Teams and Time Zones: Tips for a Global Workforce

Published Tuesday, June 29, 2010 9:34 AM

When a team's members work in Bombay and Boston, creating a high-functioning unit is a challenge. Navigating diverse cultural expectations and work styles is one hurdle. The logistics of working across time zones is another.

What Time Is It There?

Global teams wanting to optimize performance and communications can use technology and schedules that minimize the divide of separate locales and time zones. They can also work towards alignment, or common ground, in three critical areas outlined by management consultant expert Howard M. Guttman in Are Your Global Team Members Miles Apart? 

Create Commonality

 To transcend the limits of culture and geography, teams need to align, or achieve commonality, in three key areas. They are:

  •  Strategic and operational goals

Teams must agree on strategy and goals, rather than merely giving the appearance of agreeing. Develop clear, written, mutually agreed upon terms, and then stick to them.

  •  Roles and responsibilities

Overlapping roles and territorial disputes undermine productivity. Take time to clarify roles both verbally and in written form; formally articulating roles helps identify misunderstandings or disconnects.

  •  Decision making protocols

Clear decision making processes are crucial. Teams should agree on rules for decision making (i.e. will decisions be made unilaterally, consultatively or by consensus). Consider grouping decisions into categories and designate a decision maker for each (i.e. staffing, budget, marketing, decisions related to new product launches, etc.). Finally, ban second-guessing or attempts to circumvent set decisions.

 

Bridge Time Zones with Technology

Far-flung team members need to pay attention to the logistics of communications as much as the message communicated. When "what time is it anyway?" has vastly different answers, it's time to tackle the time zone gap

Tools to bridge the time zone divide include:

  • The World Clock ;Shows current times around the world
  • Fixed Time Calculator ;If it's 3pm in New York, what time is it in the rest of the world?
  • Dialing Code Calculator ;International area codes
  • World Meeting Planner ;Helps find suitable times for international meetings
  • Agree Date ;Comparisons of different time zones so user can see best block of time for call/conference
  • iZone ;Helps users coordinate all the time zones they might call or visit through an interactive visual interface

 

Consider scheduling meetings so the less desirable times (very early or late) rotate across locales. Cross train team members so that key functions reside in all locales. No one wants to be rousted from bed or called on a weekend for crucial information.

Finally, appreciate the upside of the global nature of your team. When the sun never sets on your workforce, problems can be tackled in one location, while team members in another head home for the night.

Do you have far-flung team members? What tips and techniques do you use to bridge the time zone divide? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Bradley Eggers

 

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