Working Collaboratively Across Borders

Global supply chains must be fast and agile, much like the global teams of supply management practitioners who manage them. But as many procurement professionals know, working collaboratively across different countries, time zones, cultures and languages is not an easy task.

With teams dispersed throughout the world, it is easy for things to go off course, says Cate Lawrence, CPIM, C.P.M., Lawrence Research Associates. That’s why when companies engage their global teams, it is important to make sure all employees understand the organizational structure and its focus.

Lawrence pointed to statistics that show collaboration is 52 percent less effective when done via phone and teamwork is 34 percent less effective when done via videoconference. Too often, she added, companies focus on tools and processes in global collaboration when they should also focus on building trust and engagement in their worldwide teams.

“You need soft skills for hard targets,” she said. “Soft skills” are words that often are overused and sometimes misunderstood, but they are necessary, she added. “Often, the main problem in team dynamics is silence. It kills collaboration ad trust.”

Lawrence suggested companies working globally on team projects should leverage “global team power.” That can be done by:

  • Increasing positive personal relationships
  • Configuring teams strategically
  • Being aware of conflicting interests
  • Keeping workloads manageable
  • Providing teams with as much autonomy as possible
  • Establishing deliberate and proactive strategies to create engagement
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