Trellis’ TON network hosts program on managing distributed teams and cross-cultural management

October 7, 2013

Trellis’ cross-functional, cross-industry network, TON (The Outsourcing/Offshoring Network) held a “deep-dive” into FLSmidth Airtech’s journey through offshoring on October 1. The program was multi-dimensional, detailed and rich fodder for learning. Ole Bøegh, CEO, kicked off the session with the clear message that this is mission critical for sustaining the organization’s competitiveness.

Jørgen Christian Iversen took us through the details of the journey which began in 2000 .  The journey through to 2013 involved sending Jørgen to India for three years as the manager of the operations with an eye towards handing over management to a local GM. However, the shifting of focus from and between the global and local markets presented new challenges. This resulted in a decision to bring a Danish GM back into the picture earlier this year. The fundamental necessity of having someone in that position with deep and comprehensive knowledge of the Danish FLSA organization is critical and has been challenging to achieve with a local GM.

Our roundtable discussions continued our “deep-dive” with perspective on the local, Indian, FLSA resources from Anette Kjelgaard Jensen who presented findings from her study that title, relevant praise and interesting tasks were more motivating than salary. Henrik Rasmussen presented details and insight on the the change from a growth focus to a capacity containment one. Particularly relevant to the discussion of resource development were the issues of culture, career paths, and the necessity of FLSA becoming a training organization to develop these resources. Jens Petersen conducted our third roundtable with a focus on his work bringing the airfilter workshop 3 hours north of Chennai up to acceptable standards while meeting the challenges of a staff of which 50% is illiterate and none of whom speaks English; power which is often lacking for up to 18 hours in a day; and production waste that was roughly 25% when he arrived.

As a counterpoint to the FLSA case, we had Lisbeth Bech, Director, of Novozymes come with a story of a considerably different organization, e.g. that 40% of sales is invested in R&D annually and 30% of annual income comes from new products. Novozymes’ acquisition of India’s largest enzyme producer in 2007 was motivated both by a desire for access to the market as well as a desire to develop an offshore manufacturing operation. Various Novozymes departments including finance, marketing, R&D, P&O, and IT simultaneously decided to take advantage of the new destination and outsource several business processes and functions. Lisbeth explained that although these decisions were made relatively quickly and easily, the organization seems to have underestimated the challenges involved.

Rounding out the day, Thomas Tøth, of Sourcewise and a Ph.D. fellow at CBS, came with a session on managing distributed teams and the importance of “facetime”. Teams working at a distance need to deliberately cultivate behaviors and practices that imitate facetime in order to develop trust, understanding, and the ability to work well together. Interestingly, Thomas told us that handled correctly, control mechanisms can help to build trust in that they provide a way of making work and effort visible.