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56919Re: [scrumdevelopment] Re: a common language

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  • Robert Benefield
    Jun 12, 2013
      I have encountered this sort of situation a handful of times in various forms, both within a team and between two or more teams that needed to interact with one another (some that were both technical, and some where the technical team spoke one language and the business spoke another).  It rarely works for the obvious reason that meaning and context are at least as important to convey as the words themselves.  The only condition I have seen it functionally work is when it involves activities between separate teams that are so separate and pre-defined by either industry or company standards that communication isn't an actual requirement.  But that is far more an edge case than what you are actually asking.

      I do not think it can be overstated how important contextual understanding is.  Sharing a common language is more than just translating the meaning of the words, but also capturing context.  A common language seems to be a minimum baseband requirement, especially with teams that need to actively work with one another. Far too much important information can be lost without this. Seeing (or better yet hearing) the words strung together seems to be the next level.  Seeing facial expressions seems to be next, then follows the environmental context of the parties communicating.  This is why things like video conferencing, colocation and cross pollination of teams helps.  After that, shared understanding of the general working environment, from the business, development, operating through to the customer, goes a long way to ensuring success.

      Cultural and professional contexts are also very important, as misunderstandings can also creep in from them.  Having worked internationally for over 15 years in a variety of industries, I have written about a pattern I have seen numerous times with teams where everyone shared a first language (usually English, though I have seen it in a handful of Spanish, German and Russian speaking teams), yet different regional contextual meanings for terms and subtle yet important cultural background differences cause enough misunderstanding to cause teams to derail.  I have even seen it happen when everyone was colocated, and several times when people were simply from culturally different parts of the same country.  

      I have found more and more that the biggest way to help companies is by watching how communication flows and is consumed, and then teaching people how to spot problems and continually improve it.  A lack of a common language is so fundamental that without somehow addressing it a business might as well take their money to the roulette table and put it all on black.


      On Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 5:14 PM, woynam <woyna@...> wrote:

      Sheesh. 'Talk about a recipe for failure. It's hard enough working across continents when team members are communicating in their non-native language. Now you add a 3rd party that is translating between their native and non-native languages.


      --- In scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com, "Jean Richardson" <jean@...> wrote:
      > Is anyone here working with widely distributed teams where there is no
      > common language and the teams have actually been able to form and be
      > productive?  By "common language" I mean, not everyone has basic English
      > (French, Hindi, whatever) and there are internal informal translators for
      > some team members.
      > It seems like a no-brainer to me to avoid this situation, but I'm sending
      > this out to the list just in case someone can come up with an example where
      > working in multiple language on a single team has worked.
      > --- Jean
      > gate.site.jpg
      > Jean Richardson
      > Azure Gate Consulting
      > ~ Repatterning the Human Experience of Work
      > AzureGate.net
      > (503) 788-8998
      > Jean@...


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