Inside the Offshore
Realities & Challenges of Managing Offshore Teams

Apr
26

Apparently Richard Gere is in trouble for kissing a woman’s cheek in public – in India.  The Indian courts cites public profanity for the act of affection.  But something’s not right here.  When I was in Gurgaon, a Delhi-suburb, to meet my team of analysts, I noticed that my Indian colleagues were quite affectionate with me and my NYC colleagues.  They all, including the boss, hugged us hello and goodbye. 

So what’s different with this Gere scandal?  Is it the lips involved?  Or the celebrity status?  Or is it a business vs. pleasure thing, like it’s okay to be affectionate as a courtesy to colleagues but not okay to be affectionate when horsing around? 

I need a native perspective to chime in here.  Read the details in India May Arrest Richard Gere Over Kiss and sort this out for me. 

Apr
26

We’ve hired a new managing director for research and consultative services, which means I have a new boss.  My new MD is great; extremely bright and pleasant and seasoned.  But he’s kicking me out of my office.  Until this morning, the research unit which consists of senior analysts for each of our three verticals (life sciences, finance, and marketing communications (that’s me)) lived happily ever after in one big office.  It was little tight, but we liked it that way because we collaborate often.  And when we needed quiet for the heavy thinking or client calls, we just shut the door and carried on. 

 This morning we’ve been moved out to the open space, among the business development folks making cold calls in their cubicles.  I hate that word – cubicle.  The worst part is that apparently we won’t be together anymore.  They’re splitting us up which is torture because it will hamper collaboration. The office isn’t huge so we can walk over to each other’s cubes when I have a finance question on my acquisition project, for example.  But this physical environment just isn’t the same as working in an analytical nook.

I actually haven’t seen the new setup yet because I’ve been out this week for health issues.  Before I got sick I was on the train worrying about my cubicle.  I wonder if there’s a correlation or causation here. 

Apr
20

Our three-day team building seminar wasn’t so bad.  We were cooped up for three full days at the New York Yacht Club in “board rooms” with wooden paneling and portraits of captains.   The seminar was long and repetitive of much of the stuff I learned in business school, and it was terribly frustrating to be away from my projects for three solid days.  But it was nice to sweat through it with my colleagues – a misery loves company kind of thing.  The moderator of the team stuff was impressive.  I just wish he had focused more on the concrete stuff than the fluffy team stuff.  He did a bunch of theory, for example, without enough real life examples. 

It’s been one week since the seminar.  I wonder if we’ll start to notice a subtle improvement in something. 

Apr
10

My firm is forcing us to attend three dreadful days of off-site team building exercises this week.  Wednesday through Friday, 8:30am to 6:00pm we’ll be at the New York Yacht Club learning how to be a team.  The Yacht Club setting is so very apropos; the team consultants are from a group called Topsail. 

This nautical theme is killing me — I hate boats — and I really need to improve my attitude on this team stuff because I’m expected to participate (and benefit) from it.  So here’s my best shot:

A few months ago my boyfriend and I signed up a couples’ pre-marital workshop.  It’s designed for couples who intend to get married and want to smooth the transition from singledom to marriagedom.  The workshop is absolutely awesome.  The couples coach is an internationally renown psychotherapist and communications genius.  She teaches us to read each other’s body language, and at this point my boyfriend and I can communicate without speaking — truly life altering. 

So I wonder if the team building stuff has potential to be as life altering.  The couples workshop is basically about communication and group dynamics (their are eight people in the class), which is what the team building stuff is supposed to be about, too.  Is it possible that I’ll actually learn real skills that will make me and my job performance better?  I’ve begun to entertain the possibility but I’m still skeptical.  I just wish my MBA in management exempted me from team certification; afterall, I paid a pretty penny to learn all about motivation, persuasion, negotiation, group psychology and sociology, and all the other stuff managers learn about leading workforces.  Why or why can’t that be enough?

Apr
10

If you work with offshore team, you’d better develop a thick skin.  The American sense of humor and diction or work usage can differ dramatically from that of offshore colleagues.  And unless you become accustomed to these differences, you might be in store for some seriously hurt feelings.  Case and point:  This morning a high ranking officer and Delhi-native walked from his NYC corner office to the kitchen for a cup of joe.  As he strolled past the business development cubicles, he hollered to our director of bus dev, “Wow, John!  I never realized that your bald spot is bigger than mine!”  The director froze for a few seconds, burst into laughter, and then retreated to the men’s room.   I felt sorry for him, especially when the less bald officer asked me if I had noticed the difference in their spots.  

Over lunch the director and I commisserated about such misunderstandings.  Last week our CFO, also a Delhi-native, told me I was dull.  After ferocious probing, I deduced that he really meant to say that I looked sad.    I’m not sure what the officer really meant to say when he compared bald spots with John.  But I suspect it somehow was a compliment. 

Apr
03

We hired a new IT firm to upgrade our exchange server.  Today was the third and final day of the upgrade, and by the end of business, we couldn’t send emails to our colleagues in India.  Turns out that our office manager forgot to remind the IT guy that we’ve got 150 email addresses in Gurgaon.  Likewise, it never occurred to theIT guy that our offshore office might really be offshore.  Oops.

This is an example of why I suspect that the team building consultants we’re scheduled to meet with next week just won’t get it.  Offshore operations redefine the concept of teams.  We’ll see next week if these consultants can demonstrate at least a rudimentary understanding of what team dynamics really mean to us. 

Apr
01

I work for a boutique research and consulting firm located in NYC with an offshore analystical team of 150 MBAs, PhDs, CPAs, and so on located in Gurgaon, India.   So when my managing director tells me that he’s arranged for a three-day team building workshop next week, it begs the question: Team building for whom – us or them? 

I can’t seem to hide my feelings on team building.  I think many team issues have to do with leadership and managerial skills, so I’m annoyed by team building exercises that are about personality types and tolerance and blah blah blah.  But it seems everyone else has to go through this stuff at some point so why should we be different?  I am a team player so I will cooperate and participate in next week’s exercises.  But I wonder how far we’ll get into the exercises before the team consultants we’ve hired bring up the fact that we’ve got two teams to consider in our equation.  I wonder what suggestions they’ll make or exercises they’ll have for my team building with the guys in India because the truth is that’s the team I’m more interested in.  And that’s where the opportunity is for some real building. 

Apr
01

My boss asked all the analysts to prepare a 30-minute presentation on  their role in a key recent project and present to our colleagues at our three-day team building exercise next week.  I think the idea is to show how we individually contribute to projects so we can identify more opportunities to work together. 

I was supposed to submit my presentation  last Friday but I completely forgot about it.  This is particularly bad because my boss reminded us of the seriousness of this team-building stuff during our staff meeting last Wednesday.   Two days before the staff meeting my cat James died.  On the day of the staff meeting my uncle died.  And three days after the staff meeting my best friend got married in an enormously emotional wedding (she’s the first of my girlfriends to marry). 

Needless to say last week was so very difficult, and I relied on many of my colleagues to pull me through it.  My office mate, a biologist, assured me that my cat was suffering from the lung cancer and needed to be at peace.   My business development rep rescheduled a very important meeting so I could attend my uncle’s wake with a clear head.  And my junior analysts covered me while I got my eyebrows done, had a mani and pedi, and picked up my bridesmaid dress. 

Everyone pulled together for me last week.   I believe they would do it again this week if necessary, and I certainly would do it for them.  So after all this, I wonder what these team guys are going to teach us that we don’t already know on some level.  Too bad I can’t write a 30-minute presentation on how we’re already a team. 

Apr
01

Looks likeIndia’s into outsourcing too – sort of.   The March 29 issues of The Economist revealed that “so far this year Indian firms have announced 34 foreign takeovers worth more than $10.7 billion in all, according to Dealogic, a market-research outfit.”  Given the difficulty of integrating onshore and offshore operations, I wonder how smoothly all these foreign acquisitions will run.  According to McKinsey consultant, 60-70% of cross-border acquisitions fail.  Read more in Marauding Maharajahs

Mar
26

Tomorrow, March 27, is Ram Navami in India.  This morning my team leader in Gurgaon explained that Ram Navami is the Hindu equivalent of Christmas.  She also explained that she didn’t have enough time to fully explain the importance of the holiday, so I gather it’s pretty important.  She’ll be spending the day with her family after a visit to her Hindu temple.  Which means I’ll be spending the day covering her projects. 

Part of the beauty of NYC is that we reap the benefit of diveristy particularly in our holiday scheudle; we get off from work for all sorts of holidays, no matter our affiliation.  One might think that gracious characteristic of multi-culturalism transfers to offshore operations.  It doesn’t.  So, tomorrow I’ll be working for two.  But I wish my team a pleasant Ram Navami, just the same – seeing as how they each sent me a Chrismas e-card last year. 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.