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How to deal with cultural difference at work?

Tal Broner

VP Engineering at Egnyte

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Problem

I was working with a remote team in China and asked them to develop a new feature for a product. I gave them the same level of details as I would have to my US team and had a lot of discussions with them to give them precise specs, but at the end, the result was not satisfying. So we discussed the gaps between what I was expecting and what they delivered, and they then corrected what needed to be changed. The whole process resulted in a loss of time and of productivity.

Actions taken

In order not to experience this again, I asked them to summarize every conversation we had right after the call. This way, I was able to know what they had understood and I could rectify issues directly, instead of waiting for the feature delivery to notice the mismatch. They understood the value of this practice and adopted it. I also brought someone in to do some cultural training, in order for my US engineers and my Polish engineers to communicate better.

Lessons learned

In order to optimize the work of your remote teams, especially when cultures are different, you should set very clear success criteria and expectations. While people from the same culture will tend to think that some criteria are obvious, they may not be obvious to others.


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Tal Broner

VP Engineering at Egnyte


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