How to overcome communication challenges in outsourcing

Hi Everyone

In a number of previous blog posts I have written about misunderstandings and miscommunication.  Currently I’m doing some studies at the University of Oslo. As part of this study I have read a number of research articles regarding outsourcing and challenges that exists there. Quite a number of the articles points to communication as one of the main challenges.

In this blog post I will try to sum of some of my experience in the area and to give some experience on what can be done. As this is a blog post and not a research article, I have omitted quotes from articles and such. That will eventually come in some later more in-depth posts.

First of all I will point to the fact that it is important to know each other if you’re going to work together. Even more so when you work across different cultures. When you know each other quite well it is much easier to collaborate. Some cultures are much more sensitive to this than what the Norwegian culture is. When you work with people from this culture it is even more important to know each other.

Adjust the way you speak and confirm that the other person have understood you. This is probably one of the most important things I learned in India. There is no doubt that the English I speak today is different than the English I spoke two years back. I do probably speak slower now than what I did before. One trick I have found quite useful is to explain my message in different ways. Instead of just repeating myself and ask if the other part have understood me (in which the answer will most probably be “yes”), I do say the same thing two times but with different words. If the other person seems to be confused I know I have to rephrase myself again. If at the other hand, this leads to a fruitful discussion, I will know that the other person most probably have understood me.

Another tip is to create a communication plan. This is something I have missed in a number of projects (maybe due to the informal way Norwegians usually like to communicate?). To me a communication plan is basic tool for the project management. In addition to decide schedule for project meetings and such it should be clearly stated in this plan at what level the different decisions should be made. This is particularly important if you work with people from cultures where there is a very steep hierarchy in the organizations. Having a communication plan in place it will make it very clear for everyone who they have to talk to in order to get decisions to happen. Too often this has been unclear and too much time has been wasted because people have communicated at the wrong level. In Norway where we don’t care too much about hierarchies it is absolutely that a consultant speaks to, and even corrects a vice president. The same would not be accepted in a country like India. Here the communication has to follow the hierarchy and this must be precisely defined in the communication plan!

Do you have any other hints or suggestions? I would very much like to hear from you!

Talk to you soon

Karsten

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3 thoughts on “How to overcome communication challenges in outsourcing

  1. Good points Karsten. An extensive topic. I am looking forward to more – as you are digging deeper into this.I will limit myself to two comments from me for now :-).

    -Be direct
    I have found that being direct – using few words, not necessarily is rude. Trying to be too polite is likely to confuse. If you are afraid of being rude, add a smile instead of hundred words.

    Once, I was looking at an office for rent, and the property owner instructed the “office boy” with ONE single word. He ran off and returned with the key to the door. I just assumed the word was “key”.

    I would have most certainly have used a long sentence, maybe resulting in the person wondering “Do he want that key or what?”

    -Need to know basis is perfectly fine
    I have a tendency of trying to bring everyone in on the big picture. However, have often found that the person I am talking to – actually prefer limited info. As long as the instructions about his own role is clear. I assume this has to do with the hierarchies in India being so much more complex -and hence responsibilities more fragmented?

    Reply
  2. This plan should be a living document, and as such should be updated on a regular basis to reflect new stakeholder groups, new information needs, and new communication strategies. It is important that the Enterprise Architecture Program be held accountable for implementation of this plan, and that the Architecture Board regularly reviews progress with the Program Director.Stakeholder General CommunicationStakeholders are people who have key roles in, or concerns about, the system. Different stakeholders with different roles in the system will have different concerns. Stakeholders can be individuals, teams, or organizations (or classes thereof).The list of stakeholders can be also based on the existing Business and IT organization and structure. It also takes into consideration recommendation from HR department addressing the various ways of communicating to various groups of people.The various stakeholders may include (examples):- Executive Management Board- C-levels- Business Users Advisory Board- Business Units- Procurement- Architecture Board- IT Units- Enterprise Architecture team- Customers- DevelopersThe communication plan should take into consideration all groups (use best practices from EA frameworks such as TOGAF), the IT organization and the HR recommendations.These groups will have to be clearly defined as probably some of the communication tools and techniques will have to be tailored for each community.General Information NeedsThe following information needs to be applied to all stakeholders.

    Reply
  3. You need to have some research work done before getting into it. The primary concerns should be ROI and quality work back in return. There should be skillful resources where you are going to outsource your work.

    Reply

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