Managing cross-cultural communication can sometimes breed challenges for businesses in the era of virtual meetings. On top of that, having to do the same between software development teams is a whole another aspect that companies should not treat lightly at any cost!
Let’s assume you partnered with a development team for a new project. The scope is agreed upon, and the deadlines are fixed.
In the beginning, mostly everything goes well, the developers get down to coding, designers work on designs, the QA team starts testing, and you wait for results. Suddenly, the team members are coming up with discrepancies due to a lack of proper back-and-forth communication. Subsequently, the pursuit of matching client expectations, and taking in the alterations starts turning out to be a real challenge for the whole development process. This can further cause delays in the project completion, which is a client’s nightmare.
In this scenario, let’s look at ways to collaborate with your multicultural software teams in virtual meetings to overcome communication barriers from remote locations.
The approach to creating efficient communication can vary according to the team’s organization. Luckily, there is no scarcity of tools and methodologies for that.
Managing Culture Shock
The cultural differences, customs, and native languages play a significant role in how we exchange ideas. Therefore, it is necessary to get ahead of this sudden blow and anticipate it instead of trying to deal with it right when you start a real-time online communication.
It’s best to research the culture of your client or partnered team members before conversing with them and later integrate those variations into the meeting format.
For instance, some cultures are well known for punctuality. In such cases, make sure you are available for the meeting on time. But on the other hand, some cultures follow a more relaxed approach when it comes to punctuality.
Therefore, the best way to maintain a healthy relationship is to know what is familiar and uncommon to a certain culture beforehand.
Ask for a clear agenda and input prior to the meeting.
As you proceed with virtual meetings with your global employees and partners, be mindful of how people from different cultures behave in group settings.
Some European or Slavic cultures do not find it comfortable to hold meetings in big groups or groups at all and prefer to wait to be asked for their input.
While other cultures from Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. could follow a more free-flow approach where they simply raise hands and share thoughts simultaneously as people from their cultures possess direct and independent opinions.
To accommodate such dissimilarities, it is recommended that you have your attendees or developers submit their comments and questions beforehand, as well as urge them to rotate the meeting host so that everyone can be given attention.
Attack the problem, not the person.
There are moments in a software development process where a team member introduces errors in coding, which certainly causes setbacks in your project. Therefore, it is essential that when you converse with a colleague, you make sure to address the error or issue without any personal criticism.
It goes without saying that a company from a foreign country could consider any contrasting conduct quite unstable and might not want to work with yours again.
Therefore, when dealing with people from different cultures, it is advised to take a step back and review the approach you decide to take for confrontation, whether it should be in a group meeting or individually and other relevant factors. If you choose to criticize or point a person out, you risk damaging their self-respect or even shutting down openness in the meetings.
Remember, the host or partner’s responsibility is also to encourage collaborative spirit, not a mere to and fro on a call.
Communicate over different channels often.
Working remotely with people from different cultures makes it highly likely to fall into a monotonous routine. Therefore, it is crucial to go out of your way to shake things up, especially in the communication methods you choose to build intercultural camaraderie.
For instance, break the monotony and try phone calls or video chat if you usually communicate via email. Give your colleagues or your employees a platform where back and forth communication does not require much hassle. It can lay an opportunity for them to express themselves and keep the integration of different cultures thriving.
At the end of the day, the actions of executive teams and their encouragement make the organization’s culture. No matter what your working situations or current budgets are, leading meetings with unity and transparency will tend favorably to the company culture.
Include developers in the planning process.
The common planning issue entails the fact that most of the time, business planning is done before development planning. As a result, the development efforts are usually later adjusted to what the manager or client asks.
This approach might not turn out well for you.
Business Planning and Development should go hand in hand. Software Development shouldn’t be let in after all the functionalities and features are well-defined from the business side. This is advised because all plans might not be executable or might need a different maneuver from a development team.
Moreover, some expectedly small or unimportant features could unnecessarily take up the majority of time and effort and make teamwork inefficient.
This is why a software development team should be involved in the initial planning as well. It will prevent you from losing time on extra meetings or over-complicating plans that may not even be feasible in the future.
Create a list of used terms
The entire team members should be aware of the classes, variables, and API used during a project.
Changing them during work is almost impossible. And even if you don’t change it, new people entering the team can have a hard time boarding in. Therefore, such important development terms should be defined at the beginning for everyone and made available to all developers and other team members.
It is advised to create a doc where variables and related terms are listed and explained. Then, you can use tools like Confluence and share them with every team member to let them access them whenever they need them.
This move can drastically bring clear communication to your meetings and get everyone on the same page without leaving any room for confusion.
Standard meeting rules still stand.
Just like a face-to-face or in-person meeting, a person must lead and organize the call and keep a check on the agendas circulated or minutes taken. To make sessions smoother for everyone, you can even translate the written documents and aid quicker understanding from your multicultural team.
Nonetheless, a moderator should expect some additional challenges video calls bring-
- Having to ask everyone to mute when not speaking, as with people talking in different languages, it becomes far more critical for people to listen extra carefully.
- Having to keep an extra eye on the participants and note whether something is going ignored.
All software projects alter as their development cycle progresses. As a result, new information may be realized or proposed due to unforeseen issues.
Utilizing constant team communication using a mix of scheduled meetings and other communication tools should be your prime approach while handling intercultural projects.
All things considered, cultural or ethnic diversity can help your business grow if you make it a pleasant place for people to work and interact. In addition, nurturing ideas of openness, understanding, and embracing differences in your company can always help you bridge cultural gaps.