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Global Project Management Adds Layers of Complexity

June 23, 2022, 8:07 PM

Global project management requires both managers and team members to develop many new habits and practices, a global payroll executive said June 23.

“Seventy percent of projects fail. That’s astounding,” Catherine Honey, vice president of global alliances for Neeyamo, said, adding that that statistic was from “a number of years ago” and is improving but is still over 60%.

Honey cited statistics finding that a quarter of failed projects do not achieve any goals or objectives, half require significant rework, and a quarter do not achieve the desired return on investment.

Reasons for failure can include unclear objectives, shifting requirements, unrealistic schedules, teams that lack aligned measures of success, and projects that just go on for too long, Honey said at the American Payroll Association’s 2022 Virtual Congress.

“Project fatigue, change fatigue, are real things,” Honey said.

A good project manager is a “team protector,” Honey said. “What they really need to do the most is remove obstacles” and allow their team to focus on tasks, she said.

Managers should assert authority, generously give credit to others, and be well-respected leaders, skilled motivators, effective communicators, and accountable with integrity, Honey said.

Global Project Considerations

“It’s a tangled web,” Honey said of managing global projects, because of the additional practices required.

While employees have become used to working with people in different locations while working remotely, managers should still be aware of different legislative requirements or restrictions on scheduling work activities, Honey said.

Scheduling conference calls can be challenging just in the U.S., Honey said. When different world regions are involved, the meeting times should be varied so the same people are not always inconvenienced, she said.

Time zones can also be used to an advantage by giving tasks to teams further east so they can finish before teams further west come in, Honey said.

“Oftentimes, when we think about global projects we talk about English as the language of business,” Honey said, cautioning that there are of course different varieties of English. Nonnative speakers may be less familiar with slang or nuance or may be more comfortable talking about complex topics in their native language, she said.

Organizational considerations should also be taken into account, because team members may belong to different departments or business units. An employee might not want to speak up if they work somewhere where hierarchy is important and their work on a project causes conflict with a local manager, Honey said.

Cultural considerations are also important, Honey said. “One’s not better than another, one’s not worse than another, they’re just different, and a good project manager will understand that, accept that, and strive to learn about the different cultures,” she said.

“By involving people from all over the world, you get all kinds of different perspectives,” Honey said.

The risks of not trying to understand different cultures include potentially offending others, alienating team members, and miscommunications that can cause problems with tasks, Honey said.

Communication is important, and “in the context of global project management it’s even more important,” Honey said, citing among the benefits more engaged, productive, and stronger teams with better cohesion and better understanding of roles. Communication strategies should consider public holidays and potentially differing weekends in different work locations, she said.

Key to developing a global mindset is embracing diversity and inclusion to make sure team members feel comfortable, Honey said, mentioning that as one of the success factors for managers.

A good first step is to become more self-aware of words and actions and to try to understand the “diversity iceberg,” Honey said. “What you see is only a fraction of what really exists,” she said, adding that managers should try to make sure that company leadership understands the importance of diversity and inclusion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jamie Rathjen in Washington at jrathjen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: William Dunn at wdunn@bloombergindustry.com