Every time someone considers delegating software development, they want it to be an advantageous alternative to growing internal capabilities. To ensure making the utmost out of cooperation with an external partner, they take a look at potential destinations, waging factors such as rates, risks, development quality, and additional benefits of this process. But in order to derive the maximum value from such cooperation, apart from the strict business elements that are always taken into consideration, you should never turn your attention away from other, more subtle factors that may make or break your outsourcing project.
Today, we want to fill this gap by giving you some insight into cultural differences through the eyes of the Polish software developer – an entity that we, as a leading Polish software house, know quite well. Keep reading to find why boosting your team with Polish software developers is the best choice one can make while looking for an external development team.
The importance of cultural differences
At first, let’s deal with the basics – cultural differences between nations do exist and the purpose of learning them is not to put anyone down but to make sure you can understand different perspectives and adjust your ways of communication to achieve the best results. Yet clearly, finding a provider from a country with minor differences in business culture would make your life easier. Working with people with whom you’ll land on the same page right from the start would result in high effectiveness making accomplishing your goals almost smooth sailing. At the same time cooperation with people from a notably different cultural background would require much more effort, especially during initial stages. Therefore, while seeking an external partner to boost your development capacity, you should always consider how they work, communicate and act, since that would definitely impact the cooperation.
Studies show that the UK and the USA-based companies tend to outsource the most, hence in the whole text, we will use these as a point of reference. Rather than making the long story short and just saying that Polish software developers get along with their British and American colleagues in mare minutes, we will go step by step through stages especially relevant for software projects – from the initial contact to delivering results.
Stage 1 – Building trust with Polish Software Developers
Each partnership starts with the seemingly informal task of building trust. Since this text, is focused on cultural characteristics only, if you want to learn more about the whole process of establishing a partnership click this link – that’s something we already shared with you on our blog!
To understand what it’s like in Poland, it’s worth taking a look at Erin Meyer’s Culture Map. According to her research, when it comes to trust, most cultures can be divided into task-based and relationship-based ones. The representatives of the latter don’t believe that much in their legal system to make sure that all deals are guaranteed. Therefore, they build trust in business through informal meetings. For individuals from highly task-based cultures, such as the U.S. or the U.K., it’s often difficult to comprehend the need for this kind of bonding in business relationships. Among typical outsourcing destinations, Poland is one of the most task-based cultures. As a result, it’s fairly similar to what you can expect from American, British, or German developers. In practice, what it means is that negotiating deals is pretty straightforward and there should be no hidden odds to beat.
Stage 2 – Communication is a two-way street
Those inexperienced in offshoring rarely realize just how much cultural differences can impact the quality of communication in distributed teams (and thus the result of the project). Some best practices help to effectively communicate with your external team yet combining that with an understanding of your partner’s communication patterns can make the effectiveness jump through the roof, so unsurprisingly this paragraph won’t be a short one. So how do Polish software developers communicate?
The popular cultural model by Richard Lewis may help to understand that. He distinguished 3 main categories and based on experience and studies presented the results in a form of a triangle diagram that indicated the relative positioning of each culture. Since countries that tend to delegate the most are the US and the UK we shall use these as a point of reference. What does that mean for you? For these strong “linear-active” representants, cultures of the “reactive” type (among these you’ll find popular Asian outsourcing destinations) are often the source of confusion. The typical lack of initiative and concealing feelings results in many misunderstandings that may influence the work progress and the results of the project.
At the same time, Poland can be found much closer to the US and the UK, somewhere in between “linear-active” and “multi-active”. That means that you will find many similarities while working with the typical Polish software developer. Additionally, specialists from this country are more likely to ask questions on their own and come up with their own ways of solving problems. We found out that this quality of Polish software developers proved especially effective in Agile-driven software projects we have participated in.
We can also look at Erin Mayer’s work once again. When it comes to communication, she chooses two extreme values – “low context” and “high context”. The first group keep the communication precise, clear and simple while the second believes in more sophisticated and layered ways of sharing thoughts, forcing their listeners to not only focus on what one is saying but also to read between the lines. Representatives from our reference countries can be found closer to the low context and once again Poland is on the same side. Although it’s a little bit closer to the middle, polish software developers remain more low than high context communicators, which ensures seamless cooperation. Of course, this tendency is also influenced by other factors, such as the extent to which the developer feels comfortable speaking English but let’s be honest – we wrote multiple times about the English proficiency among Polish software developers, so let’s just leave a link to EPI here and move on with the culture ?
To make this article a complete guide to Polish software developers we should emphasize one more thing. Polish software developers might be sometimes considered as grumblers, since according to Mayer our country is more on the “direct negative feedback” side. If something won’t be working, they won’t beat around the bush and just say what’s wrong. Of course, that works both ways – they would also expect your and your internal specialists to be direct with suggesting to them what can be done better. Having this in the back of your mind will allow transforming it into a positive factor – with Polish software developers onboard you can rest assured that any potential shortcomings would be noticed and fixed.
Stage 3 – Managing – in other words, is there a leader in the house?
According to Mayer’s studies, the leaderish in Poland is more hierarchal than egalitarian (the US can be found on the egalitarian side, while the UK was placed closer to us, around the middle of the two extreme values) making it one of the few significant differences between Polish software developers and their American or British colleagues. In practice, it means that the propensity for speaking their mind and believing in themselves among Polish software developers may sometimes be overshadowed by being intimidated by their superior.
However, this is probably a shadow of more hierarchical work structure past that looms over some of us till now. Over the course of last year’s, we are seeing a switch towards being more egalitarian when it comes to leadership in Poland, probably due to cooperating with partners from such countries. What’s more, most polish development teams work in Agile methodologies and many of these are leaning towards self-organization, which stimulates them to share their thoughts and take responsibility, making the hierarchy less and less important nowadays. We even pride ourselves on not being afraid to challenge the exiting reality and suggest improvement whenever possible but that’s another story ? Yet to ensure that you would make the utmost out of the cooperation with Polish software developers, it’s worth pointing out clearly and right from the start that any valuable contributions and suggestions are welcome. A light kick-off meeting, in which everybody gets a chance to speak, might be a good way to break the ice and lessen the impact of hierarchy on your team’s creativity.
Stage 4 – Arguing, brainstorming… and other thunders
Polish software developers do tend to be more confrontational than their colleagues from the UK or the US. And it’s going to have an impact on your delegated projects. Don’t worry though – the impact will be positive only. As Erin Meyer argues, the propensity to argue is not determined by aggression, but by a willingness to develop ideas, grow, and contribute to the success of the project. Polish software developers are not afraid to challenge ideas within the team and disagreeing is not considered as something inappropriate so that won’t negatively impact relationships. In addition, many Polish companies provide training on cultural differences to ensure being tactful in discussions and not to behave in a way that a UK/US-based partner would perceive as inappropriate.
At times, what might be considered a quarrel by some is nothing more than a creative and passionate discussion. Most of the time, it’s highly desirable in software projects as it usually results in revealing all the aspects in which all team members are still not on the same page and as result choosing the best solutions and ideas – being only a booster for value creation desired by almost all of managers.
Stage 5 – Scheduling and deadlining
One of the classic outsourcing-gone-wrong stories is the tale of a “yes-man” – an obedient software developer, who says “yes” to any question and doesn’t make requests on his/hers own. Eventually, the deadline arrives, and the client, to their dismay, realizes that hardly anything is done and whatever is completed is not what they expected. We’re sure you’ve heard that at least once. To avoid such a scenario, you need generally two things – be aware of how to manage external cooperation (click here to learn more about it), and consider cultural differences that may affect scheduling. And as you probably guessed, we’re going to focus on the latter, describing how Polish software developers approach scheduling.
Although a part of it is highly individual a lot comes from cultural dependencies. Once again instead of relying on our gut feeling, we’re going to refer to Erin Mayer’s work (although her conclusions match what we see every day). In this matter she chooses two extremes – linear time and flexible time approach. As the names suggest, those on the linear end of the scale are doing one thing at a time, focusing on deadlines and good organization, while representants of the opposite end work in a much more fluid manner and the most important aspect for them is flexibility. To illustrate this with examples among the most linear countries you can find Germany and Switzerland while India or Saudi Arabia had been placed on the other end of the scale.
Now since the theory is out of the way, let focus on Polish software developers and the countries we use for reference. All these 3 can be found in between of the linear end and the middle of the scale with the USA being the left-most one, followed by the UK and Poland. What does it mean? Long story short, specialists from all these 3 countries should have a similar approach when it comes to scheduling. But looking back at the example from the begging – Polish developers tend to be quite precise (typical for linear cultures) and quite straightforward in expressing their doubts about being able to meet your deadlines so your cooperation would not suit another story about deadlines problems.
However, make sure that overly relying on strict deadlines won’t affect your flexibility. Polish software developers are quite adaptable to both approaches. In an Agile project, make sure to clearly communicate to what extent the scope is expected to change over time and how much responsibility each individual team member gets.
Understanding the cultural differences highly boosts your chances of success, both during the selection stage, when you’re scouting for the best place to find your external partner, and through the whole cooperation lifespan. The areas we covered are the most crucial and probably the most interesting ones for those of you who have new cooperation on the horizon, and surely give a solid foundation for making an evidence-based decision and establish flawless cooperation. Yet if you want to learn more about Polish software developers and their strengths be sure to use the contact form below – we’re happy to talk and discuss all potential doubts you might have.
About the authorSoftware Mind
Software Mind provides companies with autonomous development teams who manage software life cycles from ideation to release and beyond. For over 20 years we’ve been enriching organizations with the talent they need to boost scalability, drive dynamic growth and bring disruptive ideas to life. Our top-notch engineering teams combine ownership with leading technologies, including cloud, AI, data science and embedded software to accelerate digital transformations and boost software delivery. A culture that embraces openness, craves more and acts with respect enables our bold and passionate people to create evolutive solutions that support scale-ups, unicorns and enterprise-level companies around the world.