How do you deliver the best for your client, if your team is dispersed across five disciplines, six countries and work in different time-zones?

I recently faced this challenge on a food and beverage project in East Timor. It’s a challenge my colleagues and I have become very adept in overcoming. In fact, our strength has become our ability to consistently deliver the very best of our diverse capabilities to clients. 

The key to this success is simple: Planning, communication and trust. 

At Beca, we call it work-sharing. It’s our approach for bringing together multiple teams, with complementary strengths, to work together on a project. Used correctly, work-sharing is an excellent vehicle for injecting technical excellence from all over the globe into projects. It can increase efficiency and outputs, while at the same time reducing the cost of delivery through the use of local resources. The goal being, to increase value for your client. 

Like all good things, work-sharing has its challenges. Upfront planning is key. Getting the right team for any project is important, but it’s absolutely critical when work-sharing is involved. Therefore, break the project into scoped modules or work-packages that can be completed in one location, and then fit them into the bigger picture. This way you can match the capability and experience of your technical experts and customer advocates, along with your local team early in the project. 

Communication is also a vital ingredient. Get the right amount of dialogue happening between your team members. Appreciate that communication is more challenging if many of your team haven’t met, and understand when it is most effective to bring everyone together. Telephone, text messages and email are all good ways of communicating with the team. We have a Whatsapp group set up for a project that has people from four different countries. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate – through experience, I’ve realised this tends to give the best results. 

It is important to have trust in any project team. When you work together in one office, it is something that tends to come naturally. However, when work-sharing is involved, developing trust can take time. Stay above the line when thinking about the performance and attitudes of others. Maintain positivity throughout the work-sharing team as it will have a big effect. Review your work together to help all parties understand the design process used and the intention of your team members are took to prepare the design. 

Different cultures and time zones are not showstoppers, but an advantage in combining expertise and local insight. Through good planning and preparation, you can be flexible with the working hours and respect the cultures with your team. For one, always try to book meetings at times that suits everyone. 

Take the time to get to know your team. Listen to them and understand how they operate. They may have a lot to add, but might not feel comfortable expressing their opinion in the presence of others. Talk regularly with people who have worked within the team or office, to understand their strengths. 

So, how do you deliver the best for your client? Work-sharing. In today’s world, global barriers are no longer an obstacle. Bring together the best people, deliver the best for your client 

About the Author
Edward Hughes

Associate - Project Management

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