I recently ran an exploratory testing workshop in India and I thought I would blog about this experience.
There are many differing views about Indian software development teams, some which are unfounded and some that are characteristics of the working style of Indian teams.
From my experience of working with many different teams around the world the statement above can really be applied to any team no matter where they are in the world how people interact and their style of working is dependent on their culture and way of working.
The workshop I was running had a lot of interaction and required engagement from those attending otherwise it is hard to gauge if the audience understands what you are trying to deliver. I was worried due to what I had been informed about the culture within India that there would be little if any engagement and everyone would agree with what I was saying, even if what I was saying was wrong. (I like to set little traps in my presentations and say things which anyone in testing will know is stupid and start a debate.)
I remembered an article that Jon Bach had written about his viewpoint on working with Indian testers and how he ended up making an apology. (http://jonbox.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/to-india-an-apology/). This article was KEY in how I ended up presenting the workshop to the teams in India.
So taking on board the lessons Jon had learnt I started to change my presentation a little to become more personal more about who I was rather than what I was trying to deliver.
I changed the start of the presentation and included a lot of personal information about myself including photos which I had of my family. When I started to run the workshop I explained that this was just an approach, a possible way of working I was not going to say to anyone attending that this is how you MUST do things and if you disagree with anything I am saying then please let me know. I then spent the next 20-30 minutes explaining about myself and my family. I think that this part was the key element – the need to reach out to the India team on a personal level, family in India culture is very important (Joint Family). I talked about our daughter and granddaughter coming to live with us when her husband was away for six months with the army and lots more. I then asked people attending to talk about themselves and their families. Suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed it become more relaxed and people appeared more receptive.
Can this one little change make such a difference?
So I begin delivering the workshop and found the engagement and interaction of those attending to be amongst the best I have come across whilst I have been delivering this workshop. There was passion, interaction, thoughtful questions and in some cases surprising answers. In my opinion it was one the best workshops I have ever been involved with.
Was I just lucky?
If I had not changed the start of the presentation would I have still ended up with the same reaction and interaction?
I cannot really say since I have no comparison – this was a one chance to deliver to a team in India, I was on a tight schedule, so it was important to get it right.
I really must say a big thank you to Jon Bach, since without reading about his experience I think I would have blindly gone and presented and not got the response I required nor would anyone have really learnt anything.
So the tip for anyone working or dealing with teams from India is to make sure you can engage with them on a personal level , open up and let people know who you really are.