Agile, wake up your Agile model. There are plenty of reasons to gravitate to nearshore locations when looking for new talent. But this is particularly true if you’re using an agile development model. The most vital, foundational piece of the agile puzzle is the relationship that forms between team members. Over time, those evolving connections begin to generate their own momentum, so naturally team building is an important consideration when implementing agile development.
Relationships are key to Agile
It may not have occurred to you yet what a strong argument that is for sourcing nearshore teams, especially if you’ve been farshoring and are thinking of making a change. You may have realized a while ago that straddling so many time zones was interfering with communication, but because agile is predicated on flexible, ongoing interaction, it’s probably also derailing your team in terms of morale and relationship building.
And what if you have noticed? It’s possible you’ve tried stop-gap solutions to solve this problem. But shifting working hours tends to place an undue burden on employees’ lives and relationships outside of work. If you’re seeing higher attrition than you’d like, distance and poor communication are probably the cause…and it’s a self-perpetuating problem, because until you solve it, you’ll drive away new hires just like you did the old ones. In the meantime, you’re not enjoying the full benefits of the agile model you worked so hard to implement in the first place.
Nearshoring can benefit your Agile teams
Why does nearshoring solve this problem? Because, if you do it right, you can have all the benefits of outsourcing, while also course-correcting your agile culture. That said, in order to really do this right, there are some considerations that should factor into your plans when you’re sourcing a nearshore team.
Treat nearshore and onsite teams as equals
For one thing, if you’re thinking of nearshore employees as auxiliary, you’re derailing your agile model. Treating nearshore resources as extensions of your other, more centralized operations wastes the talent you’ve located by deprioritizing their voice in the process. It’s all too easy to inadvertently create an us vs. them mentality in each of your teams. That hinders the agile process in two ways. First, it deincentivizes your nearshore team members, who are keenly aware of their second-class status. Second, it places an added work burden on your onsite team, because it creates the illusion that they don’t have as many peers to lean on.
Identify preexisting problem cultures
This is an all-too-common issue. Sometimes it’s the remnant of the older farshoring models we’ve mentioned above. When you relied on talent on the other side of the globe, your teams were stuck in an endless cycle of waiting for each other to wake up and answer questions. Over time, this built general impatience that was eventually personalized toward each team by the other.
There may also have been fundamental cultural issues that separated your teams by more than just geography. For example, you might have dealt with workers who viewed the act of challenging ideas as synonymous with challenging leadership, and weren’t comfortable doing it. You might also have been dealing with fresh-out-of-school recruits who didn’t understand your workplace culture, whereas in countries like Argentina, 70% of students work while getting their education– many in IT.
Simply switching to a nearshore model doesn’t completely solve these problems, but it goes a long way toward minimizing them. This is what’s creating all the buzz you’re hearing about nearshoring.
Prioritize bond formation
Once you’ve actually identified nearshoring as a solution, and rectified farshoring as a staffing problem, it can be easy to convince yourself that those ongoing cultural problems will correct themselves. They won’t. It’s essential that you dismantle them, for the sake of everyone’s productivity. The agile model depends too much on trust within the team to leave a culture shift to chance. Fortunately, there are several ways to get off on the right foot.
While you may not be able to get your entire nearshore/onshore team in one room, you can get them all on the same page. Use Skype to host a dual-location meal. Remember that dispersed teams don’t get the chance to chat in person throughout the work day: build time into virtual meetings and activities for some casual back-and-forth. You could choose an online game to play as a bonding exercise. There are also plenty of online activities specifically geared toward team building; those are sometimes geared toward accomplishing specific outcomes, so make sure you know what your goals are for your team before lobbing one at them!
Another strategy to seriously consider is cross-pollinating teams. If you assume you must group them based on their physical locations, you’ll circle back to the same old issue of creating two different team cultures. In doing so, you’ll reconstruct the very boundaries you were trying to tear down. There’s no need to physically relocate anyone in order to mix up your teams, so this should be done more often than it is. But the physical distance creates a mental barrier that results in this option being overlooked.
Leverage technology to minimize distance
When your teams aren’t sharing physical space, leverage technology that erases the barriers between them. Even if you’re using apps like Skype, Slack and Paymo, your teams need to have face to face conversations to really stay connected. Make sure they’re equipped with plenty of webcams, and don’t skimp on quality! In fact, make 360 degree cameras available to really put everyone in the (virtual) room together. This will also allow teammates to shift between virtual planning software and a physical white board, something many teams still prefer.
By stepping outside of more conventional paradigms and putting these practices into place, you can leverage the best talent in the western hemisphere and run a thriving agile development model.
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