14.3.08

Best Practice - I am the boss of you

It seems that managers naturally fall into the trap of viewing their contractor or offshore staff as "blocks of capacity" instead of as people. I admit that I have done this myself. When I first managed an offshore team, my Org Chart looked something like this.



After the initial knowledge transfer phrase, that team wasn't functioning as well as I would have liked. There was a a lot of attrition in India. There was a divisive attitude between the two halves of the team. And my staff in India didn't act like part of my team. (These are all common complaints about offshore teams, by the way.)

I asked the management team at my vendor for some advice, and fortunately, they were kind enough to loan me some of their clue. They told me that if I wanted to achieve a virtual team, I had to treat my contractors like equal members of the team. I had to address them by name, and think of them as working for me. I listened to them. After that, my Org Chart looked something like this.



If you use that first Org Chart, what you're telling everyone, usually without intending it, is that the remote team members don't matter - not even enough for us to know their names. They're just interchangeable capacity-blocks. That may be what some people want with their outsourcing practice, or with their global team, but it won't be very effective for a lot of reasons.

I already talked about how it's important to know and to be able to pronounce the names of the people on your team, whether they're local or remote. It's also important to have the whole team, by name, on the Org Chart.

Actionable best practice:
  • Put your remote team members on the Org Chart, by name. Figure out a way to represent that they are contractors, if that's the case, but do it consistently with other contractors in your local teams.
  • If there are reporting structures within the remote team, understand them and show them.
  • Remember, these people work for you, even though they may not have the same company's logo on their ID badges. Make the Org Chart reflect that reality, and you won't send mixed messages to anyone, in any part of your team.
Oh, and if, like me, you're having trouble convincing anyone in your life that you are the boss of them, I made this. I haven't had much success with it, but as always YMMV.


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