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56923Re: a common language

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  • merceroz
    Jun 12, 2013
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      Jean

      Not exactly the same situation but some overlap ...

      Had a new development team in Shanghai with a range of English skills, though all had basic English, plus scrum master (me) in Australia, and PO in US - both of us only with English.

      Early in the process there were plenty of examples of informal translation going on. Planning in English was painful and not productive.

      After a few weeks I gave the team 'permission' to discuss in Chinese. I'm not really sure it was my permission to give - but no one really wanted to ask! Planning especially quickly became a lot more productive. We were getting lots more insightful questions from the team giving me confidence they understood what we were all talking about.

      On the negative, I spent a lot of time on conference calls not understanding what was being discussed - and basically staring out the window! Also after Chinese discussions a team member had to give a recap in English. So some things had to be done twice.

      But overall we were now actually planning work - which wasn't happening when we spoke in English only.

      Later, once the team got to know me better, one of the team explained it: Translating on the fly takes a lot of concentration. This didn't leave him the mental space to also think about the software. So being able to talk in Chinese means the team is actually thinking about the work.

      I think this worked because the team was co-located and all spoke the same language.

      I've seen examples with the actual team split across locations. The danger here of people talking in local languages is that you don't have one team. You have a number of mini teams working together. Which isn't what we're trying to achieve.

      So on the one hand you might get more out of some individuals if you allow them to talk in the local language during calls. But you're not really getting the synergy from the whole multi-disciplinary team working together.

      It's worth noting that people will discuss things after the call in their own language anyway, with the people who didn't understand asking questions and being brought up to speed. Of course at this point they may have an insightful question that would have been good to discuss on the call. So maybe if they discussed it in their own language during the call ....

      Anyway, my advise, where you are required to work with multiple locations and languages, would be to try and have the team in a single place and / or with a common language. But you can have success if that language / location is different for the scrum master and / or PO, as long as there's enough people who can translate.

      Gareth



      --- 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
      >
      >
      >
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      > Jean Richardson
      >
      > Azure Gate Consulting
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      > ~ Repatterning the Human Experience of Work
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      > (503) 788-8998
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