Excerpt

From Chapter 1: Introduction


It is 09:30 India Standard Time, and Kuldeep, a software engineer in information technology (IT) production support is frustrated. He cannot re-create the software defect based on what was logged into the issue/defect system during the night. He has no one to call. The author of the defect report, an American who lives and works 10.5 time zones away, is now sleeping. So the Indian software engineer resorts to writing a lengthy e-mail requesting clarification. Solving the problem is delayed by one day… at the very least. 
 
The coordination breakdown represented in this vignette stems from time zone separation. There are countless others like it in many knowledge professions. While such coordination breakdowns are common today, these time zone challenges are relatively new. Until the 1980s, time zone separation did not matter much. Sure it mattered for airline pilots and ministers of foreign affairs, but for the vast majority of knowledge workers, it had little impact on daily work. Then, in the 1980s, the fax machine became a ubiquitous form of communication. This made it possible for some work objects—documents, designs, accounts and programs—to be transferred instantly across time zones.
 
Still, even into the mid-1990s, geographic distance was more important than time zone differences because shipping a work object took days and cost a lot of money. In that ancient era, software professionals air-shipped floppy disks and magnetic tape reels inscribed with computer code. Coordination between distant collaborating sites was, at best, what we could call loosely coupled. Yes, the sites were interdependent, but not much.

Then the Internet came along and, all of a sudden, time zone differences mattered.
 


Glossary of Terms


agile--
A software development approach that emphasizes client collaboration, team member interaction, and quick iterations. See chapters 3, 7.

async--Short for asynchronous, meaning not at the same time. See also “sync.”

average handle time--A call center metric for the average duration of one transaction of client call. See chapter 6.

bridged--One of the six basic time zone configurations. In this configuration, one liaison bridges/ overlaps distant sites in two time zones. See also “East–West.” See chapter 2.

calendar efficiency--The percentage of all of the calendar time that is used productively for work during the 168 hours available per week. See chapter 6.

circadian rhythms--A 24-hour cycle that is synchronized with the light and dark, and is driven by the Earth's rotation. See chapter 8.

concrete time culture--Those cultures that see time as concrete and objective(also known as monochronic). Deadlines are firm and strict. People are punctual to meetings. Germans and Americans tend to be in this group. The opposite of elastic time culture. See chapter 9.

clustered--One of the six basic time zone configurations. In this configuration, members work in various locations and time zones, but there is one central dominant site/time zone where a large percentage of members are located. See chapter 2.

cold spots--The unscheduled time around which family and friends can enjoy themselves. See chapter 8.

co-located--One of the six basic time zone configurations, in which all team members reside at the same location. See chapter 2.

conventional global approaches--Parallel or phase-based, as opposed to the "Follow-the-Sun" approach. See chapter 6.

coordination mix--The portfolio of coordination tactics that are adopted and used by collaborators.  See also “coordination tactic.” See chapter 10.

conveyance processes--The transmission of new information to enable the receiver to create and revise a mental model of the situation. See chapter 10.

coordination tactic--A mechanism or process used by collaborators. There are three types: mechanistic (based on processes and routines), organic (based on communication), and implicit (based on collaborators’ knowledge). See also “coordination mix.” See chapter 10.

coordination--The management of dependencies among task activities. Alternative definition: the act of integrating each task and organizational unit so that it contributes to the overall objective. See chapter 10.

convergence--Collaborators across time zones coming together, to create, to agree, to build the same “mental model” in their heads and resolve any miscommunication. See chapter 3.

convergence window--The overlap time window between individuals and sites, across time zones, which is used for converging, typically by voice, on work issues. See chapter 3.

distraction science--A new specialty discipline about how people focus on tasks and get distracted from tasks. See chapter 9.

distributed work--Work by teams and/or individuals who are not at the same location. See chapter 1.

DST--Daylight Saving Time. A region moves the clock forward during summer. DST narrows/widens time separation with locations that do not have DST. See chapter 1.

elastic time culture--Also known as polychronic. The cultures in which deadlines are flexible; includes Latinos, the French (to some extent), and Indians. The opposite of concrete time culture. See chapter 9.

e-mail chain--Refers to a sequence of unresolved e-mails sent between distributed team members seeking clarification. See chapter 1.

escalation process— Raising work issues to higher authorities for urgent resolution. See chapter 3.

external interruptions--Situations when someone or something makes us stop the work we are doing. See chapter 4.

far-flung--One of the six basic time zone configurations. In this configuration, individuals are widely scattered across various locations and time zones. See chapter 2.

fixed shift--A work schedule that remains the same from day to day. See chapter 3.

flexitime--Employees work on flexible schedules. See chapter 3.

Follow-the-Sun--A type of global workflow strategy in which unfinished work is handed-off from one site to another site to the west. The business goal is speed, while Round-the-Clock is about 24-hour coverage. See chapter 6.

GMT--Greenwich Mean Time.

granular--Small size tasks that can be handled quickly; for example, helpdesk tasks, which may be handled in a few minutes. For granular work, there is little coordination challenge in handing-off work between various global sites since the sites do not hand-off much half-finished work.

Gregorian calendar--Also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar.

handoff--The handoff transfers and resolves the essential information for all unfinished work. We recommend that the handoff have both written and verbal components. See chapter 3.

horarium--The schedule used by the medieval Benedictine monasteries of Europe. It is one of the earliest forms of societal rhythm of time. See chapter 9.

hot spots--Scheduled commitments such as work, sleep, chores. See chapter 8.

implicit coordination--The coordination based on unspoken assumptions about what others are likely to do; achieved from knowledge team members have about each other and about the task activities of others in the team. See chapter 10.

internal interruptions--The situations in which we stop the work we are doing with no apparent external cause. See chapter 9.

Internet Time--A time standard with no time zones, measured in beats. It was introduced by Swatch, the watch company, in 1998. See Prologue.

irregular shift--A work schedule that is variable and erratic. See chapter 3.

job strain model--A concept that measures two main components of stress: high job demands (the need to work quickly and hard) and low decision latitude (which includes time allocation). See chapter 8.

knowledge worker--An educated professional that acts on and communicates with knowledge within a specific subject area. Knowledge workers include programmers, managers, teachers, designers, doctors, and lawyers.

liaison--See “temporal liaison.”

MBTA--Management By Timeshifting Around. Managers stay in place but timeshift to different locations by adjusting or scattering their workdays. See chapter 3.

MBWA--Management By Wandering Around. See chapter 3.




microsourcing--One of the global sourcing models where buyers source small projects or fractional tasks. Similar to crowdsourcing. See chapter 6.

multitasking--Refers to knowledge workers performing more than one task at the same time. See chapter 9.

nearshoring--Sourcing service work to a foreign, lower-wage country that is relatively close in distance or time zone (or both). See chapter 5.

night work--Any work that directly touches the span from 00:00 to 05:00. See chapters 3, 8.

nomadism--The subculture of working anywhere. Many nomads work in caf├ęs, in “third places,” not their home or office. See chapter 1.

organic coordination--Individuals communicate naturally, often unscheduled, in order to coordinate and problem-solve. This is one of three coordination tactics. See also “coordination tactics.” See chapter 10.

overlap window--A period of time when distributed teams overlap their work hours. See also “convergence window.” See chapter 3.

Phalanx--IBM’s original Follow-the-Sun structure. See chapter 6.

production support--A common type of global IT work for supporting the IT systems/applications in organizations, often including some kind of technical call center. See chapter 1.

quiet time--Uninterrupted time that is the result of reduced interruptions during the workday, which in turn is due to scattered project team work. See chapter 9.

radical co-location--A very tight seating arrangement that we now commonly see in agile team-rooms. Designed to encourage constant sharing of knowledge. See chapter 9.

radical timeshifting--Akin to working the graveyard/night shift in traditional shifts of factories and hospitals. See chapter 3.

rapid prototyping--Very quick construction of a demo. This is an example of a task that can be done using Follow-the-Sun. It is a creative, constructive task with serious coordination challenges. See chapter 6.

rotating shift--A work schedule designed for hours that change regularly as, for example, from day shift to evening shift to night shift. Rotation may be rapid (e.g., within three days), mid-length (e.g., one week) or long (e.g., four weeks) and rotate forward or backward. See chapter 3.

Round-the-Clock--A type of global workflow strategy that leverages time zones to achieve 24-hour coverage. The business goal is 24-hour coverage, while Follow-the-Sun is focused on speed. See chapter 6.

Rule of Two--An informal rule where the number of sites collaborating on the same project at the same time is intentionally limited to two. See chapter 5.

scattertime--A relatively new mode of work where knowledge workers spread out their labor into scattered chunks of time, broken up by home and personal time. See chapter 1.

schedule--The artifact that is the rhythm we all live by, like a metronome in our lives.

SHIFT--An acronym for the four basic parameters for timeshifting: Standardized, How long, number of Individual participants, Frequency. See chapter 3.

shiftwork--Any nonstandard work schedule designed for work hours that stretch beyond the typical daylight periods of 07:00 to 18:00. See chapter 3.

site location--Or site selection. A distributed organization design factor. See chapter 5.

sync--Short for synchronous, meaning at the same time. See also “async.”

task delay--A delay in completing a task. Time zone separation breaks the rhythm of synchronous interaction and workflow, thus leading to delay, whereas mere spatial distance removes the benefits of co-presence but members can still work synchronously when needed. See chapter 10.

telework--Working from home. See chapter 3.

temporal--Relating to time.

temporal liaison--A person who bridges time zones by timeshifting, usually every day. See chapter 3.

temporal regularity--A phenomenon that involves the structuring of social life by forcing activities into fairly rigid temporal patterns. See chapter 9.

Tier 1 support--A type of IT support services, similar to helpdesk, often for more technical queries. See chapter 6.

time colonialism--Capitalism allows the wealthy to colonize the workers of developing countries into the time zones of the wealthy. See Epilogue.

time liaison--See “temporal liaison.”

time management--The act or process of exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase efficiency or productivity. See chapter 9.

time perception--Certain objective units of time are perceived differently by different people. See chapter 9.

time sovereignty--Control over your own work schedule. See chapter 1.

time zone pain--A website developed by IBM that tries to minimize the collective pain of finding a meeting window that is least disruptive. See chapter 1.

time zone robustness (TZR)--A model with four levels that describes and prescribes deliberate actions around time zone-driven collaboration. The four levels of robustness range from least deliberate to reactive to strategically-driven. See chapter 4.

time zone strategy matrix--Captures the intersection of time zones and the nature of the work in a two-dimensional matrix. See the introduction to Section II and chapter 5.

time-boxing--The setting of strict deadlines in each work iteration. Used in software. See chapter 6.

timeshifting--Moving your work hours to accommodate someone else’s work hours in order to synchronize and converge. See chapter 3.

time-to-market--The length of time it takes from product conception until the product is available for use or sale. See chapter 6.

UTC--Coordinated Universal Time. See also “GMT.”

waterfall--A sequential software development model in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation, and maintenance. See chapter 4.

zoner--Experienced, multi-time zone worker. See chapter 1.

Zulu--Military standard time; uses GMT. See Prologue.

Copyright © 2011 by Erran Carmel & J. Alberto Espinosa All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) whatsoever without permission in writing from Erran Carmel and J. Alberto Espinosa except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.