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VLADISLAV VLADIMIROV
Senior Manager, Professional Services Center of Excellence (PS CoE)

What are the benefits of remote delivery?

The benefits are many, and no reasonable business person would pass on the advantages offered by remote delivery. Nonetheless, to attain all the gains of remote delivery, one must take into account all cultural intelligence that must be addressed and improved – including an understanding of cultural norms, practices, and conventions of both internal and remote teams.

 

Why are so many organizations chasing after it?

  • Growth – working with a remote delivery team helps increase throughput when it comes to core business functions or if focusing on core business issues. Remote delivery teams allow organizations to concentrate on growth issues and strategies freeing them up from time-consuming non-core functions.
  • Access to specialized skills and staff – hiring or replacing specialists is often painful, costly and a slow process without a clear outcome. Having instant access to a resource pool is crucial for every business as “time to market” is always accelerating.
  • Availability – drawing on resources from different time zones can be an advantage, not a deterrent. The differences and perceived obstacles can be turned into opportunities that can be made into a business winning proposition. Tapping into different skills, expertise, knowledge, and culture, can be leveraged into a strategic advantage, that yields greater returns.
  • Reduce risk – a balanced and distributed workforce can decrease overall business risk and makes organizations more resilient to attrition, and market/country/locations disasters.
  • Control – Yes, you read this right! The loss of control when working with remote teams is probably one of the biggest misconceptions and is often wrongly identified over other management issues. The luxury to pay when the milestone is completed is not an option with internal teams as well as the ability to easily change team members. All risks are potential opportunities if carefully managed.
  • Creativity – according to many researchers in strategic management (Bertrand, Mol; 20121) cognitive distance fosters creativity.

SOGI, Hofstede, and Chronemics

We should never forget that there is another person on the other end of the process. Someone who has invested, grown, and has worked in a cultural environment constructed around, sub-cultures (group/team/individual perceptions and motivations). People are reasonable, and every decision is driven by their perception. Understanding SOGI (Social, Organizational, Group, Individual) model combined with Hofstede cultural dimension model, plus various non-verbal perception could help better understand one’s behavior. By combining these tools, organizations can improve collaboration and creativity along with success.

Hofstede

Hofstede cultural dimensions are meant to be a management tool, not directly related to remote work. They provide insight into important factors on human behavior related to work ethics, as well as communication and perception of values. The key dimensions are:

-PDI (Power Distance Index): ““is the extent to which less powerful members of an organization accept and expect power is distributed unequally. A higher degree of the Index indicates that hierarchy is clearly established and executed without doubt or reason. A lower degree of the Index signifies that people question authority and attempt to distribute power”2.

IDV (Individualism vs Collectivism): The focus of society is on individual rights and achievements or cohesion of the group. High means individualism, low – collectivism.

MAS (Masculinity vs Femininity): Describes the weight of cultural values.

Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stresses, caring and nurturing behaviors, equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles.

“Masculinity stands for a society in which social gender roles are clearly distinct: Men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.”

“Femininity stands for a society in which social gender roles overlap: Both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.”

UAI (Uncertainty Avoidance Index): “the uncertainty avoidance dimension relates to the degree to which individuals of a specific society are comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown.”

LTO Long-term vs short-term orientation): Society prioritization of past and future, in a business context, is translated into pragmatic values, rewards, persistence for long-term and steadiness, traditions, social obligations, reciprocity for short term. Low means short-term, high – long term.

IVR/IND (Indulgence vs Restraint): The culture of free expression of feelings – indulgence and the norm restricted societies, where gratification is considered bad manners (restraint). High means indulgence, opposite – restraint.

All of the indexes had seen few iterations of development with the recent ones delivered by Hofstede, Geert in 20053.

Here is sample comparison between Bulgaria and USA in terms of Hofstede indexes:

Figure 1. Hofstede results comparing US and Bulgaria (reference – Hofstede center site – http://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html)

Hosftede models have some weaknesses but are widely accepted as business culture management milestone. It also has some relation to the perception of time which is crucial to non-verbal communication influencers. The term used for time-variance perception is called chronemics.

Chronemics

Chronemics can be defined as “the interrelated observations and theories of one’s use of time”– the way in which one perceives and values time, structures time, and reacts to time frames communication. “Time perception plays a large role in the nonverbal communication process. Time perceptions include punctuality, willingness to wait, and interactions. The use of time can affect lifestyle, daily agendas, the speed of speech, movements, and how long people are willing to listen”. (Bruneau4)

Monochromic – time is perceived as straight line and tasks are synchronous and ordered, The United States considers itself as a monochromic society. Cultures that are task oriented, time is the most important factor, low context – need more details, committed to delivery and end results, concerned with ownership and individualism.

Polychronic – time is a system where several things can be done at once. Polychronic cultures are much less focused on the preciseness of accounting for each and every moment. They usually focus on relationships rather than tasks and are not time focused. They have no problem being “late” – less formal perception of time. Those people are high-context and don’t need too much detail, embrace changes, concerned for community and connections rather than results.

Summary

Working groups differ in meaningful ways with regard to time orientation. Various communication demands and patterns also contribute to these differences. This would include conflict resolution and collaborative problem solving which are considered one of the most important non-verbal means of communications (Dawna, Seibold; 20095). The understanding of verbal perception and communication patterns are important factors to improving collaboration and cooperation as well as ensuring positive outcomes. According to Project Management Institute (PMI; 20136), communication issues were the number one factor for failure in 80% of failed projects and by addressing these issues the chances for success improved greatly.

These topics must be filtered through the various layers of the SOGI model. They are not mutually exclusive, and their impact permeates throughout an organization. One team can have a disproportional influence over another. Their influence can impact individuals or entire organizations. The process can be reversed in a downward direction where an organization can impact and reshape teams and individuals. Identifying the exact influence is not an easy task and cannot be precisely defined or measured. Utilizing a cross-section of different frameworks can help predict behavior – individualism index and team/group culture can provide insight on how much influence a team can have on one’s values and team cohesiveness.

Predicting human behavior and successful working relationships is not an exact science. Utilizing the SOGI model with the Hofstede cultural dimension model, combined with various non-verbal clues, can improve the working relations with remote delivery teams. But, to fully take advantage of this process and produce better organizational results, managers need to apply their learnings to the entire organization to see the full benefits of their efforts, and to see real business results.

References

  1. Bertrand, O., Mol, M. (2012). THE ANTECEDENTS AND INNOVATION
    EFFECTS OF DOMESTIC AND OFFSHORE R&D OUTSOURCING: THE
    CONTINGENT IMPACT OF COGNITIVE DISTANCE AND ABSORPTIVE
    CAPACITY. Strategic Management Journal
  2. Hofstede, Geert. “Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context”.ScholarWorks@GVSU. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  3. Hofstede, Geert; Hofstede, Gert Jan (2005). “Cultures and organizations: software of the mind” (Revised and expanded 2nd Ed.)
  4. Bruneau. (2012). Chronemics: Time-binding and construction of personal time
  5. Ballard Dawna, David Seibold; (2009). Time Orientation and Temporal Variation Across Work Groups: Implications for Group and Organizational Communication
  6. PMI. (2013). “Communication: The Message is clear” [Online] http://www.pmi.org/~/media/PDF/Knowledge%20Center/Communications_whitepaper_v2.ashx

Vladislav Vladimirov has more than 18 years in IT Industry, focused on Software Development, Integration, Analytics, and Consultancy. He is a Senior Manager in the VMware Professional Services Center of Excellence (PS CoE) in Bulgaria, responsible for APJ region. His previous experience includes management roles at IBM and SAP as well as other major services companies.

Vladislav Vladimirov has a BS in Electronics and an MS in Computer Science from Sofia University as well as a Master of Business Administration from Warwick Business School. Vladislav is certified Project Manager since 2009.