Identifying the cause of communication issues in dispersed teams Abbey Communication

How to identify the source of communication problems in dispersed teams

Andrea MacMillanBlog, Featured Blogs

Global organisations routinely work across national boundaries and international time zones helping them to achieve that balance between global and local knowledge, as well as benefiting from working with a global talent pool. Leaders are often grown and recruited internationally rather than locally, and team experts are asked to contribute from all over the world.

These exciting ways of working however can present significant communication challenges which can sometimes lead to total communication breakdown, or at best a lack of productivity due to time consuming communication processes.  Communication in dispersed teams can be a challenge due to some or all the following factors:

  • Time differences
  • Language differences
  • Differences in language ability (e.g. where English is the Lingua Franca)
  • Cultural differences
  • Difficulties with virtual meeting software or work/project management tools
  • Lack of knowledge sharing and knowledge management
  • Disconnection from head office and poor understanding of local versus global requirements
  • Inability to diagnose the cause of the communication breakdowns (i.e. cultural differences or linguistic issues or personality differences?)

This last issue, the inability to diagnose the real cause of a communication breakdown, is becoming more and more common.  We are often asked to fix problems in international teams that have been diagnosed as “personality” or “team working issues”, that in fact turn out to be problems with how English is used as the lingua franca, or misunderstandings due to cultural differences, or of course vice versa).

This has led us to design a robust diagnosis audit for international communication issues in dispersed teams, which consists of:

  • 1:1 interviews with all team members, with coaches who are experts in the language, culture and personality aspects of team work
  • Profiling tools which address all three areas (e.g. language level assessment, intercultural profiles and personality profiles)
  • Diagnosis meeting with the team manager and organisational leaders to understand organisational and team strategy and priorities
  • A full-written report with clear recommendations to overcome communication gaps and breakdowns

If you’d like to know more about our International Communication Team Audit and how we can help your team become more successful, please contact me at

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