Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

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Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Barbee Davis, M.A., PHR, PMP Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Current discussions among software developers tend to revolve around the best programming language, systems architecture, operating platform, or project methodology. No one seems to notice that one of our team members, Alice, doesn’t live here anymore. Where does Alice live now, and how will it effect our software development plans?

She may live in India, where English is often trained phonetically, perhaps by a script. Plan to allow extra time, or written exchanges, to give Alice the best chance to perform her part of the development, undaunted by the language barrier.

Alice may live in Africa. With a limited pool of technical talent, people may be more important than projects to her employer. Technology may be limited, so don’t assume 24 hour e-mail, phone, and internet connectivity.

Perhaps Alice has a wonderful job in a developing country. If she doesn’t respond right away on conference calls, she may be experiencing a 30 second satellite delay between when you talk and when she hears your words. You’ll get the same gap with her answers or comments.

School yourself in the decision-making difference you may encounter with team members from Japan. Anticipate more respect for age and experience. Alice may find her youth would make it offensive for her to speak up. Japanese team members may also expect group consensus before any information from the meeting is captured in writing.

If you have many Alice’s in multiple remote locations, you will need to carefully research numerous small issues to allow your team to function smoothly.

• What are the union agreements where Alice works? Are her working hours different? Can she work overtime, weekends, come in early, work through lunch hours or breaks?

• When do the holidays occur in the country where Alice lives? You’ll want to plan any important, group meetings with everyone’s convenience in mind. You wouldn’t ask an American employee to come in on Christmas morning.

• What are the accounting practices in Alice’s homeland? Do your reporting cycles coincide with payroll cycles in other places?

• Is there any unexpected data export control? Some places in Europe exert tight control over data transmissions. You may be able to send information to Alice, but can she send you data in return?

• Customer service practices may vary from country to country. If Alice is customer-facing, be sure she knows your team’s service standards and quality expectations.

• If you are frustrated by a lack of voice mail, several developing countries feel that this is an automated machine that takes a person’s much needed job. Be respectful when you find cultural differences regarding technology.

• Do you always expect Alice to come in during the middle of the night to accommodate your 9 am meeting every Tuesday? Respect all team members by looking for the least distasteful meeting times, or rotate the unpleasant times among all locations.

We are fortunate to have the brilliant minds and insightful viewpoints of a virtual team. Be sure to use this bounty respectfully.

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