Thursday, March 3, 2011

Managing Offshore Teams: Everyone Can Win with the Right Approach

By Cynthia Sullivan

Note: Guest blogger Cindy Sullivan was previously VP of the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology Library at Fidelity Investments in Boston, Ma. Cindy has more than 25 years experience managing libraries in a global financial services organization, including remote library organizations. Cindy’s particular expertise has been focused on the strategic use of technology to deliver library and knowledge services.
CSullivan Strategic Information Management, LLC

A few years ago, I was asked to go to India to recruit and interview a library manager/researcher. This position would be located in our India office which was growing rapidly at that time. I found that networking with other offshore colleagues, was a help in getting a sense of the caliber of candidates that were joining the company. In terms of qualifying a candidate, I developed a detailed job description and identified a list of qualities that were a priority. This proved to be a worthwhile exercise once I was immersed in the many interviews.

At the end of my mission, I was successful in hiring a bright, highly motivated individual that proved to be an asset to the organization. Seeking to make the offshore staff integral to the onshore team, I found that five ingredients were key to success.

1. Open and frequent communication among the teams

2. A detailed training plan for our offshore recruit that was divided among the onshore team in terms of responsibility

3. Standardized templates for publishing final reports/research

4. A repository that allowed for sharing and collaboration

5. Joint objectives that required the onshore staff to work collaboratively on a project with our offshore recruit

Open and regular communications included a weekly staff meeting that required the onshore team to come in an hour early and the offshore team to stay an hour later. This was essential since it provided a seat at the table and identified all participants as equally important to our organization.

A detailed training plan where responsibility was divided among the onshore staff, ensured that everyone had some skin in the game

The standardized templates allowed us to function as one organization producing uniform results regardless of the location.

The repository was key so that we were sharing the results of projects and achieving re-use of the final product.

The joint objectives provided an opportunity to bond the onshore and offshore team with a common goal.

As a manager, trying to keep the organization in synch and functioning as a single team was a challenge. It required thoughtful planning and constant communication. At the end of the day it was all worthwhile. We each experienced a degree of personal growth and were richer for the experience.

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