Professional Development & CPD

Are You Sabotaging Your Outsourced Projects?

By Russ Harju

Outsourcing projects and setting them up for success is crucial, as I have covered in recent posts. Have you started maximizing your impact and resources yet? There is no time like the present! As you start leveraging the outsourced talents of others, here are two tips for interaction to make sure you don’t self sabotage your project.

This is HARD, and has been hard for centuries. As Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid stated,

There is no greater impediment to the advancement of knowledge than the ambiguity of words.

#1 Stay aware of cultural norms

The difficulty of word choice is exacerbated when crossing cultures. The wider you cast your net for specialized outsourced talent, the higher the odds will be that you may work with someone from a different background. Since you’re going to have regular interactions with this person, it pays to make yourself aware of their cultural norms.

The need for cultural understanding even exists when you’re working with someone within the same country. In the United States, the norms of people working and living in Seattle will vary greatly from someone living in rural West Virginia. These differences don’t just exist at the country’s edges; author Colin Woodward wrote that the US is 11 sub-nations with very distinct differences.

Another area of obvious differences is between western and eastern hemisphere countries. Asian cultures tend to speak very indirectly compared to their western counterparts. I once heard that in Singapore, if a business leader says, “In my humble opinion,” this phrase should be considered a direct order.

You should also be aware of gender norms. Your country may not be as progressive as you think. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Report on the global gender gap, the Philippines had a lower gender gap than the UK, Canada, or the US. Avoid surprises and drama by making sure you’re aware of how your freelancers are accustomed to being treated in their region.

My best piece of advice to make sure your communication is without misunderstanding is to try video conferencing if at all feasible. During one of my recent projects, the freelancer and I were at a complete impasse on how to move the project forward. He took the initiative to utilize a video call, and we resolved our miscommunication in less than five minutes.

#2 Keep regular communications

Finding the right balance of regular communications is the most difficult step in managing outsourced help. You (of course) hired an expert who knows what they’re doing, so they don’t need a babysitter to check in on them every day with progress. Every time they break to respond to your questions is a moment they’re not spending completing your work.

If this mantra of “let them work” is taken to an extreme, however, you risk work being done incorrectly, which leads to substantial rework. Therefore, it is important to find the right balance of occasional check-ins, which hopefully was agreed upon as a part of your initial scoping of the project.

Utilize these check-ins as opportunities to directly tell your freelancer how you feel the work has been going. It’ll allow them to improve or give them peace of mind knowing you feel everything is on track. Also, be sure to ask them for their feedback! If there is something you can do to make sure the project is a success, you don’t want to miss that opportunity.

The other side of the communication exchange is to make sure you’re available for the freelancer. My personal goal is to respond to a freelancer’s questions within 24 hours. Don’t destroy their motivation and progress by being disengaged from your project. If there is any slippage in the deliverable timeline, you don’t want it to be on your head.

These tips really focus on how to communicate efficiently with your outsourced support. Stay tuned for my next post where we will focus on ideas beyond communication including managing data security and closing out a project with perfection.