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a common language

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  • Jean Richardson
    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
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 12, 2013
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      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@...

       

       

       

    • Pierre Neis
      we work mainly in 3 languages: English, French and German. Kind regards, cordialement, mit freundlichen Grⁿssen, *Pierre E. Neis, **psm, cspo, csp*
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 12, 2013
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        we work mainly in 3 languages: English, French and German.


        Kind regards, cordialement, mit freundlichen Grüssen,

        Pierre E. Neis, psm, cspo, csp 
        Scrum/Lean Coach - Senior Management Consultant



        Agir Anticiper Durablement sarl |19 place Bleech |L-7610 Larochette | Luxembourg
        M: +352 661 727 867

        email:  pierre.neis@...
        web:    http://wecompany.wordpress.com/ http://thescrumcoach.wordpress.com/
        Meet with mehttp://meetwith.me/pierreneis
         

        about.me LinkedIn
        Contact me: Skype pierre.neis


        On 12 June 2013 15:41, 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@...

         

         

         


      • woynam
        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
        Message 3 of 6 , Jun 12, 2013
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          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.

          Mark

          --- 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@...
          >
        • Pierre Neis
          our trick is to use basic English and Scrum as communication vector. Kind regards, cordialement, mit freundlichen Grüssen, *Pierre E. Neis, **psm, cspo, csp*
          Message 4 of 6 , Jun 12, 2013
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            our trick is to use basic English and Scrum as communication vector. 


            Kind regards, cordialement, mit freundlichen Grüssen,

            Pierre E. Neis, psm, cspo, csp 
            Scrum/Lean Coach - Senior Management Consultant



            Agir Anticiper Durablement sarl |19 place Bleech |L-7610 Larochette | Luxembourg
            M: +352 661 727 867

            email:  pierre.neis@...
            web:    http://wecompany.wordpress.com/ http://thescrumcoach.wordpress.com/
            Meet with mehttp://meetwith.me/pierreneis
             

            about.me LinkedIn
            Contact me: Skype pierre.neis


            On 12 June 2013 18:14, 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.

            Mark



            --- 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@...
            >


          • Robert Benefield
            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
            Message 5 of 6 , Jun 12, 2013
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              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.

              ~R

              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.

              Mark

              --- 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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            • merceroz
              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,
              Message 6 of 6 , 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
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > gate.site.jpg
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > Jean Richardson
                >
                > Azure Gate Consulting
                >
                > ~ Repatterning the Human Experience of Work
                >
                >
                >
                > AzureGate.net
                >
                > (503) 788-8998
                >
                > Jean@...
                >
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