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Building the High-Performance Global Workforce
By ExecutiveBrief Staff

Companies that can work cheaper, faster, and better are well-positioned to develop and market products and services that give higher value to their customers. But how do project managers and business leaders effectively manage geographically dispersed workforces?

The need to drive down project implementation and deployment costs and establish a global presence is only among the reasons behind offshore outsourcing. In a keynote at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, William J. Amelio, CEO of Lenovo, described well the strategy that enterprises must adopt to remain competitive:

“Today, global corporations are transforming themselves into ‘transnationals,’ moving work to the places with the talent to handle the job and the time to do it at the right cost. The threat of a U.S. recession only makes such efforts at lowering expenses and grabbing the best talent even more urgent.”

As businesses transform themselves into “transnationals,” they must learn how to handle multi-cultural, cross-functional workforces located in various time zones. Moving away from the challenges of management of on-site or onshore teams, project managers, CIOs and corporate leaders must build high-performing teams that thrive on mostly virtual yet highly participative interactions. In the first place, having headquarters located thousands of miles away from project delivery team offices does not mean less visibility; it only means that project teams and sponsors need to be more responsive, visible, and pro-active at all stages of product development.

Companies that can work cheaper, faster, and better are well-positioned to develop and market products and services that give higher value to their customers. But how do project managers and business leaders effectively manage geographically dispersed workforces?

1. Get highly involved at every stage of the project lifecycle.

Be there from project planning, to design, to implementation, to maintenance.  Be there to entertain queries from all members of the project team. Involvement in all stages of the project lifecycle builds a favorable work environment and encourages pro-active participation and open communication among all members of the team. This ultimately results in team effectiveness. Active participation also allows for better allocation or adjustment of financial, technical and manpower resources needed to ensure project success.

2. Define Work Processes and Team Structures.

Define responsibilities, tasks, communication channels, reporting structures, and work-transition protocols. Document these work processes and reporting structures as workflows and cross-functional matrices.  For project teams composed of offshore consultants, such workflows and responsibility matrices are important especially at the project activation stage for these enable them the persons responsible for certain tasks and identify the people who can give them the information they need to perform their work.

3.  Establish knowledge transfer and communication strategies.

Make sure that global workers have a good understanding of the company, its culture, the products and services, and most importantly, the project delivery processes. These can be accomplished through effective knowledge transfer strategies and communication practices. Keep a repository of readily-available training materials, such as e-learning presentations, quick references, manuals, and online help. Schedule periodic knowledge transfer sessions, as time and resources allow. Designate onshore subject matter experts to entertain questions and readily provide clarifications.

If at all possible, err on the side of over-communication in spite of the possibilities of generating too much information. It fosters a culture of openness among project teams. At the same time, keep communication simple; remember that English is not the primary language of most offshore consultants.

4. Communicate organizational goals and objectives.

Give the skinny on your business goals. This gives all project team members a better understanding of the importance of their contributions to your company–the client–and to the relationship between your firm and their own organization. Outline mission-critical priorities and your expectations from them in terms of support, involvement, and quality of work.

5. Have the right infrastructure.

Infrastructure is the backbone of any outsourcing project and relationship. Ensure that both your firm and your outsourcing partner have the software, hardware, and bandwidth to run offshore development and handle all communication channels, such as emails, VoIP calls, and virtual meetings and presentations. On many occasions, there is a need to invest in building the infrastructure, and depending on the scope of the project, the timetable, and the benefits from the offshore venture, this could be a good option in the long run, especially if the project is a multi-year partnership.

© ExecutiveBrief 2008

ExecutiveBrief, the technology management resource for business leaders, offers articles loaded with proven tips, techniques, and action plans that companies can use to better manage people, processes and tools – the keys to improving their business performance.
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