Navigating the Complexities of International Team Collaboration


Maersk is a large international shipping and logistics organisation. I have been working with Maersk for the past three months planning and building their multiple new SolarWinds monitoring environments . This has given me the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse team of professionals from different countries and cultures.

In these brief notes, I seek to explain how I collaborate within an international context at Maersk, identifying hurdles posed by factors such as time zone disparities, cultural diversity, and the need for effective communication across borders.

Understanding and addressing these challenges are essential for fostering successful teamwork and environmental awareness in a globalised setting.


1. Time Zone Differences:

– Coordinating meetings and collaborations becomes challenging when team members are spread across different time zones, impacting real-time communication and responsiveness. My rule of thumb is to try and get most of my India based meetings done in the morning UK time so that it aligns with Indian afternoons. China is 8 hours behind the UK so Chinese meetings are always tricky to arrange. The record meetings function in MS Teams has been very useful for when I cannot attend meetings myself.


2. Cultural Diversity:

– Diverse cultural backgrounds may lead to varied communication styles, expectations, and approaches to problem-solving. Misunderstandings may arise due to cultural differences. Usually these misunderstandings are easily sorted out with a little patience and explanation. It’s interesting to learn about all the holidays and festivals people of different cultures have as I’ve mentioned further down my notes. We in the UK seem pretty boring in comparison.


3. Language Barriers:

– Language variations within the team may result in communication challenges, potential misunderstandings, and the need for clear and concise communication to bridge linguistic gaps. I’ve been very impressed at how excellent Indian and Chinese staff are at expressing themselves technically in English. If they were to ask me to do the same in another language I would struggle. Even if I had paid more attention in German and French lessons at school I’d still be in the same situation. Those Latin lessons were a complete waste of time.


4. Remote Collaboration:

– Unlike a local team, where face-to-face interactions are more feasible, international teams often rely heavily on virtual communication tools, requiring effective utilization of technology for seamless collaboration. I use a number of great tools that I rely upon every day. Miro for diagrams and for brainstorming during meetings is the best visual innovation tool I’ve come across and confluence is incredibly useful and intuitive for all my documentation needs. I do also store docs in word format for use elsewhere. The bane of my life is Excel. I seem to be filling in multiple Excel docs containing similar information for multiple different people despite documenting everything in confluence.


5. Regulatory and Compliance Variances:

– Operating in different countries means dealing with various regulatory frameworks and compliance standards, which can add complexity to decision-making and implementation processes. Having to build a China clone environment has been interesting with all the specific China considerations. Dealing with licensing and Chinese suppliers in Chinese data centres and experiencing remote hosting in Ali cloud has been enlightening.


6. Work Style Diversity:

– Different regions may have distinct work cultures and expectations. Balancing these diverse work styles and preferences can be crucial for maintaining team cohesion and productivity. I’ve been surprised how much detail some cultures go into when creating their technical documentation and how what I consider useful is only part of the bigger picture.


7. Project Coordination:

– Coordinating projects across borders may involve aligning diverse timelines, navigating through legal and logistical challenges, and ensuring a unified approach to achieve common goals. Aligning hardware and software requirements at Maersk with what the manufacturer can supply in distant (for me) countries has been a challenge while communicating with local IT teams to help them understand what is being provided.


8. Flexibility and Adaptability:

– International teams often require a higher level of flexibility and adaptability to accommodate diverse working hours, holidays, and unexpected challenges that may arise in different regions. I’ve noticed some cultures don’t mind working late into the night while others have a much better work life balance. Or is it better? The jury is out on this one.


9. Building Trust Across Borders:

– Establishing and maintaining trust can be more challenging when team members are geographically dispersed and put together for the sake of a specific project. Building strong relationships requires deliberate efforts and effective communication and is never easy.


10. Conflict Resolution:

– Resolving conflicts becomes more complex due to cultural differences, and the team may need to develop culturally sensitive conflict resolution strategies. It’s never easy joining a new organisation and if we add to that by working on a completely new project, where none of the staff have worked together in the past this means that we all have to compromise and adjust to the unknown so that we can work together effectively.


For me addressing these challenges involves fostering open communication (effective meetings), promoting cultural awareness, utilising monitoring technology effectively, and implementing strategies that consider and support the unique dynamics of an international team within the context of the organisations operations.

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