Thursday, 24 June 2010

Training in India

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. ( 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.


  1. This is such an important point that needs to be screamed out repeatedly. Effective business depends on personal relationships. One of the reservations I have about outsourcing is the effect on personal relationships. Key supplier staff can be rotated round clients too frequently, or be based in different locations from clients. Personal relations suffer, and eventually business does too. That's a particular handicap that Indian testers and suppliers need to overcome. Client staff need to be aware of that too and work at the problem.

    When things get tough you're more likely to dig your way out if you're dealing with people you know, respect and like. It's obvious, but so often ignored. Once you have that good personal relationship you've got a lot of goodwill to draw on when you need it.

  2. I think this approach can work with all sorts of people, not just in trainings, but in all inter personal and professional communications. I've been to some conferences or tech talks where the expert just seems to be there to get it done. Download this mass of data, some of which is at such a high level that its useless to most of us in attendance.

    When that happens the presenter often seems distant, like they just want to be done with it, and because they seem disinterested in engaging beyond the brain dumping, understandably the audience doesn't retain much.

    However, there have been other talks I've sat in where people were engaged, and asked questions. Even if only a couple people get involved early in the talk suddenly everyone is paying attention. This actually brings me to a point of annoyance in some podcasts that I've seen that go on live. The information is presented so fast, with little gaps your mind hardly has time to breath and that can affect retention as well.

    The same is true for other means of communication. I love where I work because people there actually seem interested in knowing how I'm doing, not just at work, and that makes me care more about how I do things because I like being around people who care. that in turn causes me to care about others in our work community and turns it from being some stuffy cube culture to a real hard working community. When you have an entire community interested, then things really can happen!

  3. Thank you for your comments Veretax and clarotesting I feel it is important to be able to connect with people not just on a work level but also on a personal level. It helps towards making a much nicer working environment. We spend a great deal of our waking day in work so why not make it pleasant.

    A word of caution if people do this just to get things done it then can become cynical. Asking about how people are and then not really caring is just as bad as not asking at all. I care about the people I work with i am interested in who they are rather than what they can do with me. Maybe I should had made that point in the blog. Oh well my next blog about being bearers of bad news should be just as interesting.....

    Again thank you for taking the time to comment it makes me feel that people are interested in what I think........

  4. Thanks for this, John. Cool story!

  5. What you have said is true... Invariably, we work with people and not resources... And it is much more easier for us to open up to someone who can connect with people on a personal note, than with someone who is viewed as "The teacher who is present in the morning and gone in the evening :)"!!!!!