I'm looking for information/tips regarding project management of an offshore team in China. The biggest challenges I'm facing are:

1. Time difference limiting communication
2. Language/Culture barrier

Are there any good resources discussing these issues? Anyone else had experience with an offshore team?



HMac's picture

Scott - I have some experience with multinational working teams. Here are a couple of quick thoughts:

If there's any way you can get over there to meet the team members face-to-face, do so at the earliest possible point. It's a really important sign of organizational respect and collaboration when we Americans go visit others at their locations (especially in developing cultures). The small things - like sharing meals - are huge.

Set up conference calls on a regular basis (some of my projects required daily calls, others only 2 - 3 times a week). Set the call time for something that's "mutually inconvenient" for you and for them - don't set it up at a time that's good for you, but lousy for them.

Ask about what fits their lifestyle. For example, I had a colleague I worked with a lot in Shanghai (12 hours difference). We tried a couple of different times until we landed on 9:00pm his time. While that was great for me, it was also fine for him, because he'd prefer to take the call after spending the evening with his family.

Make sure to follow up calls with writing (good notes, agreed next steps, etc.).

If you can, use videoconferencing instead of telephone. It's way better!


jwhiteside's picture

Hi Scott. I have been managing an offshore development team in Belerus for the past year with good results.

I believe that the most important things you can do is build trust and instill a sense of ownership in them. Help them feel part of the team.

Here are some things we do that help:
I agree with Hugh, meeting them face to face is invaluable. Each quarter we visit them or they visit us. I am going back next month.

We use Scrum (agile development process) with two week sprints. The frequent deliverable prevents us from getting off track for to long. They also participate in the demo at the end of each sprint to present to the company their accomplishments during the sprint. I see a real sense of pride in their work. I think agile development is key.

Each person is required to take English classes twice per week.

We are eight hours apart, so each day we have some overlap. They work late (6:30pm), I come in early (6:30am). This way I have a few hours overlap.

I conduct weekly one on ones with each team member. I use oovoo (a video Messaging system - like Skype) every time I talk to them. This is really the best way to get to know them and understand their culture. It also gives them a chance to practice their English.

I meet with the technical lead each day to discuss requirements and issues they are having. This person is a strong leader with good English skills.

There are a lot of challenges involved in managing an offshore team. I would also be interested in others experiences.


pmhut's picture


Check the [url=]Communications across the project[/url] article. Additionally, you can check the whole series about [url= multi-cultural teams[/url].