VIEWPOINTS MANAGING RELATIONSHIPS
BY SHEILINA SOMANI, PMP
Learn to embrace your team's diversity.
In this era of worldwide business, we zigzag through time zones supported by high-tech gadgets. We draw project resources from across the world, each team member bringing a rich and diverse palette of cultural experiences to the project.
It's energizing to work with nomadic project managers who find themselves in an unfamiliar country or one where they don't speak their native language. These managers typically show:
- A readiness to learn
- A willingness to assimilate local values in their approach to family and work hours
- An eagerness to diversify their language skills, learn new expressions and often become bi- or multi-lingual
- An energy and enthusiasm that welcomes change
- A desire to grow and seize new challenges
- An ability to extend their cultures and embrace those of others.
Despite the challenge and exhilaration of working in another country, imagine how frustrating it must be for team members to have working methods imposed upon them, reporting progress in a prescripted format. Project managers should consider the most appropriate communication methods for their unique team members. At the beginning of the project, examine the format, content and frequency of reporting tools and templates and their appropriateness.
Clearly explain why reports are structured as they are, their purpose and how their content is used, and you'll find that team members will be more receptive to using them. Team members are more likely to contribute to project deliverables when they understand the reasons for them.
Those of us with technical backgrounds can slip into doing things “the way we have always done them.” By stepping back from our experience and evaluating the range of skills and experience within the project group, we can develop new ways of thinking. We can increase the awareness of project contributors to resources previously unused in our colleagues. Tapping into the diversity of knowledge and experience available within your team gives you the opportunity to do a job differently and seek alternative solutions.
Effective project managers develop a project team plan that includes:
- An outline of core values and behavior
- A list of techniques and methods that can be agreed upon by the potential project team
- A simple checklist that permits team members to indicate their level of confidence and capability in the methods proposed
- A framework for the individuals to create a team culture.
When creating a team-building workshop, include exercises that:
- Illustrate individual experience
- Document pain from previous projects (especially relating to team work and project management)
- Capture risk-mitigation strategies to prevent recurrence of pain
- Document success factors of previous experiences
- Plan into the project how these will be repeated
- Address communications planning—frequency, content, ownership, templates and expectations—with examples
- Reconfirm the diversity of experience and ability of the group and the need for open, honest and respectful communication.
All individuals of all cultures have the potential to learn and share their experience and skills and increase their effectiveness. Project management nomads embrace and learn from each oasis of people on their team. PM
Sheilina Somani, PMP, is owner of Positively Project Management and vice president, education, for the PMI Diversity Specific Interest Group.
PM NETWORK | FEBRUARY 2006 | WWW.PMI.ORG