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Global communication technology April 14, 2009

Posted by rickbron in 18916129, Bronder On People, Communication, Management.
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Communicating in a global environment is a significant challenge and can sometimes be a daunting experience. The first aspect of global communication the Big Dogz focus on is the technology.  Matching the communications technology with the situation will go a long way toward making your global communications more effective.

 

Choosing the optimum technology starts with looking at two major dimensions of the communication.

  1. How much interpersonal interaction do you desire?
  2. How complex is the content?

 

Using these two dimensions, the Big Dogz can determine the optimum communication technology. Here are eight possible technology choices.

 

1.      E-mail

Use this technology when the interpersonal contact is low and content is the least complex. Effective uses of e-mail include specific answers to questions, announcements, quick thank you notes or conversation summaries. E-mail is the most preferred communication technology amongst global leaders. It is also the least effective communication technology relative to understanding. E-mail is widely used because it is quick, easy and can withstand time zone differences. When you select e-mail for other than simple communication, you can count on spending more time later sorting out the problems! The Big Dogz consider e-mail the technology of last resort. Use it sparingly.

 

2.      Voicemail

Voice mail adds the power of tone to your communication. Tone is important for communicating urgency. This sense of urgency addresses the slightly higher need for interpersonal contact in the communication. Also, you can address a more complex topic with voicemail. Voicemail is a more effective choice than e-mail because of the tone factor. However, it is always a good practice to follow up with an e-mail since that is the preferred communication technology.

 

3.      Instant message

When you have an urgent message to send and the message is simple, instant messaging is an effective technology. In recent time, IM technology advances have been spectacular, and IM has become almost indispensable for communicating when people are working at the same time. IM is quick and allows two-way communication. You can also save the content for later reference to make sure you understand what transpired. For those skilled it its use, the IM technology, in some situations,  can be as effective as the next technology.

 

4.      Telephone call

Good old fashioned talking to one another! This technology is effective for high interpersonal contact and content complexity. It is two-way communication without the non-verbal signals. The lack of non-verbal signals is a major drawback; however, most people can accommodate the difference with more emphasis on tone. The telephone allows the highly interactive paraphrasing that is the hallmark of effective communication. The Big Dogz use this technology when the topic is important or personal.

 

5.      Telephone conference

Ahhhh, the joys of a virtual meeting! This technology is most effective when you need interpersonal contact to share information or generate solutions to complex issues. The telephone conference allows you to involve more people simultaneously and to deliver more information quickly. One of the major mistakes made in telephone conferences is that there is no validation that everyone understood the same thing! The Big Dogz know that taking some time at the end of a teleconference to verify a common understanding makes future teleconferences shorter.

 

6.      Groupware

In this category, the Big Dogz include tools like Microsoft Live Meeting, Webex Meeting and others for conducting virtual meetings. Using these tools adds a significant improvement to the virtual meeting. They allow anyone at the meeting to display visual representations of information. Even simple slides with bullet points are more effective than trying to explain with just spoken words. Once you conduct a global meeting with one of these tools, you will never go back to just conference calls. Of all the technologies here, I believe this one has the highest return on investment in providing communication that is more effective. One of the drawbacks to this technology is that is it same time technology and that does not address the time zone challenge. However, the Big Dogz will use this technology anytime they can!  Interactive virtual meetings address a need for high interpersonal contact while allowing the global tem to discuss and resolve complex issues.

 

Also in this category are the tools that allow you to share stored information on the internet or within your organization’s intranet. Having a team website falls into this category. The team website is a great place to store common documents, status reports or to contain information about the people on the project. Recent major advances in website development tools have made it easier for anyone to create a website. This is no longer a request to the IT department. One big advantage of the team website is that it spans time zones.

 

7.      Video conference

Video technology takes the virtual meeting concept to the next level. With video, you get the non-verbal component, which adds significant power to the communication process. Video conference technology is often difficult to find in any but the large corporations since it is so expensive. Again, technology has come to the rescue in the form of the webcam. This technology is very effective for one-on-one meetings between the global leader and team members. It addresses the need for high interpersonal contact and high complexity. Using webcams in regular team meetings also increase the interactivity of the team members. The good news is that webcams are relatively inexpensive and available everywhere. The no so good news is that webcams consume large quantities of internet bandwidth. The Big Dogz check to see if they can use webcams and use them whenever possible.

 

8.      Face to face

OK, well not exactly a technology. Face to face communication is by far the most effective way to communicate. You get all three major components of a communication — the content, the tone and the non-verbal signals. This technology is most effective for building rapport and commitment. Of course, the major drawback with this technology is the cost in time and money. The Big Dogz do everything they can to get at least one face to face meeting with each member of the global team.

 

Choosing the optimum technology can significantly improve your capability to lead a global team successfully. The Big Dogz know that you can’t always use the technology you want, but you can make an informed decision and be aware of the potential problems that could arise from using less than optimum technology.

 

In my next entry, I will describe some of the best practices with each of these technologies.

 

 

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Leading a global team April 7, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Getting what you want, Management, Management Principle, Team basics.
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Do you have to lead global teams? Many companies are expanding globally to take advantage of the basic economics of hiring workers. While some of us may not agree with that strategy, it is widely adopted. It is not the purpose of this entry to discuss the viability of international outsourcing. It is my purpose to give you some tips and techniques on how to be more effective in that environment.

 Some of the most common challenges facing managers and leaders in a global environment are:

  • Staying connected
  • Time differences
  • Alignment or mis-alignment of goals
  • Language
  • Culture differences
  • Expectations of senior management
  • Managing performance

 Not everyone can be successful as a global manager or leader.  Effective global leaders typically have:

  • A willingness to communicate, form relationships with others, and try new things
  • Good cross-cultural communication and language skills
  • Flexibility and open-mindedness about other cultures
  • The ability to determine if a global worker is performing up to expectations

 The principles that guide us in becoming an effective team leader with co-located teams also apply in the global arena. However, the effective global leader is aware of four factors that affect their performance in a global situation.

1.      Pay more attention to time. Things just take longer when you are acting globally. It is sometimes difficult to convince senior management of this concept, but it is true and the global leader must consider it. In addition, the effective global leader understands that not everyone lives in the same time zone.

2.      Have more patience. Since things take longer and people do things differently across the globe, the effective global leader has more patience. I once had a manager tell me, “I know I need to learn more patience. How long will this take?” Learn how to breathe deeply or learn the art of Zen or something to increase your patience. You will need it.

3.      Make effective use of technology. The purveyors of technology are rapidly working to close the global gap. Global leaders have telephone and visual technology available to access people in any part of the world. Learn the technology and use it to help you close the global gap!

4.      Adapt to different cultures. When everyone shares the same building, it is easy to interact culturally. Once you go more than 50 miles, nuances start to creep into the culture. Just imagine the cultural differences when the person is over 5000 miles away. It is the responsibility of the global leader to create a team culture. That culture must not violate any of the cultural taboos of the global community.

 Using these four factors as a foundation, I will be writing a series on leading global teams with emphasis on communicating, building rapport and getting results.  Stay tuned.