Communication and Culture Tips in Offshore Outsourcing RelationshipsIntroduction
Many offshore outsourcing and other business arrangements run into difficulties due to communication problems. The trend is very prominent in both situations- whether managers are responding to formal surveys or they are citing specific cases.
However what exactly means is another issue that can be misunderstood. Does it mean loopholes in the project management's communication arrangement? Or is it due to poor communication skills of the people involved in the project? Does it imply cultural differences that lead to differences in the way things are interpreted? The answer is, it could be all or some of these. No matter what the specific cause, this is a weak spot that costs a lot.
Let us focus on each of these issues that affect the success of an outsourcing venture.
Communication in Project Management
The foremost step in good project management is to ensure adequate flow of information among all the stakeholders of the project. This means having a system to integrate all the aspects of the project objectives and to regularly and accurately report the status. The organization and its managers have to adopt a well streamlined approach. The technologies and processes have to suit the needs of the stakeholders. No amount of communication skills and cultural awareness can substitute an excellent communication system for project management that meets all the aforesaid parameters.
In a nutshell, the company needs to develop or hire the best possible project management information system. Make sure that it is customized to the specific needs of the company. It is also essential to integrate these systems to the processes of the outsourcing partner, train team members and be prepared to quickly spot and remedy communication failures.
Communication Skills of Team Members
Any venture is essentially made up of the efforts of individuals. How would you rate the communication skills of your team members, especially those doing leadership, management and co-ordination work? Are they able to present ideas and information clearly and effectively? Do they come across as believable and trustworthy? Also see if they can plan how to communicate and evaluate the impact. Other crucial skills include the ability to listen and check their understanding, elicit and manage feedback and differentiate between facts and their interpretation. It is important that the team members have the attitude to understand and rectify miscommunications rather than blame. These are all vital human elements in the communications process, overlooking which can undermine the success of a project.
In today's global scenario, managers have to assess the communication skills of their prospective team members right from the time of hiring. Remedial measures have to be taken in areas of weakness by ongoing training, feedback and assessment programs.
The problems due to cultural differences stem mainly from unidentified or unacknowledged matters. The parties involved may have different approaches and expectations in communications that are often not understood by the other. There could be issues like candor versus diplomacy and explicit communication versus implicit communication. 'Yes', 'maybe',' no' and silence mean different things in different cultures. Also, things like challenging a statement made by another person, degree to which questions are asked do down in different ways with different cultures.
Issues could range from such patterns to different accents and use of language. That said, the cross cultural aspect is often underestimated, even in situations where a lot of potential for such miscommunications is great.
To avoid such pitfalls, ensure cross-cultural awareness among all the parties involved in the relationship, both in house and outside. Do not hesitate to test and verify that both parties understand each other the right way. Give special emphasis to cross-cultural differences in communication styles and protocols. Build a culture that works well for all the parties. Also train those in leadership and co-coordinating positions to quickly spot and remedy miscommunication.
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