Time zone Tips for Long Distance Business Relationships

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This video from Scatterwork is about time zone tips for long distance business relationships. There are many complicating factors: time zones and also cultures which we cover in a separate video.

Regarding time zones, one of the things that we can do is to set Ground Rules. For example, if we’re in Europe and we have colleagues in Asia and we have meetings in the middle of our day, it will be their evening, maybe when they are trying to go home at the end of the day. It makes sense to agree what each other’s time limits are. The same applies if you’re in the Americas and you’re dealing with Europe.

So work out what the windows of overlap are which are acceptable to all the parties and stick to them.

Another tip is to know each other’s schedules, for example people have different starting and finishing times depending where they are and the local habits.

One example is that in Spain lunch doesn’t usually start until three in the afternoon. The further north you go in Europe, the earlier it is. In Norway for example you might get your lunch at 11 o’clock and they’re actually in the same time zone. So so if we know each other’s schedules it makes it easier to match people’s comfort.

Another thing we can do is minimize the need for time overlap. If we have to share data maybe we could do this through a shared document or a wiki, so that we don’t have to be online at the same time. That means that the time that we are on line is used for things that can only be done face-to-face or at least on online together.

And that brings us to the fourth tip: get the best out of every meeting. When we have meetings online, let’s not waste them by turning up late, microphones that don’t work, chat that’s off topic and so on. It really is hard for people to get time to work together so probably time together should be respected.

So if you want to discuss these or any of your own project issues, please connect with me. I look forward to talking to you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

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Best methods to set up a call for mutiple time zones

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This video is about best methods to set up calls for multiple time zones. The challenge is that except for very local projects contact with other time zones is an everyday experience. Global time zones change depending on the time of year so there’s no single point of reference and in fact in some countries there is no change.

Time zones must be respected for successful live contacts. So here are some examples of the complications that can arise when people are in different zones. Within a zone it’s fine.

China uses one time zone even though the country is several time zones wide so people get up at different times of the day depending where they live.

In India the standard time zone is aligned with a half hour in most other zones. This allows all of India to be on one time zone, which is convenient for India but it’s slightly different if you’re dealing globally.

Then Europe and North America both change from summer-time to winter-time, or daylight saving time, but they don’t change on the same date. So that means that the difference between them changes twice a year.

So one simple solution is to send an invitation using an ordinary meeting function through your email, but do it while in telephone contact. Then the person who gets it will see the time and if it’s not right, they could say “please resend that for an hour earlier” for example.

By doing that you can find a time. This is not very good when there are lots of participants or they are in different time zones and indeed it takes a lot of time because both people have to be online to do it.

A better approach is to use an application which presents two or three time options to the invitee and they can select the one they want and click on it. Because these systems check the calendar of the sender, then if a time is selected, it’s a free time. So you cut out altogether the telephone so there’s far less effort. But as well as that, you don’t need to be on line at the same time. However a lot of these systems work for single meetings: one person with one.

Another alternative is to use an application which allows people to view the time of the meeting but when they look at it, their computer will convert it into local time and handle all the time zone issues.

We use this at Scatterwork to schedule our global workshops. The initiator can send a time; other people can look at that time in their own computers. So for example, here you see that the time of the meeting was set for 3 p.m. But on the computer where I viewed, it there was an hour difference between universal time and my time, so it shows me my time as well. Here it just says “by the way, there are eleven days before this meeting”.

Now, if other people get the same link, when they look at it, this line here about your time will be different depending on where they are. So that’s a very convenient thing when the central point has to choose a time and say “this is the time, please check what it is in your time zone”.

A more reliable approach is to use a process to set up meeting times. This involves adding steps in. For example a manager may wish to check their calendar for availability.

To control processes like that needs something more complex and we use for example Kissflow but there are other products out there and they manage the sequence of actions in the cloud and across time zones. So that if for example you say “send out the time for a meeting” and then the next action is to check it, then there is a delay until everybody has said “I’ve checked it”. So that’s more complex but more reliable approach.

This is what one of those workflows might look like. It has several steps in it and it takes some time to set up, but if you have big meetings or important meetings, it might be worth doing this.

So the summary is that simple methods are not really adequate in the global environment. Informal methods take time they take a lot of effort and they are likely to result in mistakes. And the third option is to live with the complexity of multiple time zones and used better tools and methods.

So if you are interested in any of these issues, please do contact us at scatterwork.com and we’d be happy to talk to you. Thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Living with diverse culture in Virtual Projects

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Hello! This short video from Scatterwork focuses on living diverse culture in virtual projects and presents three survival hints.

The first is to recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch between, for example, people in different offices in different countries or different parts of the world is very, very high.

I’ve got here seven features that you might have which are different between two different offices, for example different delays between speaker and response.

In some cultures, when you speak you have to wait until the other person is finished and then you answer. And if you don’t they get a bit annoyed. But in other cultures the response comes and people talk at the same time. If these response habits don’t match, then you can have an uncomfortable situation.

Or maybe they use different dialing codes for telephone for international codes or different ways of writing the number down with plus and zero and so on.

May be different times of the year for changing between winter and summer time (that’s between winter time and daylight saving time). If it’s not at the same time of year you have a chance that meetings will not work properly because the time coordination wasn’t good.

So I’ve got seven features that may differ between two offices. Just imagine that there were five options for each of these, then we have have seven times by 5, that is 5 by 5 and so on combinations that could occur between these two offices, 78,000.

The point is that there are so many different options that you’ve got a good chance of hitting one of them and of course you always hit it by mistake.

So then the next survival hint is if this happens not to react immediately to an unexpected response. If you get something you don’t expect and you react immediately then you have a good chance the other person will not be very comfortable. But if on the other hand you delay your response,, they might think “why isn’t he answering?”. A delay is less likely to end up in a conflict situation.

And I remember one time long ago presenting an unexpected situation to a friend of mine and instead of reacting, he just stopped for a few seconds and then he said “…………..O.K.”.

By doing it that way you avoid the row.

And then the third survival hint is to introduce extra process steps for improved reliability. For example don’t just rely on an email
“please send me so-and-so” but then follow it up with a phone call and read through the email together and listen.

It may be that was said or what was written down wasn’t exactly what you thought or maybe maybe the right thing was written down in you misinterpreted it. So by having two steps you have a
better chance of compensating for this complexity.

So there you have it: three things:

one is recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch are very, very, very high;

and then if you get some sort of funny response or something you’re not expecting, wait give yourself a bit of time before reacting;

and then the third one is to introduce extra process steps for reliability. Don’t overdo it but don’t assume that what works in the single culture environment will actually also work in a multicultural environment.

So if you’re interested in discussing your own project issues, please connect with me by any of the usual methods: through the website at scatterwork.com, newsletter, LinkedIn, telephone, email and so on.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Avoid Virtual Team Mix-Ups

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Hello! This short video from Scatterwork is about avoiding virtual team mix-ups.

I’m talking about the sort of situation where the team is carrying out some work, maybe a project, and the participants are not all together all the time; in other words some of the work is carried out virtually.

And any work requires coordination so not only does the work need to be done but we need to communicate:

“OK I’ve finished this bit; you can do the next bit now”.

And if the communication is poor or if the communication is wrong or if it’s misunderstood or if indeed the thing that should have been delivered isn’t delivered – all of those situations lead to people at the other end getting annoyed or upset because they’re not getting what they expect.

My personal experience is that if there is communication, for example a telephone line between participants in different parts of the world, and it doesn’t work, the person who speaks thinks that the person at the other end is the problem even though the problem maybe somewhere in between.

Instinctively we think if we talk to somebody “well if they don’t understand and I’m talking properly then it’s their fault”.

But it could be the system in between. So we can get into really mixed up situations that can be very hard to get out of.

So the question is “what’s a possible approach to solving that” and here we’re talking about personal skills. They’re often called soft skills but I could mention many of them.

One of them is active listening, for example,

“tell me exactly what the issue is and I’m going to listen and interact with you until I understand what you’re talking about. I’m not going to do emails at the same time or be doing some of the work in the background you looking over your shoulder. I’m just going to listen.”

Another skill is presentation skills.

I’ve seen so many projects where you get spaghetti type PowerPoint slides saying we’re doing this, that and the
other thing.

And they might be visually wonderful but it’s very, very hard to understand what they doing so another’s personal skill is to sift out what the real issues are and to present them very, very clearly in some sort of graphical format.

And other personal or inter-personal skill is negotiation because if we discovered that what we wanted and what the person gets is not the same then we have to work out “what are we going to do now?” and negotiation is it what happens.

People say “could we do this or could we do that?” and so on. So competence in negotiation is also very useful in that sort of situation.

And there are others, so the summary is to avoid mix-ups in virtual teams, it can make sense to invest in personal skills of the individuals involved and of course then they get the benefit of having those skills for use elsewhere in life as well so it’s something that everyone wins from.

Thanks very much!

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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You create errors; Communication solves them

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Hello! Here’s another short video from Scatterwork, this time about errors in work and using good communication to solve them.

In a project environment there are deliverables to be delivered, in other words there is work to be done; it has to be done the right way; in the right place, at the right time and so on and the big challenge is usually to fit everything together.

Very often the technology is well known and the company is doing projects similar to the last time so it’s really this meeting of minds which is the hardest part.

Well, we want to understand what the other person is saying and they want to understand what we are saying. They say that there are three different ways of learning; three ways we can think of communicating.

One way of learning is by sound. For example I knew somebody who used to remember telephone numbers by the tone that the dial used to do; they used to have a tone for every number and she used to remember the tune.

She was a musician and that was her way of communicating.

Other people are very vision oriented and it’s much easier for them to understand what’s happening if they get a little picture and this is why PowerPoint slides are so successful.

And then another way of learning is by movement; for example if we say “we’d like you to make a picture of this” and you draw it. The actual doing of that somehow communicates with our body and it helps the memory.

Now, with virtual teams we don’t have that third one but we do have the first two. So what I would suggest is to use a combination of communication styles and to stimulate a combination from the people that we’re trying to understand so that we really understand what they’re saying.

We can get our ideas together and then agree what needs to be done.

Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Balance your Virtual Team using Personal Assessments

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Hello! This short video from Scatterwork is about balancing your virtual team using personal assessments.

In any project we need a mixture of people who have different skill sets, for example we need somebody with vision – a project is something we haven’t done before and somebody must have a very clear idea of what it is we’re trying to do because not everyone has that skill.

Then other people are skilled in completing work; others may be less able to finish things and of course the project that’s not finished is not complete.

And then we need people who can help the team to work out what they need to do next so that’s a human skill.

So we need a mixture of skills and there are many commercial methodologies available that can be used for teams do this. They are normally based on some sort of a questionnaire where the individual’s work out their score and then they come together and check: do we have an overlap; do we have lots of people with the same style within the team? Or do we have gaps and if we can fill the gaps that’s good; if we can’t, then maybe we need to think about how we compensate for that.

So the comment in this video is to think about using these methods also for virtual teams.

It actually has an extra spin-off because at the beginning and before we get involved in the project itself, we need that extra input of effort so that people work together. Filling out one of these evaluations and then sharing the results is one way of developing the team. So as the saying goes “two birds with one stone”.

Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Preparation is key to successful Virtual Phase Reviews

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This is another short video from Scatterwork, this time about preparation being the key to successful virtual phase reviews for virtual projects.

A very well tried and tested feature of projects is to work in phases. Instead of giving the project manager a go ahead for the entire project, we say: “Please do these deliverables and then come back to us with your updated plan”.

This is a really good idea because it gives an opportunity for the stakeholders to review the direction of the project and even to change it without having to undo work.The people doing the project have a fixed scope during the phase so they have some reasonable chance of hitting the target. Also it protects the project from daily changes of direction and scope. So the same applies to virtual projects.

The difference is that in a meeting when people are sitting together is relatively informal and items that are missing can be found quickly, can be searched for, brought into the room and so forth.

With a virtual meeting it’s much more important that the background has been set up properly, that for example, everybody is sure of the time zone, they all have microphones that work, and they are comfortable with the technology you’re using.

Personally I prefer web meetings. These are far more flexible than video meetings and they use less bandwidth so they’re more reliable.

Also once people have had a little bit of communication face-to-face, maybe at the beginning with the cameras, then it actually works better, the focus is better, if we shared the screen with various slides and information of things that we want to talk about.

So the point about all this is that this background preparation does require extra work.

We can’t just do it informally as we go along, but if we do it properly then this is indeed the key to successful virtual phase meetings.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Charter your way to success!

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Hello, this is another short video from Scatterwork where we ask: “Is your project charter the key to virtual project success?”

I always say, when you’re asked to do a project: do this, do that, meet this constraint for that budget and so forth, the first thing we need to do is not to start, but it is to check that we understand what is being asked.

It may be that the person asking has a very clear idea and we misunderstand it or it could be that they themselves haven’t a very clear idea so it makes a lot of sense to check and the best way I know of doing this is called a charter where we write it all down and say “hey, is that what you meant ?”

So in the charter, which is not the plan, we include for example what they’re expecting, constraints, we must do this, we must not do that, this is the budget, this is why I’m doing it and so forth and it should be maybe a page or two.

Now, this is true for any project.The first step we check that they say “that’s what we want” and then we can go away and look at it as project managers and say yes, we can certainly do that or maybe no, but here’s another one that would come close.

In the virtual world, I can’t see how a project can deliver unless there is at least agreement on this level. So it’s a very short document a couple of pages it can be put together by using a type of application that allows several people to write at once; things like your Google Documents for example. Preparing a document where everyone’s concerns are there means that we know what our starting point is.

So I would answer the question and say yes, the project charter is the key to virtual project success.

Thank you.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Scatterwork Guest: How Visual Thinking Can Improve Team Trust

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Hi I’m Howard Esbin and I’m a co-creator of a creative trust game for virtual teams called Prelude.

Prelude is a facilitated game for virtual teams that accelerates trust and improves collaboration prior to a new project, training program or educational course. Basically, it improves visual thinking.

The features of the game: In one system there are five human development tools.

-There’s a component for character assessment.
-There’s a component for EQ development or social-emotional skill development, soft skills is another term for it.
-A collaborative team building component.
-A diversity training component and
-a creative training component, all in this one system.

And underpinning the game system and design are twenty virtual team best practices that we’ve identified through original research.

The game process is a facilitated series of activity modules as you see illustrated.

There are four modules in total and the purpose of the process is to take team members from an I-centric perspective to a sense of “we as a team, as a whole” with an awareness of how each member thinks and communicates distinctively and an awareness of how the team as a whole, through this creative activity can best draw upon their shared diverse skill sets.

The benefits are very simple:

There’s strengthened soft skills for that virtual team, improved communication,a better appreciation of diverse assets, an enhanced positive team mental model of itself, more effective collaboration and as a consequence increased well-being.

Thank you very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Scatterwork Guest: Why must virtual teams have soft skills?

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My name is Howard Esbin and I’m the creator a virtual team game.

Virtual Team members need trust to collaborate effectively. The research shows that the lack of trust is fundamentally the greatest challenge that virtual teams globally are facing today. The research also shows that there is a direct correlation between social emotional intelligence on virtual teams, that’s soft skills, and the degree of trust that may manifest.

The research also shows that if there is limited soft skills,chances are trust will be affected and there will be a significant lack thereof. The challenge for virtual teams, leadership and training is that there is insufficient time to build relationships. There is an inability to read nonverbal cues and there’s a lack above water cooler moments. The goal for effective training is to actually create virtual water cooler equivalence and to promote symbolic communications.

The research further shows its symbolic communication and the equivalent water cooler moments are going to be tied to a variety of soft skill applications. Our original research has identified twenty best practices and when one looks at these in total,they’re all about engaging and connecting the whole person and virtual team emotionally at the start a project. These best practices help a virtual team,essentially of virtual strangers, break the ice and therefore provide the equivalent of water-cooler moments using online play, games and creativity.

In summary, why must virtual team’s have soft skills? To be productive virtual teams need to trust each other. In order to trust, virtual team members must be self-aware and pacific, appreciate their differences and communicate honestly. These are all soft skills. Thank you.
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Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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