If your day-to-day is anything like our clients’, you already have enough on your plate. The last thing you want to do is figure out how to coordinate meeting times between groups on different continents and spread across many time zones. 

But that’s exactly where many of our clients find themselves: Trying to collaborate effectively with multiple partners ranging from 14 hours ahead in Asia, to 3 hours behind in California, and agencies operating in DC. Is your only option to get up at 1 a.m. and hope to catch them at an odd time? In some instances, the answer may be yes.

Often there’s a better way, and it usually involves trusting an external partner to do some of the heavy lifting for you.

“How do you collaborate with people and organizations who operate in different time zones?”

At Tesla Government, our clients often ask about the nuts and bolts of international collaboration. But we’ve found there are two bigger picture questions that you need to answer before you get started:

  1. What are the goals of the collaboration?
  2. Who is going to lead it?

Identifying Collaboration Goals

At Tesla, we build global teams of like-minded groups to address complex issues. To start, we clarify the goals by asking the stakeholders, “What do you want to accomplish? What’s the end goal?” Without explicitly laying out the project’s aim, it can quickly become collaboration for the sake of collaboration, which isn’t a good use of anyone’s time. 

And while it’s important to get everyone’s input, someone needs to be in charge of defining what you’re trying to accomplish with the collaboration. 

Identifying a Leader: Delegation Is Your Friend

Along with laying out your collaboration goals, you also need to determine who is going to take the lead and own the administrative burden of the project. 

When you’re dealing with different agencies, nationalities, cultures, and time zones, it’s important to be honest about who is best able to bring all these people together. Our government clients often view this as part of their mission, believing they should be able to bring these parties together to talk. The reality is, it’s very difficult to pull that off on top of all your other responsibilities.

We  have seen how having an external party take responsibility for coordinating the moving parts creates successful international collaboration. Scheduling meetings in different time zones is only a small piece of the puzzle. And we’ve helped clients find ways to overcome this obstacle and collaborate effectively. 

We see the most success when our government agency clients tell us what they’re trying to accomplish and allow us the freedom to help them meet their goal. The key here is that our clients aren’t required to do resolve this issue on top of all their other missions. 

Building these collaborative spaces and making sure they work across different time zones – that falls to us and it’s something we’re really good at. 

The end result? Everyone in the group has the information they need, when they need it. 

What’s Possible?

Now that you’ve got the foundation of your collaboration set up it’s time to figure out what, realistically, is possible.

Instead of starting with a solution (e.g. “We’re doing weekly Skype calls!”), consider all the parties involved and be honest about what works for everyone. It may be a Skype call, conference call, or an in-person meeting. It may be an asynchronous collaborative platform or knowledge portal that is available to all users at all times. It’s probably a combination of multiple tools and communication methods.

Our team often helps out here, too. You may not be able to come in at 5 a.m. to host a conference call with someone on the other side of the world, but we do things like that on a daily basis: hosting calls, information sessions, and working groups with government clients around the world.  

You already have enough on your plate, so it makes sense to bring in a third party who is focused on collaboration across time zones. You’ll be able to offload the mental burden of making it happen, and focus on the information transfer and mission. Our Community Building and Knowledge Management teams can set up secure, shared online workspaces where users can come at any time and share information. 

No matter where you are in the world or what time zone you’re in, you can come to this space and find what you’re looking for.

Ready to Get to Work?

Collaborating in any context is hard. Collaborating internationally makes everything harder. If you start by identifying your goals, finding the right party to lead the effort, and pursuing collaboration  methods that work for everyone, you’ll be off to a good start.

If you decide you need an external party to head up the collaboration (or you just want to pick our brains), let’s talk! We love finding ways to bring people together, advancing critical missions through smarter collaboration.

Collaboration CAN be hard. We make it easy.

When you’re ready to get all your stakeholders working in the same direction and collaborating on a shared mission, tap into our community-building services for success.