How to Effectively Work with International Teams
Imagine an ambitious project that is destined to rock the world, well, at least a small part of it. And until you hold on and start asking about the price, there’s actually a larger hurdle to get it going — management. And I’m not talking about its basic level, but the whole circle of things to be handled when the employees aren’t physically in the same place, in other words, an international project.
Even countries with a large workforce capacity like the US, India, or Ukraine can still lack candidates for the crucial positions, so hiring abroad may become the only choice. Accepting this fact will save a lot of time, let alone nerves, given how stressful the onboarding can be.
For certain, each developer is a person with certain beliefs and views on duties, but I will not touch on the cultural division since I believe that IT is the separate nation that shares the same values. So, I expect roughly the same work ethic and decency level, therefore treating them equally and expecting the same outcome based on their qualifications.
After you deal with it, I would like to share my personal experience and the experience of the company I work for, X1 Group, in handling such projects and smoothing the edges to make it a seamless affair. Regardless of the scale, you can break it down into such categories as:
First, all the team members should be gathered in the same place, usually a chat that will be further administered by the project managers, team leaders, etc. I can’t recommend Skype for that matter as it’s not suited for large-scale groups but such programs as Slack or Telegram will be a fine match to track the presence of each member and receive fast responses from them.
Time zone affinity
It’s very important to keep track of the team members who live in vastly different time zones as you will need to overlap your online sessions to be in touch with their progress. For that matter, until you remember each of their schedules, there’s a way to simply edit the nicknames by adding the time discrepancy in the gaps: for example, David Blaine (+8:00). If you’re proficient with Slack, there’s a number of widgets that will indicate the location of each member (state or city). Even if the time zones are vastly different and have no common hours between you and the team members, the messages can be read anyway with a delay; just keep in mind the time gap between sending and receiving them.
The headline is an important reminder for the everyday workflow as it sets the fluid goals across the teams that will constantly vary depending on the project’s needs. It should also contain the basic info about the team members who are on duty or those who can be contacted in case of emergency. Considering the previous paragraph, this field can also mention that the chat room is asynchronous, and the responses may take up to several hours. It’s an important tool that will keep the teams updated with up-to-date info, even if they missed some messages.
Pin the documents
Whether it’s the rules charter or complex documentation files, there should always be some pinned files that reflect the goals, tasks, timelines, and project briefs. It will help the participants stay informed about how and why they’re working on the project and introduce the new team members so they get on the same page faster.
Use the full platform potential
Given how often the developers are eager to implement their skills, it’s pretty simple to craft a local bot that would use the API to make the communication more comfortable.
In a paid Slack version, you can mold a unit that will trigger certain actions and sort people/users on their tags so that people from certain locations, duties, and qualifications will be sorted and accessed via one simple command. In case there are no tags assigned to a user, the admin might fix that immediately, as you can’t afford the luxury of having a bunch of developers with no roles.
In case you use a Discord app (there were such occasions in my practice), there can be a bot that will work as a DJ and react to users’ requests by putting their songs into the playlist queue if you want to create an informal mood.
Also, don’t hesitate to use the integrated programs that will greatly improve the workflow: for example, Slack has integration with Google Docs/Hangouts/Drive, Trello, Github that allows you to perform all the activities in a single app.
Although I have advised not to take the national work ethic into consideration, there is still a need to adjust the overall schedule to the general workflow. National holidays, business, labor, and personal security laws can still influence the teams’ attendance and the way they share data and personal info. Take note that humor may also cause a misunderstanding if the moral boundaries are not on the same level between the participants.