Interview with Doug Bradbury, One World Coders – Part 3

In Part 3 of my interview with Doug Bradbury, we talk about Cultural Intelligence, a practice One World Coders uses to improve communication with their clients. To read previous segments of this interview:

Walsh: Is your model for pricing job something that differentiates One World Coders from other out-sourcing options?  Are there other ways One World Coders differentiates itself?

Bradbury: I do.  I think most out-sourcing models are time and materials or monthly rates for developers, and we still will do that when we are augmenting a team.  The other big differentiator for us is what I refer to as “Cultural Intelligence.”  As a consultant, I saw my fair share of disastrous offshore relationships.  Really what it comes down to – you know, it isn’t that developers are bad in other parts of the country; you can find a good or a bad developer anywhere in the world.  What often happens in offshore relationships is that the communication breaks down.  It isn’t enough to say, “We just need to get better at communicating.”  When communication breaks down, there’s generally something else going on.  There’s something in the way of communicating.  In cross-cultural relationships, we think about that as a set of cultural assumptions or cultural values that everyone on the team comes into the team with that usually are sitting just below the surface.  They are implicit and they affect how we communicate, how we talk, but we rarely understand how they are affecting us.  I’ll give you an example.  One of the cultural values that we talk about is individualism versus collectivism.  This is the extent to which ownership or responsibility is on the team as a whole or on the individual.  If you are from North America, particularly the US, you are much more likely to hold an individualist view of the world.  This is kind of built-in to the ethos of America, the self-made individual.  You pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  What that ends up as in software teams a lot of times is code silos.  This one person owns this part of the code.  If you want something done, you talk to that person.  If you are from a more collectivist culture, your default assumption might be something more like, “It’s all our code.”  Anybody works on anything.  It turns out to be a much healthier way to build a software team to have that collective code ownership.  When you have people that have those two different assumptions, they can pile up on each other.  A collectivist might look at the individualist and wonder, “Why doesn’t he let us touch his code?”  An individualist might look at the collectivists as being nosy or pushy or rude if they are inserting themselves into that silo.  We recruit for high cultural intelligence, which is the ability to understand these differences and change your behavior accordingly, and we also have a cross-cultural on-boarding that we do with each of our clients.  We do an assessment so that everybody sees on this scale of ten cultural values where they land, and then we compare that as a team and decide how we’re are going to work together.  It lays the foundation for excellent communication throughout the project.  That, to me, is one of our big differentiators.  We approach that communication – which is the single biggest thing that tanks diverse teams – and get it started on the right foot from the beginning.

In the next installment, Doug describes the innovative apprenticeship and on-boarding program he helped develop at 8th Light and still uses at One World Coders.

To learn more about One World Coders…

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