A few months ago I wrote a post about bridging communications gaps between onshore and offshore teams, noting that it's important to be cognizant of cultural differences. I thought it might be a good time to revisit the topic, given that I just read a TechRepublic column by Alan Norton in which he lists multi-national operations as one of 10 challenges facing IT. He writes:
... Travel, language, and time zone differences are all issues that must be addressed. But far and away the greatest challenge will likely be overcoming the cultural differences and changing the "us versus them" mindset. ...
I agree wholeheartedly. And I found several great suggestions that should help in an Information Management piece on "Preparing for a Global Project," authored by Journyx CEO Curt Finch. Among my favorites:
- Establish a common work culture for teams by setting group standards for meeting practices, status updates and work expectations. This can get tricky when, for example, working with teams that include both members who value punctuality and members for whom being late is the norm. The key, writes Finch, is clearly demonstrating your desires in as positive a manner as possible.
- Use written communications to help bridge language differences. English often ends up as the default language for teams, notes Finch. Team members with limited proficiency may be more comfortable communicating in writing, as they can make use of online translation services. Two bonuses: Written communications make it easier to document everything. Some people who are shy in group conversations won't hesitate to contribute via written communications such as email.
- Pay attention to local calendars when scheduling meetings or project delivery dates. Be cognizant of national holidays and customs such as one mentioned by Finch, in which many employees in Muslim countries will observe Friday as a day of rest, and take either Thursday or Saturday off as well.
- Spread inconvenience around, when it comes to arranging meetings. It doesn't have to be a big deal if some team members need to meet very early in the morning or very late at night -- as long an you ensure it isn't always the same folks who are asked to shift their schedules.