Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

How to Address Challenges in Geographically Distributed Team

Collaboration
Cultural Differences
Cross-Functional Collaboration

24 September, 2021

Sachin Shah
Sachin Shah

CTO at Self Employeed

Sachin Shah, CTO, shares how he created an elegant solution to improve the delivery process.

Problem

Working at one of the largest multinational retailers as a lead architect meant I have to ensure the software is built correctly and can scale when large demand is placed upon it. The offshore team was about 100 people, and we had an onshore solution architect team who provided the solution design to them (the offshore team). There was a constant challenge in the delivery, whereby the designs provided by the solution architects during the sprint planning phase were confirmed to be fine with the engineering team.

However, they often missed the sprint target for delivery, and on assessment, it transpires that the offshore team was expecting more details in the solution designs. Whereas the onshore team 一 if they were to provide that 一 would take them much longer time. For instance, if they had to effectively deliver the design in the foremost part of the sprint, they would have to start that during the previous sprint. That was the only possible way to show them in the next sprint. There was a bit of back and forth between the 2 teams in terms of the right level of detail, and that was when I stepped in to address the challenge.

Actions taken

We brought both the teams 一 including both the leads 一 together to discuss their challenges. We asked them upfront about the amount of detail they wanted. Essentially, they agreed to stick to the middle ground between the two teams. After they accepted a certain amount of detail to be enough during the meeting, the engineering team picked up from there and delivered the code. Bringing the two teams together to understand each other’s viewpoint of where they are coming from, rather than going into email warfare, assisted in managing the situation.

I realized that the issue was the gap between the two teams, especially between the offshore and onshore a given level of physical distance between them. In addition to that, the cultural differences made it more challenging to resolve the situation. I chipped in and arranged a retrospective session, after the sprint. To understand the viewpoint of both leads, I gave them the indication of what we were further going to discuss. Again, I came up with a middle-ground solution, whereby we would offer a design template that would be acceptable for both teams.

When dealing with the cultural differences, there were 2 aspects of it. First of all, people started understanding each other over time and how people from different cultures work. Indeed, that needed training in terms of how differences in culture and team dynamics work together. Since it was a big organization, various cultural training was expected to be completed by each employee on a periodic basis.

At the back of implementing the new design template, these were monitored in terms of improvement. We wanted to make sure that it improved the achievement rate within the given sprint or reduced the defects injected as a result of delivery. We discussed this after the retrospective session of every sprint and whether the template and change in approach were helping the team or not.

Lessons learned

  • Bring people together to understand the root cause of the issues. As you see, emails going back and forth discussing specific issues get people in a “room”.
  • Be mindful of the cultural differences. It will improve streamline projects and work relationships. Plus, it would not leave any room for misunderstandings if you sympathize with the situation.
  • Identify the specific metrics that need to be monitored and keep a close eye on them. Evaluate the operations, and improve them accordingly.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Preparing Your Team for the Remote Workplace

29 November

Vadim Antonov, Engineering Manager at Meta, dictates how he brought a brand new team into the remote learning process by ramping up onboarding and creating a mentor system.

Alignment
Remote
Internal Communication
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Data Team
Cross-Functional Collaboration
Vadim Antonov

Vadim Antonov

Engineering Manager at Facebook

Delegate successfully as a first time manager of Product Managers

24 November

Andrew Tsui, a Product Leader, works to build great teams that are independent, demonstrate mastery of their domain, and fully commit to their purpose.

Scaling Team
Building A Team
Delegate
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Psychological Safety
Cross-Functional Collaboration
New Manager
Andrew Tsui

Andrew Tsui

Director of Product at Startup

Specialization vs. Wearing Many Hats

23 November

William Bajzek, Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital, compares and contrasts a team structure that utilized siloed skill sets and one where everybody’s duties overlap at the edges.

Internal Communication
Collaboration
William Bajzek

William Bajzek

Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital

Mergers and Acquisitions: Collaboration tools hold a key to bringing cultures together

23 November

Neelima Annam, Sr Director Information Technology at Outmatch, shares how something as minor as collaboration tools can be a BIG issue during mergers and acquisitions.

Acquisition / Integration
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Neelima Annam

Neelima Annam

Sr. Director Information Technology at Outmatch HCM

The art of managing up

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, shares how managing up is all about being an excellent manager to bring the best out of a team.

Mission / Vision / Charter
Managing Up
Internal Communication
Strategy
Stakeholders
Cross-Functional Collaboration
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.