Managing Remote, Cross-Cultural Teamwork

Invest in training that broadens your team’s multi-cultural awareness. Effective multi-cultural training will help give your team the openness to other perspectives and awareness of their own cultural filters needed to work more effectively in a diverse environment.

Not long ago, I attended one of these programs, facilitated by PRISM International where participants from the two partnering cultures made incredible discoveries about how they actually perceived each other and how this impacted their work.

Everyone who attended this program walked away with a deeper understanding of their own filters and the views of their partner’s culture. It was truly an eye-opening experience for all.

Invest in desktop electronic collaboration tools. Web collaboration suites such as Live Meeting and WebEx provide a robust array of tools that enable the creation of a meeting room environment where you can share slides, handouts, and/or work together on a white board.

I would also suggest employing knowledge management tools that lend themselves to participation by global partners. Sun shared with me the example of a firm by the name of Compex Inc., a global software development company that has captured some incredible innovations on a regular basis by using a project-based, open system that allows every employee in the world access. Any individual can chime in with their thoughts and recommendations from anywhere in the world.

Invest in desktop video. To increase the frequency of face-to-face communication without increasing your air travel expenses, desktop video is clearly your best option.

Companies like Avistar Communications regularly help their clients’ distributed teams emulate rich face-to-face communications by offering desktop video solutions that support integrating visual collaboration into their daily workflow.

Clearly these investments in cultural awareness and technology do not remove the need for old-fashion live face-to-face communication from time-to-time. They will, however, enrich the communication that occurs between trips and help strengthen partner relationships.

As we survey the analyst’s predictions, it appears that global business partnerships are a mega-trend that is here to stay. According to a recent Meta Group report, the offshore outsourcing market currently exceeds $10 billion and they predict it will enjoy a sustained growth factor of 20% through 2008.

With the globalization of IT teams at the forefront of this revolution, IT leaders today are challenged with building the foundation for effective worldwide partnerships. Those who accept that challenge and address it will be building the strategy that results in both direct benefits today as well as in long term rewards for their companies.

Joe Santana is an IT organizational development specialist and thought-leader and co-author of “Manage IT.” He can be reached at [email protected] or via his Web site