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Recently, I started a new job where team collaboration seems difficult.

Several of our business team members work in a different time zone that differs by ten hours.

The only time I can get in touch with them is at the end of my day for questions related to requirements. This leads to a lot of back and forth communication over emails, which leads to a lot of tasks being delayed.

The architecture team also works in the same time zone as the business team, which delays approval of certain works.

What could be some possible ways to improve collaboration with them

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    I am afraid that this question can be answered only by circular reasoning: you can find out how to improve the collaboration only by improving the collaboration. Like this: improve collaboration -> find out ways to improve -> improve collaboration. Not much helpful, I am afraid.
    – virolino
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 12:47
  • On a more serious tone, this question is about how the company is organized - rules, regulations, schedules... These topics can be solved only internally. Nobody on the internet know how your company works. I voted to close for this reason.
    – virolino
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 12:49
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    What do the other team members in your time zone do?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 13:02
  • @virolino: I believe a lot of people have faced this issue and are currently facing this.The intent of the question is have experiences shared by them. And I see few of them have shared also. The forum can be used to ask this question, refer second point under workplace.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic .'Communication problem' is on the list and the question is specific to that. You are free to vote for close and have an opinion. I am personally having good insights from the answers provided.
    – Deep
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 18:42
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    There are a lot of aspects of collaboration that don't require realtime communications. If you've worked with a change control system, or with a group chat/email system like Slack (citation, not recommendation) you've already experienced this. Often, waiting a day for an answer is fine, especially if you're willing to risk a bit of wasted work: "I'm going to proceed assuming the answer is X. If it's Y, tell me and I'll redo that."
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 19:53

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Teams distributed over disjunct timezones will have a hard time working together, and there will be delays, misunderstandings due to insufficient communication, etc.

In short, it's a bad management decision IMO to declare workers a "team" when they are no colocated at least in time (with video chats, colocation in space is less of an issue nowadays but still less effective than true physical colocation).

One thing you can is to just accept the lag between different activities as a given. You may be able to keep tasks whose members need to closely collaborate within one physically colocated team, while letting the other team work on tasks that don't need to be synchronized. When communicating, you might want to be as explicit as possible to reduce the need for clarification and the risk of misunderstanding. This is especially true when in addition to the timezone differences there are cultural differences, as is most likely with a 10-hour difference.

Your organization might also want to structure the team composition such that each location has mostly autonomous teams which can work independent of other locations, as reduced speed and higher error rates of dispersed teams directly translates into loss of money, something no organization should strive for. There may be teams working on global strategic issues which don't need to be communicated on a timescale of hours, those can be located somewhere without the need for local "copies". But teams who are supposed to get things done and respond to events or changing requirements swiftly should be colocated.

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It's 6 am here and I'm on a meeting with my colleagues in the US and India.

So yeah, this is my life :D

How to solve? Well, if I had solved it, I would be working as an international consultant on how to properly work across Timezones, charging millions of Dollars...

My experience is that there are 3 key things:

  • Ensuring that each team at the start of their work day has a full schedule of work. So if your big Management is in the US, making sure they let the Aus Team know what they want them to do, this avoids thumb twiddling

  • rotating crap meeting times. Now, this does have a bit of nuance - depending on relative team sizes - for example on one meeting, I'm the odd one out, so it's me that has to put up with the 6 am starts. however to make sure people don't get irritated or to squash the perception of favouritism, rotate meeting times - e.g. team 1 has an early start, team 2 has a normal start and team 3 has a late start, then rotate team 1 has a normal start, team 2 has a late start, team 3 has an early start.

  • delegated responsibility. This is probably the hardest to do, because despite the best efforts, sometimes you will need approval from person in annoying Time Zone and that requirement can just grind work to a halt. Where possible, delegate this requirement as much as possible to someone within the time zone.

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The only time I can get in touch with them is at the end of my day for questions related to requirements. This leads to a lot of back and forth communication over emails, which leads to a lot of tasks being delayed.

So schedule regular phone and/or video calls during this time period.

You stay late, they come in early, or whatever is necessary to provide enough overlap. Back this up with emails and documents as needed.

That's what we did when we needed to collaborate with teams separated by so many time zones.

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    Absolutely. We managed to do it across 12 time zones when I was working with a group in China; we did the meeting after dinner, they did the meeting first thing in the morning. Could have been the reverse, I suppose, but I think even with the evening hour we got the better of the deal; I hate mornings. And it worked pretty well; each team had answers in our e-mail at the start of the day.
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 19:47

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