extended team on her component of the project to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and the team is moving forward with meeting the project goals.
  • Regular status meetings with the team member leads. On a weekly basis, Amy should have a group phone call with the team member leads: Siraj, Kelly and Yujian. The purpose of the call should be to discuss progress, resolve issues, and assist each other in problem solving.

Your thoughts? What else can Amy do to resolve this situation and get the project back on track? What would you advise her? Please share your thoughts in the Comments field below.  Thanks!