How to work with an offshore team in India
chillibreeze writer — Satish Viswanathan
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Seated in your comfortable office beside the Thames, you are working on a complicated design with your counterparts. Your team is all around you, except in a different part of the world called India! They acknowledge the receipt of the email but you are not sure if they have absorbed the contents and are ready to work on it. You are in a spot of bother. To deliver on this design in a short span of time, you need the offshore team to be totally aligned and committed. "How do I get this going?" you wonder.
Adapting to the Indian style of #e-working#, be it via emails or in-house chat windows, needs a fair bit of groundwork.
First of all, even before you start working on deadlines and deliverables, there needs to be a clear emphasis on the ground rules of the virtual workplace. These include your expectations of the offshore team, what work behaviors are acceptable and what aren,t. As a rule, Indians tend to work long hours. They arrive a bit late at work but will catch up during the course of the extended evening. Wherever your work involves continuous and timely engagement, emphasize it clearly. Also assess the zonal time overlap. On the other hand, the "I am only interested in the productivity at the end of the day" approach will surely fit into the Indian scheme of things.
Indians are known to try hard and harder. So when you have sent an email asking them to explore the possibility of getting a new task completed, you will hear all kinds of words from the English dictionary except the word "NO"! The thirst for challenging work is high on their radar, but always cross-check on the #Let me try# response.
Most Indian teams work under a common group mail id. Always ask the individual to mention his/her name and contact number, while signing off. This will save you valuable time and energy in contacting the right person about the right issue. "Do Not Disturb" chat status is a big ‘No-No’!! Team meetings via teleconference have a unique problem. The Indian teams rarely ask questions, be it the routine weekly call or the annual call with the General Manager. It is quite a common occurrence and has nothing to do with their lack of interest or understanding.
Incorporate the ‘Lazy Ox’ award for the team member who perennially turns up late for meetings or doesn’t deliver on time. Email it to the person and keep it informal and funny. Totally unrelated to the official ‘rewards and returns’ scheme of things, such informal methods will help put the team on the right track, without straining relationships. Always insist on effective handover documentation from your Indian counterparts. This tends to be a bottleneck if not adequately underlined.
Motivating your unseen offshore teams in India doesn’t need to cost you dollars or euros. Appreciation emails almost always do the trick. Alternatively, if some senior members of your Indian team are interested in going beyond their scope of work, provide them with opportunities to learn. Working with virtual teams cannot replicate the essence of ‘face to face’ interaction; so be patient and help the Indian teams understand the big picture.
In short, your virtual Indian team members can certainly be the ‘adept additional pair of hands’ you always wanted. It’s all about setting the rules right at the beginning, encouraging them at regular intervals and ensuring that the ‘virtual ball’ is kept rolling without using the official levers of pressure.