Prompted by experiences of different cultures through vacation travel this month we have been reflecting on how best to create and lead high performing teams that work across different contexts and cultures. Looking to build on the tried and tested models and patterns that you have and to offer one key questions as you focus and initiate the next cycle of development for the teams you are part of – what are you doing to keep things simple?
We have found that the particular challenges of teams working across different locations, time-zones, boundaries within and between organisations all compound the established challenges of effective and efficient collaboration by groups of humans.
The challenge of establishing high performing global teams could be characterised as – How to deliver on the potential benefits offered by the diversity of the team without the “differences” getting in the way? How to deliver on benefits that many are reporting for teams with higher levels of contextual diversity. Benefits that include: higher levels of idea generation, increased creativity, improved quality of decision-making quality and ability to solve problem-solving.
The foundations of tried and tested models and patterns remain critical. Foundations might include a team charter to make explicit the key features of the team e.g. the shared, clear statement of direction and purpose for the team; the structure; the team processes that empower team members; the key external relationships and who is responsible for managing those relationship; the metrics that matter to key stakeholders that the team uses to demonstrate progress and inform performance improvement etc..
Building on these foundations and focusing what makes the difference when addressing the specific challenges of diverse, global teams we invite you consider what else you could do to simplify the way the team works, to make it easier for the team to work effectively. To kick start your thinking, we find that when a global team really benefits when you make it as simple for the team to:
- Communicate – making it simple for the team to communicate and share information, setting and holding the team to standards on the tools that team use for workflow, managing documents, collaborating, accessing and adding to team knowledge banks, alongside the basics of contact information, group calendaring, setting norms for availability etc.
- Build relationships –in the past face:face kick off meetings might have been the norm, building on recent years, teams are much more comfortable and effective at finding simple ways of building and sustaining informal relationship using specific MS Teams channels, WhatsApp or similar to broaden and deepen interactions to provide the foundation for the trust that enables team performance, as ever the key is to make time for relationship building.
- Make Decisions – designing team process and practice for decision making has always been key, with global teams the need for clear, simple, well understood processes and guidelines for making decision are critical for success, knowing when and how something should be handled is key.
- Raise and resolve sensitive issues –a challenge in any team, but a particular challenge when working across a diverse global team, is having a clear, simple way for the team to raise and work through what we have often refer to as the “undiscussables” is a critical success factor for global teams. Where “undiscussables” can include those things that team members think but don’t feel able to say, or say but don’t mean, or feelings that cannot be said or do things where they don’t realise the impact on the team.