What is the role of empathy in an offshoring context?Wat voor rol speelt empathie in een offshoring context?Vad spelar empati för roll i ett offshoringsammanhang?Was ist die Rolle von Empathie in einem Offshoring-Kontext?

About Hugo Messer

Hugo Messer is a Dutch entrepreneur, distributed agile team specialist, and author. He is the founder and owner of Bridge Global, a software services provider, and ekipa.co., an agile coaching agency. He has been building and managing teams around the world for the past several years. His passion is to enable people that are spread across cultures, geography and time zones to cooperate. Whether it’s offshoring or nearshoring, he knows what it takes to make global cooperation work.

3 thoughts on “What is the role of empathy in an offshoring context?Wat voor rol speelt empathie in een offshoring context?Vad spelar empati för roll i ett offshoringsammanhang?Was ist die Rolle von Empathie in einem Offshoring-Kontext?
  1. When call-center offshoring to India was relatively new, I was asked to solve some communications issues between our domestic site (US) and that of a sub-contractor in Delhi. Both sites were working the same portfolio.

    I looked at some multi-center, US domestic projects for inspiration.

    I discovered that, when you have two sites (both in the US) efficiently working the same portfolio, at least 90% of communication will occur- not at the senior or executive level- but at the supervisory level. In other words, the first-level supervisors are the ones who “level-set” and synchronize the two sites, and they do this with frequent telephone calls, back of which are distinctly personal relationships.

    (This is not to say that such communication always occurs between two domestic sites that share a portfolio. The essential flow of information can be blocked by senior management, and the results are uniformly bad.)

    The goal was clear. We needed a level of friendship in both sites wherein, come Monday morning, Sanjay would call Ed just to ask him how his weekend had been. So we removed bottlenecks and
    encouraged our supervisors, on both sides of the ocean, to conduct a bit of social business along with “business business.” But the most effective tool we employed were the video conferences.

    There is something almost magical about face to face contact- even if it’s just on a video screen. Both teams of supervisors realized that their counterparts were different from themselves in only the most minor and unimportant ways. The effect was immediate. They carried the smiles they had shared on the video screen to their telephones in what became daily conversations, just as we had hoped.

    No, this wasn’t empathy (strictly speaking) that had just been created between the two sites- it was friendship and understanding- but it was a great start. And it wasn’t long before true empathy and an effective relationship established itself.

  2. Empathy plays a critical role, unfortunatelly, if is very difficult to find a metric, to define if your empathy level is enough or satisfy the expectations of the environment, personal perceptions gets in the way and I feel it is paramount to have an objective measure on the cultural context, as a landscape, in which you benchmark your empathy and more importantly, your cultural awareness.
    May I suggest a tool that provides a granular report on cultural awareness, the cultural navigator. I have personally used it and facilitates self-awareness as well as helps you to benchmark your dimensions with other countries/people.

  3. I read your question and the fine article below and I could not agree with you more. Empathy is, in my opinion, one of the MUST qualities that offshore teams and teams collaborating with these offshore teams should have. I laugh when you refer to Indian because I was in past experience faced to Indian offshore team, and also with Asian teams, whose culture is very different from the French company I used to work for. In order to improve our collaboration, we took a lot of time to ask question and discuss in order to ensure that we have understand their point of view and they have understand ours. It was I believe the most important phase in order to ensure that the reporting which was following would be correctly done.
    I believe that empathy has a lot to bring to teams and managers in order to ensure the best working methods and productivity. How can someone work correctly if he does not understand the values, vision and aim of what he is doing? How can a manager manage his teams if he does not understand what each team member thinks and believe; how he can perform the adequate changes towards improvements if he has no understanding of the gaps. In offshore corporation cultural gaps can really deteriorate the productivity and even more the profitability, and like all new business if you do not realize, discover and understand the differences of the organization how can the best work come out from it.
    I do not know if I have answered to your question, but would be interested to know if you are searching something further.