Bridging Communication Gaps Important, Offshore and Onshore

Ann All
Slide Show

The State of Communications and Collaboration

Companies are still wrestling with how to get the most value out of their investments.

Anyone who has ever managed offshore teams has likely come up against cultural differences that make their job tougher. I dipped into our archives to find a post in which I cited a couple surveys that mentioned miscommunication arising from cultural differences as a cause of outsourcing problems. The post also included some great suggestions from Vantage Partners on how to avoid these problems, including addressing communication issues at the onset of outsourcing partnerships and offering joint training to team members.


I updated that advice with ideas gleaned from Peter DeYoe's list of 12 lessons learned from an agile development project with an onshore/offshore team, most of which relate to improving communication among team members. While some of the advice, such as shortening sprints from four weeks to two, was specific to agile, most of the tips could easily apply to other types of offshore teams-or to dispersed onshore teams or even collocated ones. Good communication practices should benefit any team. Wrote DeYoe:

... The one issue is that you can't walk down the corridor to resolve issue/conflict over a story. This requires the team to work at achieving clarity in their communications-a practice one wants from a team whether collocated or distributed. ...

I got the same sense from Isaac Sacolick's top 10 reasons to visit your offshore teams, a list published on his Social, Agile and Transformation blog, written after his recent trip to India to visit teams performing business operations, development and support activities. Sacolick says he makes such a trip at least once a year. (This in itself is obviously a recommended practice.)


During those trips, he meets with teams and individuals to learn their strengths, explores better ways for team members to collaborate and discusses priorities and business status. Doing this yields valuable insights. His reason No. 9, for example, is "find the issues that no one is talking about." He explains:

Are issues being escalated outside of defined processes? Are there issues inhibiting productivity? Are people spending too much time on the wrong priorities or are they solving the wrong problems?

Regularly meeting with teams in the same country, same city or even the same building can yield the same kinds of insights, helping identify areas that need improvement and also areas in which new opportunities exist. Yet too often folks don't make time for these kinds of interactions. Yes, chats in the break room or over lunch can boost team communications, but organizations should also periodically gather teams for more in-depth discussions.

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