24.3.08

Best Practice - All-hands means ALL

I wrote last week about how you should have the names of all your contract or offshore staff on your Org Chart. The reason for this is that you don't want to send mixed signals to either part of your team about the importance of the offshore contractors.

Following this line of thought, the next practice that managers and executives need to adopt is the creation of inclusive all-hands meetings.

Many times I've seen all-hands staff meetings that exclude contract or remote staff. This is a problem for several reasons:
  • Usually these all-hands meetings are intended to share something about business results or vision, challenges, major milestones, etc. If this information is shared unequally the part of the team that doesn't get the information is at a disadvantage professionally.
  • If the remote team is excluded from an all-hands meeting, that sends a message to them that they are second- class citizens. It sends the same message to the local staff, and believe me, it doesn't go unnoticed.
To sum up my thoughts on this topic: when it comes to all-hands meetings, all means ALL.

This is a "globalization" problem, not specifically an outsourcing problem. It hits any team that spans multiple locations or multiple timezones. When I talk to managers about this, the defense I hear is that multi-campus meetings are just too tough to pull off. I sympathize, but it's still important to try.

Here are a few ideas to try for your next all-hands meeting:
  • Schedule the meeting at a time when all the team - local and remote - can attend.
  • Run the meeting as a webinar. Allow the remote participants to listen in, and enter any questions via the WebEx chat interface. This technology has been around for a while and is fairly mature. This can easily be implemented for a 200-person offshore development center, or a team of five software engineers.
  • Do two (or more) meetings. I frequently chose this approach with my remote teams. I'd have one meeting with the local staff, and then follow it up with a similar meeting with the remote team. I did this when I needed a particularly high level of interaction, which I've always found difficult to do with both a room full of people and a separate crowd on the phone. (The down side of this approach is that the two parts of the team don't interact, but this is sometimes outweighed by the upside of each team feeling a strong sense of commitment from management.)
  • In the case of REALLY big meetings, where there are multiple presentations from multiple speakers, video-tape the event so the remote staff can watch it, if they are so inclined. If you take this approach, you might want to have the remote staff run through the video, then schedule a WebEx or a conference call afterwards so they can ask questions or seek clarification.
  • But whatever you do don't treat the disparate parts of your global team differently. Try to give them the same information. Do it as close as possible to the same time. And give them the same opportunity to ask questions.

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