Culture Notes: Change Management and How It Can Help

Improving performance is the driver behind all changes. Outsourcing is a result of change in business policy and it affects people the most. With top management caught up in transition, the segment that is central to the entire exercise — employees — are nowhere in reckoning. Fair? Not at all. This is where Change Managers step in — to manage the ripples created by outsourcing.

Communication Is The First Step

Dick LeFave, who was instrumental in taking the decision to outsource Nextel’s IT operations to EDS, has emphasized the need to communicate impending changes and their implications to all levels of employees the impending change and its effects thereafter. He even guided retrenched employees on their career moves, encouraging them to take up jobs at EDS. If the guessing game is played, chances are, rumors might do more harm than outsourcing protesters ever could! Sensitize employees to overall benefits of outsourcing to wipe out those negative vibes that the employees are liable to feel.

Outsourcing Nightmares

Outsourcing has become a nightmare for managers in the West as they continue to be haunted by tales of training their own low-cost substitutes. “Very often projects get derailed because the middle manager or project manager refuses to cooperate with the vendor or share information with the offshore team managers,” says Rita Terdiman, principal of consulting firm Conscient, at a seminar on change management.

The head of a top Indian BPO company opines that in such cases change managers at the client sites must work to apprise employees about the benefits of outsourcing. Saving the best for last is just another way of saying, deal with the worst first — job loss issues must be given priority over all other issues.

According to India-based service provider Cognizant, “Careful due diligence in organizational assessment, transition planning, [and] communications provides 70% of the benefits associated with strategic offshoring”

Transition Can Be Bumpy

North Americans adopt a very clear communication style while Indians tend to be ambiguous. As Venkat Narayanan, the founder and CEO of Knowledge Dynamics, Singapore (a Satyam company), says in Outsourcing to India: The Offshore Advantage by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, “People from the US and UK share a similar Western culture, and when these managers are confronted with an Indian team, the culture divide is the first major issue.” He advises that Western managers should attend “culture acclimatization” training sessions to prepare them for working with an Indian team.

Cultural assimilation is not the easiest of tasks due to its intangible nature. Major differences in attitudes towards work generate problems. Issues such as non-verbal communication, adherence to deadlines, pace of decision making, etc. crop up during the transition process, and this is where change managers can make their presence felt by ensuring that the process meets a logical end.

Avoiding Altercations During Alteration

Change managers attune employees to a new thinking process. For a long time, Indians have adjusted their schedules and stayed on late after working hours to interact with their Western clients because of the time difference. However, the equations are changing now. Indians have started demanding more flexibility from their overseas counterparts.

Rather than sending out employees to client premises for training, Indian BPOs are now inviting them over to India, to allow them a glimpse of the lifestyle that Indians are gradually adopting. From teaching Indians the basics of baseball, using knives and forks to holding wine glasses, it is now the turn of Westerners to grasp basics of cricket, celebrate Diwali and get to know the extended family!

Change is after all, the clichŽd constant!

In a Nutshell

  • Outsourcing involves a number of changes across various levels.
  • For an outsourcing agreement to work, it’s essential that those involved possess a complete understanding of the issues.
  • “Culture acclimatization” sessions should be attended to bridge the gaps.
  • Indians have adjusted a lot to Western timings; it is now time for the Westerners to do so.

Useful Links

ValueNotes
http://www.valuenotes.biz/bpo/outsourcingresearch.asp

Conscient
http://www.conscientpartners.com

Knowledge Dynamics/Satyam
http://kdynamics.satyam.com/

Change Management Consulting & Training (CMCT)
http://www.cmct.net/index.html