Global Software Development – Identifying New Team Structure and Onboarding Strategy


Lots of empty boxes!

Lots of empty boxes!

Continuing the topic of how to build global teams.

Much like the earlier process discussions, when you’re going to be building a new team, whether down the hall, or across the globe, there are going to be an assortment of common sense principals that you’ll want to follow. When you add distance to the equation, the importance of getting the right people with the right skills becomes even more critical. Get the right people, and great things can happen. Get the wrong people and you can find yourself spending time.

When you start, you’ll probably find yourself with a significant number of empty boxes to fill. Assuming that you’ve done a good job with your initial modeling and mission of the new team, this shouldn’t be rocket science (for that matter, none of this should be!). What you will want to do is attack the problem in a methodical fashion, while understanding that there may be several surprises awaiting.

When you start building out your team, there are a number of things to think about, which include:

  • How quickly you need for them to be providing significant contributions. If there are acute needs, you’ll want to slant your focus to getting folks with some specific skills. Be careful, though, if they’re too narrow in focus, you could find yourself with training or personnel issues when those great new people stumble in meeting your long term goal.
  • Create a local brand when recruiting. This is going to be a sales and marketing effort, not often a trip to a supermarket where you get to pick your favorite brands of engineer (unless you are extremely fortunate). Build the brand, build a local reputation, and recruiting will likely be more successful.
  • If you’re lucky, you may find teams who have recently completed work. One of the pitfalls (which could be to your advantage) is that things can change, sometimes leaving talented groups of people on the beach. These can be great opportunities to get a team who’ve already done the storming, norming, and forming, and will be ready to spend their energy on your project rather than team building. Don’t underestimate team gel.
  • If you can afford it, start with a more senior team, and definitely start with a good lead (or leads) who have the technical and managerial expertise to attract and retain the needed talent. These are people you’ll want to be able to depend on as your partners. They should be tuned into the local culture, and comfortable sharing their ideas and insights as you move forward. Your relationship with them is vital. The ideal case is one where they are good at what they know, are comfortable sharing what they don’t, and tenacious in filling the gaps.
  • Plan on the senior people being able to spend considerable time on recruiting.
  • Hire smart people who enjoy learning. If you’re looking for a quick fix alone, you may be better served by seeking out contractors who want to do project work. Also, beware of hiring only people with specific skills or buzzwords on their resume. Focus also on intellectual and interpersonal skills. Get people who have positive outlooks, high learning capacity, and get along with one another, and you have a higher probability of success.
  • As you build out the leadership team, start bringing in more junior staff as appropriate. That will serve two purposes: 1. the leads may want someone to mentor, and 2. you will be able to align the spend rate with your budget and goals.
  • Plan on taking time to get people up to speed, and intersperse those activities with investments in teleconferences, preparation, and travel.  If you can swing it, get people together with one another as early in the process as possible. Good social relationships can pay huge dividends!

In short, build your team with the right leadership, and vision. Prepare yourself to build a strong base, and ensure that you’re building the right match to your longer term goals. Get people that can fit with the mission, processes, and adapt as your world will inevitably change. I have a strong bias towards building teams and organizations that value one another and leverage a high amount of interconnectedness. Check out this TED talk for a great argument for cooperation and collaboration. In the long run, you, and your organization will be best served by a learning, connected, and collaborative team, no matter where they sit.

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About Mike Rodbell

I'm a technology leader, engaged in developing software for the telecom, online commerce, and business process/analysis markets. All of the teams I've worked with have had a great deal in common. They need to be good at what they do, listen, share, and collaborate towards a shared set of goals. This blog is dedicated to those activities. I hope you enjoy reading it.
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3 Responses to Global Software Development – Identifying New Team Structure and Onboarding Strategy

  1. Pingback: Global Software Development Processes/Approaches | Mike Rodbell's Blog

  2. srodbell@aol.com says:

    Mike, I just watched retired General Stanley McChrystal interviewed by Charlie Rose and was quite impressed. Among other matters, he spoke of leadership and involving others in that process (at least insofar as I remember it). It’s worth watching if you are so inclined. In trying to find the interview, I discovered he had been interviewed by Charlie Rose a number of times and this May have been a rebroadcast. McChrystal is also the author of a book entitled “My Share of the Task”. I plan to take a look at it.

    Sent from my iPad

  3. Pingback: Global Software Development — Training the New Team | Managing as Little as Necessary

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