Managing Global Teams

One of our current clients was interviewed last week about the problems he had with offshore developers before he found an “onshore” company, Tivix.

In fact, probably a quarter of our new customer inquiries come from people who are contacting us because they want to fire their offshore team. It’s always the same story: bad communication, uneven quality, poor reliability.

Of course while Tivix is headquartered here in San Francisco, we also have an office in Poland, with 7 of our 25 team members there. So I often get asked how it is that we keep things running so smoothly across two offices with a 9-hour time difference.

I'm not sure we have any particular secret sauce, but I can tell you the things that we have found to make a big difference:

• Social bonds make for high-performing teams. Each quarter, we fly one member of our Poland team to work here with our SF team. And one of us flies over there to work every few months. There are some genuine friendships on our extended team, and social bonds matter. 

• Language skills matter. No offense intended to other cultures and other languages, but the fact is that English language skills (oral and written) are a requirement for doing this job well. We're an American company, and all of our clients speak English. It is what it is.

 • Hire professionals, not pretenders. Our engineers in Poland all have Masters’ Degrees in Computer Science from a top university. It’s a little different than hiring some kid on a beach who taught himself HTML last week.

• Nothing beats regular communication. Our SF team and our Poland team are on Skype together every single day. Every month we have a “Bagels and Beer” meeting (9am here with bagels, 6pm there with beer) for the entire company, just to talk about the month, how things went, how we can improve, etc.

• Integration means actual integration. In our operations, we don’t make any distinction between our SF team members and our Poland team members. Client engagements get staffed by the right mix of skills for the project, regardless of geography. Every Tivix employee is on same quarterly bonus system and the same annual profit sharing system. Fully-integrated teams are high-performing teams. 

And that’s the bottom line: in business, it's all about high performing teams, regardless of geography.