DOs and DONTs of working with remote or outsourced teams

    As I was browsing discussions on LinkedIn, I came across a question from Natalia Ostraverkha – COO at Mobidev. She was asking about communication between teams on both sides of an outsourcing project (here). I had to chip in! This is a close-to-my-heart topic. Read on for my comments and let me know if you agree or not!

    In my past experience working with overseas teams (outsourcing partners) I found the following things to be very useful:

  • DO Be patient: When working with teams for whom English is a second language- it can be frustrating to have to repeat every sentence. However- put yourself in their shoes and remember you’d be struggling if you had to do business in Chinese, Hindi, Russian etc.

  • DO Be part of *their* team: You can get a lot from even a mediocre team (and the team I was interfacing with was definitely mediocre) if they recognize that you are part of their team. Words like “We”, “our goals”, “our progress”, “our accomplishments”, “our missed deadlines” vs you, “your ” create a team-spirit that is palpable across even a phone line.

  • DON’T be funny: I remember attending a seminar years ago where a senior engineer from IBM was talking to us about working with overseas teams. She said that nothing could bomb on an inter-cultural team meeting like humor. Humor does NOT transcend boundaries as much as we’d like it to. Get to know the team you are working with and over time, you can inject humor to lighten the mood.

  • DO be diligent: It’s very important to understand that in Asia- people really respect knowledge (and yes titles). They also assume you are stupid unless proven to be smart (if you have a good title- then you are given a little more room for errors). So be smart. Be intelligent. Don’t fake it. Do your homework. Earn their respect. Only then can you give orders and expect them to be followed.

  • DO know the goals of the project: Whether you chart the course from the very beginning or make adjustments along the way, have a good feel for what your working strategy is going to be. Be candid with the team about it up front. (If you expect changes to be made- tell them- so they can expect it too). Also- make sure you have a good understanding of what will define a successful project (technical, business, process wise etc). It will influence the energy and performance of the team you are working with greatly.

  • and finally

  • DO be honest: If you are unsure about something, please be honest with the team about it. If the deadline is creeping up and you are feeling the pressure- share it.

  • Working with a remote team is as much about psychology as it is about technology. Also, it was incredibly challenging when I was doing it but in retrospect, very rewarding as well.

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  1. #1 by rr on February 17, 2014 - 3:21 am

    Don’t s are outnumbered. Nice observation specifically the teaming point.

    Like

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