How much does geography matter when managing a project? Should it? Jennifer Hill makes the case that in the end, geography is only part of the equation.
Currently, I am working closely with a Chicago-based client to lead a Project Management Office (PMO) managing a large, complex and customized cloud-based solution.
In support of the effort, I was asked to accompany a team to India to become familiar with the offshore model and the rest of the team. Over the course of the 15-hour flight, a question came to me: “Is flying halfway around the world to become more familiar with a team of people too far?” I frequently hear how small the world is, but at what point does geography become a hurdle – and a risk to a program’s success?
Trips, whether across Chicago, within the United States or around the world are not too far to travel. Thus, geography does not have to impact the program’s success; rather, the real differentiators to a program’s success are the leadership within the team and the culture of collaboration fostered across the team.
To overcome the geography hurdle, consider leveraging the following techniques:
Establish Clear Lead Roles To Represent Offshore And Onshore
Identify an individual (and a backup) at each location to serve as a main point of contact and keep the team focused.
Monitor Intersection Points (Interim Milestones)
Proactively plan for the impact of internal and external dependencies when considering international time zones. Before leaving for the day, ensure the offshore team is enabled to begin their work – environment availability, code properly checked in, data available, etc.
Implement Simple Metrics, Consistent Across The Team
Requesting basic metrics consistently across all onshore and offshore teams enables improved communication. Good examples include planned and actual dates with percent complete, etc.
Hold Brief Stand-Up Phone Calls To Ensure Teams Are Enabled
Create a 15-minute stand-up conference call a few times a week. Encourage team members to share accomplishments, upcoming activities and anything needed from others.
Ensure Team Inclusion Through Consistent Program Leadership Communications And Onsite Visits
Regularly provide verbal and written updates and recognition of the team’s milestones and individual contributions. Plan for onsite visits to team members to reiterate the importance of each team.
A successful onshore and offshore model requires focus and discipline at all levels. Geography need not be negative, but a part of the regular workings – and deep culture – of your team.