How do you manage a construction project that spans thousands of people and multiple countries – and ensure it succeeds? Oneh Golding, In country Office Manager in USB-ED’s Botswana office, says it starts with essential project management (PM) skills. “At USB-ED, one of our core focus areas is project management because we’ve recognised the need for high-performing professionals in this field. Good project managers play a pivotal role in furthering development in the public and private sectors. They’re crucial to growth and cross-border relations.”
This past July, Zambia and Botswana announced their plans to construct a 430-kilometre railway on the Kazungula Bridge that links the two countries. The construction project is a large endeavour but one that is entirely feasible – if project managed correctly.
Across the world, multi-million-dollar construction projects are managed by teams who have never met face-to-face. Instead, a combination of technology and skills are used to ensure that projects are successful.
How to manage cross country projects
1. Hire the right team
The most difficult aspect of working across countries is employees who are unable to transfer knowledge due to poor communication and inadequate understanding of their colleagues’ cultures and needs. At the start of your project, ensure you hire the correct employees – people that have the knowledge and skills but can also work remotely and with a team.
My Client Spot says a standard on-boarding process that educates new employees or team members will help create a solid workforce. If you don’t have control of the hiring process, you should still give input to the recruiting and onboarding teams to ensure the right steps are taken.
2. Understand cultural differences
When teams are split across countries, a lack of awareness and understanding of cultural differences can lead to interpersonal conflicts and poor judgement, says the Project Management Institute (PMI). You may be accustomed to clocking off at 5 pm, however, in Asia, for example, it’s not uncommon for meetings to be held over dinner or even later in the evening. Additionally, in some countries, sticking to a hierarchy is more important than collaboration.
As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure you set the tone for all teams, so that everyone understands these cultural differences and that they are mindful of how these affect the project overall.
3. Find overlapping times
While time can be a flexible concept in some countries, time zones are important so that team members do not disturb their colleagues unknowingly. If you are unable to find a time that works for everyone, consider shifting each meeting so that the same individuals are not always required to do a midnight meeting, suggests Girl’s Guide to PM.
4. Always communicate
Whether remote or not, the key to a great workforce and working environment is a good communication strategy. Internally, this means choosing the right channels to let team members know what is taking place within the business or on specific projects.
Externally, it’s about outlining what information can be shared with those not on the team, such as the public or senior management, for example. Inc. recommends creating a consistent schedule of meetings for your project management team, whether these are video conferences, dial-ins or even making use of a group social platform such as Workplace.
5. Stick to one decision-making process
Second to communication, signing off on decisions can be difficult when teams are working in different locations. To combat this, Skills You Need suggests working the decision-making process into the project brief. If everyone knows how decisions are made upfront, as well as who makes these decisions, it will prevent bottlenecks down-the-line.
6. Manage collaboration and productivity
Even if remote teams are excellent at communication, a remote project team will only achieve success if they work together to get things done. This is where software tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Monday.com are useful. As a project leader, you can then assign tasks to every member on your team and track their productivity while also checking in without looking over the team’s shoulders.
The above tips extend beyond cross-country construction management, from small-scale projects to projects of a much greater magnitude. If you are interested in becoming proficient in your duty as a project manager, then USB-ED’s Managing Project Programme could be the perfect programme to equip you with the essential skills needed to manage projects of all sizes.