I’m an Australian working in the USA coaching highly distributed teams. We speak English but even then there are slight differences, like Australian English and American English and even within America like from South to North.
We find it’s hard to get people to use video cameras. They are cheap however the culture tends to not encourage use of them. It’s always hard to collaborate at the best of times and distribution would be a good excuse not to do that.
Seems most distributed companies can’t get past just the phone and a little screen sharing. When we use just these, we can’t see each other’s facial expressions and body language. It’s hard to know how to react to feelings and we have to assume or turn up our intonation sense when listening (perhaps even speakers and listeners can make more us of their voice to relay feelings). Another big issue is having attention – where I work inattention is called ‘multi-tasking’ and we know that don’t work.
Overall, this is more a problem around the difficulties in collaborating and the fears around that. We’ll need to work on that to allow the tools to be useful. Make it safe. Create the culture and camaraderie of teamwork and reward that. Highlight even when people are doing things that harm teamwork via a team working agreement. Realization can quickly occur after that and a team can self correct.
Then there is technology, my friend Agile Bill Krebs –
@AgileBill4d, is teaching and coaching on tools to assist the distributed work place. There are simple tools like join.me which is down the low end of the spectrum through to immersive environments like Minecraft.
The technology is there – it just needs a willingness to try using it and adapting to use it to it’s utmost advantage.
Your last resort is to abandon the distributed model. That can be avoided I suggest.