OPINION: Teams With Big Timezone Differences

This is my opinion on working with teams that spread out across various timezones and have big differences between them. The biggest problem here is communication and syncing up with everyone and making sure that everyone is on the same page all the time. While it is easy with teams that are in the same office these types of teams form a challenge that is not always easily solvable and requires some hard work…

In my previous job one of the biggest problems I faced was communicating with a team that was 10 hours behind us (different timezone, 10 hour difference). Because of this constraint we only had bi-weekly sync up call that we had to update everyone on everything and make sure that things are getting done and everyone understands what needs to be done and how and we are on the right path of solving issues and making progress… This, of course, was a hard challenge and in our case not always executed in the right way. A lot of misunderstandings and mistakes could have been avoided if we were in the same office working together on the project and communicating the problems as soon as they pop up.

That being said I think that the way to improve the workday with these kind of teams is to extend the deadlines as much as possible so that we will have more time to make up for the mistakes that will happen for sure and rise above them with a plan and eventually a delivery.

Regarding the sync up call I mentioned earlier… In my opinion the calls make sense only if they are done during the start and end of each working day in each time zone so that a continuous flow of updates and problems is maintained  and the person that starts working in the morning has a better understanding of what he needs to do. Those meetings should be short and to the point like a standup since one side of the call is always ending his shift and is tired and has a limited capacity of new information he can store.

To conclude it, I believe that teams (or even R&D centers) that have a big time difference between them should be able to work autonomously and have balanced teams between them. For example, there should be a product manager on both teams so that he can immediately provide insight and answers on the product level which will reduce the time between Q&A and will improve progress. This of course applies to all of the other parts of development cycle (Design, Implementation, QA, etc…) the more balance there is between the teams the more work could be done without the need to wait for others to do it and if the teams are synced, in theory, there should be a continuous workflow and a better result at the end.

So, this is my opinion on this subject… With a bitter taste of past experience… What do you think?

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