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Project Manager : Project Manager Apr May 2014
26 Project Manager CAREER CENTRE The tyranny of distance To efficiently deliver project outcomes, project managers need to bridge the gaps between members of their remote teams. LEANNE MEZRANI GLOBALISATION MAY HAVE MADE THE world feel smaller, but project teams are becoming more scattered. Most project managers would have managed a project where some or even all of their teams worked remotely. Despite having a multitude of technological tools at their fingertips to allow workers to collaborate and share resources, remote teams still pose unique challenges. Francis Nor man, PhD candidate at Curtin University in Perth and Director at consultancy firm Ulfire, is investigating these challenges in his dissertation. His research has found that one of the most critical issues for remote teams is trust. " e significant thing is how people build trust and how they maintain that tr ust between individuals, between offices and between groups," he says. "People will find ways to work around system problems, but the humanistic side -- the personalities, [others] being perceived as a threat -- is the biggest challenge." Norman's research examines the views and e xperiences of remote teams delivering engineering projects. He discovered that emotional commitment to a project, from both individual workers and stakeholders, could strongly influence project outcomes. is commitment develops when workers feel they have genuine, tr usting relationships with their remote colleagues. "People will go that extra mile if they feel it is being appreciated and reciprocated. ey're more likely to answer the phone after hours if it's coming from another office, or they're more likely to come in early and join a meeting," says Nor man. "Without an established level of trust between project team members, they appear less likely to communicate openly, [which] results in issues that could other wise have been dealt with as a matter of course being left unaddressed until it is too late." Trust issues Building and maintaining trust is challenging, particularly in the absence of face-to-face interaction between team members. " e challenge for the management of a remote team is to create a cohesion usually reser ved for successful co-located teams," says Leh Simonelli, Chair of the AIPM Professional Development Council and for mer AIPM National Director. " e manager must create a tier of collaboration, productivity and communication that spans cultures, time and distance." A 2010 global survey conducted by consultancy CultureWizard found that 73 per cent of workers viewed managing conflict in remote teams as more challenging than in face-to-face teams, 69 per cent thought making decisions was more difficult and 64 per cent believed that expressing opinions was not as easy. As for the greatest hurdles to be overcome by remote teams, 81 per cent of respondents listed time zones, 64 per cent pointed to language, and 59 per cent cited holidays, local laws and customs. e two latter responses highlight the cultural challenges common within globally dispersed teams, including one of Simonelli's own. He is cur rently managing a major program for the International Project Management Association (IPMA) that involves individuals from approximately 20 different countries. Managing such a team's cultural differences requires effective and tailored communication that goes beyond CURIOUS AND OPEN-MINDED PROJECT MANAGERS CAN USE CI TO BUILD STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS AND ESTABLISH TRUST
Project Manager Feb Mar 2014