In November 2022, I started working for an international software company with offices and remote Scrum Teams across different timezones. We’re talking about two different timezones in Europe and one on the other side of the world – in Australia. Crikey! There was even a short situation that members within one of the Scrum Teams were all divided across all those timezones! This was completely new for me, and I found that working with multiple Scrum Teams in different time zones can present a number of challenges. In this article I will talk about the challenges I faced, along with some strategies I used to try to overcome these challenges.
My challenges with remote Scrum Teams across different timezones
One of the most difficult challenges I faced was effectively coordinating and communicating across time zones. This can make scheduling meetings, sharing information, and ensuring that everyone is on the same page difficult. Scheduling meetings was never my forté, and the different time zones made it even more difficult.
Another challenge was juggling the various work schedules of team members from multiple Scrum Teams (in different timezones). For example, if one team works during the day and another team works at night, finding a time when everyone is available to meet can be difficult. This can make it difficult to resolve issues, share information, and ensure that everyone is on the same page with the project’s objectives. Delays, misunderstandings, and frustration can result as a result.
Another challenge I faced was dealing with team members in different time zones who had different cultural perspectives and work styles. Some cultures, such as the Dutch, may place a greater emphasis on direct communication, whereas others may prefer more indirect communication. This was a minor (but surmountable) barrier in establishing trust and effective working relationships across different teams.
Finally, I discovered that working with multiple Scrum Teams in different time zones can be taxing on the Scrum Master, who coordinates and communicates with the various teams. This may result in increased fatigue and stress. It never got this far for me (I have a high stress tolerance nowadays), but I can imagine it being a significant burden on a Scrum Master.
Reaching across time and space
If I had to pick a superpower, it would be the ability to travel through time and space. Unfortunately, these superpowers have not yet manifested. Until they do, I’ll have to devise some solutions to these problems. I used a variety of strategies, including:
Establishing clear and consistent communication channels, such as email, chat, or video conferencing, has proven to be beneficial in my experience. This can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that information is shared as soon as possible. The presence of those channels reduces complexity.
Another strategy that I found useful is to create clear and consistent work schedules, such as using a common work time, which can help to ensure that everyone is available to meet and resolve issues at least for a few hours per day.
It was also helpful in developing cross-cultural understanding and awareness, which can aid in the development of trust and the establishment of effective working relationships across different teams. Regular ‘exchange programs’ and ‘virtual coffee breaks’ contributed significantly to this cross-cultural understanding and awareness.
Some handy tips
To wrap up, here are some tips for working with multiple remote Scrum Teams across different timezones:
- Set up regular virtual coffee breaks to allow everyone to catch up and socialize.
- Keep your calendar up to date (so you don’t schedule a meeting during your team’s nap time, as I once did);
- Build relationships with remote teams by using video conferencing.
- Because we’ll all be chatting a lot, don’t be afraid to use emojis and GIFs to convey tone and emotions in chats.
- This one is for the Scrum Masters: remember to recharge your batteries!
Working with multiple Scrum Teams in different time zones can present a number of challenges, including effective coordination and communication, managing different work schedules, dealing with different cultural perspectives, and dealing with time zones. To overcome these obstacles, clear and consistent communication channels, work schedules, cross-cultural understanding, and taking care of the Scrum Master’s well-being are essential. Organizations can ensure that their Scrum Teams can work effectively and efficiently across time zones by implementing these strategies, as well as overcome any challenges that may arise.