Scheduling Global MBA Team Meetings – Challenges and Solutions

The globalization of the MBA creates new challenges for MBA students, MBA faculty, and MBA administrators. One challenge is managing time zone differences and getting all of the meeting participants to join a meeting at the appointed time. No matter how much global meeting experience participants have, they sometimes miss scheduled meetings because they miscalculate time zone settings when placing the meeting on their calendar. Less experienced MBA students, when they first start working with a global MBA team are especially prone to this miscalculation.

Even experienced faculty members occasionally miscalculate. Not long ago a colleague of mine in another country scheduled a phone appointment with me. His e-mail said, “I will call you at 10 AM your time.” I created a calendar entry and set a reminder. The appointed time came and no phone call. Exactly one hour later, he calls. After we talked a few minutes, he admitted he miscalculated the time difference and therefore was late calling me.

A recent Harvard Business Review Idea Watch segment further illustrates the challenge of managing time zone differences and the complexity of global meeting scheduling. The segment “Vision Statement: Why Mumbai at 1 PM Is the Center of the Business World” graphically shows the workdays in 12 cities and why US centric meeting scheduling is difficult and may not be a good thing.

Solutions – Technology to the Rescue

Fortunately, there are technology solutions that can help minimize the number of miscalculations. I use three to help me avoid missing meetings due to miscalculating time zone differences. I currently use World Clocks an iGoogle Gadget, World Time Planner a Google Chrome Utility, and Microsoft’s Outlook Calendar multiple time zone display function. If you occasionally miss a meeting because of time zone miscalculations, you may want to consider using one of these or other similar tools.

iGoogle Gadgets – World Clocks

iGoogle is a personalized Google home page you design to fit your needs. One important design feature is being able to add free gadgets such as World Clocks, which display the day, date and time in multiple locations. When I open any of my web browsers, because my iGoogle page is set as the default home page, I immediately see the day, date and time displayed in the locations I pre select and save. I modify the locations depending on the location of the people with whom I am working on a given project. In the above screen shot, you can see I have the World Clocks gadget set for Durham, Bucharest, Singapore, and Helsinki.

Another useful feature of this gadget is the meeting planner function, which provides a color graphic showing workday overlap between selected time zones. To launch the meeting planner you click on the “Launch the Meeting Planner” link above the day/date column of the World Clocks display. The adjacent screen shot shows the view which in this case indicates there is no workday time available for scheduling a meeting with anyone in Singapore. The gadget is simple, easy to add to your iGoogle page, easy to modify and can accommodate as many as nine locations showing the current day, date and time in each.

Chrome Web Store Utility – World Time Planner

Google’s Chrome Browser, in addition to allowing you to set iGoogle as your home page, also lets you add gadgets and utilities from the Chrome Web Store. One utility I find particularly useful for scheduling meetings is the free utility, World Time Planner. In the adjacent screen shot, you can see I have the World Planner set for Raleigh, Atlanta, Helsinki, Bucharest, and Singapore. To determine the best meeting time for a group of individuals working from these different time zones, simply slide the blue indicator to the desired time. Each location will then display the corresponding time, date, day, and an icon representing day and night. The utility, with more than 650 cities is easy to use and modify and is very useful for planning. When the World Time Planner opens, it displays current times in all locations selected. Refreshing the browser updates the displayed information since the utility is a planning tool and does not continuously update the time.

Microsoft Outlook’s Calendar

Most calendar applications provide some type of time zone management capability. I seldom see MBA students and faculty using their calendar’s tools to take into consideration time zone differences when they make a calendar entry. In my case, I use Microsoft Outlook, which is capable of displaying two different time zones. The adjacent screen shot provides a view of my calendar showing the two time zones I set for display, Bucharest Romania and Durham NC. When I make a calendar entry using my local time I can easily see the corresponding time in Bucharest. You can add the additional time zone by going to Outlook Options and accessing Calendar Options.

Managing time zone differences and getting all of the meeting participants to join a meeting at the appointed time can be a challenge. All too often, we assume that all meeting participants know how to manage meeting scheduling across multiple time zones. My experience, this is not the case. The technology tools described above may be one solution for meeting the challenge. I am sure there are many other options. Please add your suggestions in the comments section below.

Rodney

Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Founder of MyeEMBA.com

[Image by FreeDigitalPhotos.Net member Salvatore Vuono/In accordance with terms of use]

1 comment for “Scheduling Global MBA Team Meetings – Challenges and Solutions

  1. Ellen Johnson
    February 4, 2011 at 11:36 am

    These are great tools, not just for managing school meetings, but also business meetings. Every time I have had to juggle times across zones to schedule a meeting, I have pulled up a chart with the different time zones and simply tried to “manually” do it. Even when it works, it’s confusing. This takes the thinking out of the picture for me, which for me can be a very good thing! Thanks, Rodney!

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