PM: Global Awareness and Considerations

A project manager hasn’t truly lived until they’ve led a global initiative: one involving team members from numerous countries across multiple continents. There really is nothing quite like it 🙂

To successfully lead such a project, there are a number of factors to be aware of, including:

  • Time Zones
  • Date Format
  • Location, Location, Location
  • Holidays
  • Cultures and Languages

Time Zones

During the normal course of a project, we will want to do our best to schedule meetings to occur at times that fall within our team members’ normal working hours. Given that this isn’t always possible, we’ll need to consider how to “share the pain.” That is, there will be times when meetings will have to take place at a time outside of some of the team members’ business day. If the majority of team members can be accommodated and there are only a few who would be required to join during their “after hours” this may turn out to be the precedent for the project. Alternatively, it may be appropriate to obtain agreement with the team on a balanced approach where meeting times are rotated such that the same team members aren’t impacted by working after hours, for the duration of the project.

In addition, we must at least be aware of the various daylight savings time practices associated with the countries of our teammates. That is, we may end a week when our teammates are 5 hours ahead of us and then the following Monday they are only 4 hours ahead (but only temporarily, until their DST kicks in). While calendar systems often handle this, we need to at least be aware when coordinating schedules verbally to ensure we remain in sync with regards to a time being proposed.

Date Format

When publishing a date, we must use a format that is “fully qualified” for all audiences! Otherwise, there is great potential for issues.

For example, when is: 2/3/2023?

  • In Europe it is March 2, 2023
  • In the US it is February 3, 2023

It would be a HUGE miscommunication to publish a date of 2/3/2023. If left unchecked, we could have an entire team working towards 2 separate dates, based on their “default” interpretation.

Instead, we can simply use the fully-qualified MMM-DD-YYYY format. In doing so, we’d display the above date as: Feb-03-2023. Now we are in sync!

Location, Location, Location

While we’ve come a long way in recent years with regards to working remotely, there still is really nothing better to facilitate collaboration than being present – physically. The same can be said for project management. That is, while a PM may be able to manage much of a project remotely, there will often be times when we need to be in the same time zone, even location, where the center of activity is.

A few years ago I led a program to launch a medical device company in 11 countries in Europe – ALL on the same day! During the early stages I was based in the US, which at the time happened to be where “most” of the project team was located. As we staffed up the European operations the center of activity (and power) shifted to London. At this time it became apparent that I needed to be (actually live) there for the remainder of the project.

The decision made a world of difference and (to close the story out) the program launched without a hitch, according to the firm’s investors and user groups!

Bottom-line: As we lead global initiatives, we must strongly consider if and when it becomes important to not only visit teammates in their geographically dispersed locations, but potentially living there (especially, if that is where the center of activity and power is) until project completion.


On building out a plan that includes global resources, it becomes crucially important to reflect the holidays associated with each team member’s country. Calendar systems typically share the major holidays. That said, have you ever had to plan around Chinese New Year?

We naive Americans would think “oh, isn’t that January 1?” WRONG!

This year’s Chinese New Year ran from January 22 to February 5th. While that was the “official” timeframe, in reality workers often leave their factory locations a bit early to head back home to celebrate with family and friends. And, they may not return immediately after the “official” celebrations have ended. In a nutshell, a complete operation may shut down for multiple weeks!

As such, we need to account for this COMPLETE black-out of work, from a segment of our team, in our planning activities. To do so, we must determine and factor in the unique holidays relative to each country our teammates are located in.

Cultures and Languages

To be clear, I am NOT an expert on cultures and only speak English and un poco de español.

Fortunately (for me) the common language for business is English. However, that doesn’t mean everyone shares the same level of fluency. As a result, we must ensure the pace and clarity of our verbal communication is understandable by ALL.

While I don’t recall having anyone suggest that I talk faster, I have had people ask me to SLOW WAY DOWN so they can fully understand what I’m trying to convey. After initially experiencing this I now take it into consideration, especially when working with others whose native language isn’t English.

From a cultural perspective, the most basic step we can take is simply acknowledging the fact that we are ALL different. From there, we need to be “at least” aware and respectful of the varying cultures of our teammates. Building on the prior topic, honoring team member holidays is one way to do so.

And, finally, we must ensure inclusion of all involved. That is, some people, even cultures, are less assertive than others. To ensure we don’t miss important perspectives and input, we must proactively reach out to and call upon those on our team who may not be as boisterous as the rest of us.

In summary, we may be very adept at managing projects within the confines of our home country. When initiatives start spanning borders and continents, the above factors must be considered to ensure full engagement, effective communications and a successful project outcome.

If you are looking to improve PM competencies in yourself, or organization, feel free to reach out so that we can chat about how I can help.

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