Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Relationship Tips from Outsourcers: Tip #3

Borrowing from Cosmo, I'd like to share some tips for a long and healthy co-development relationship. Not that I read Cosmo, but I see it at the grocery store. Honest. (coming next week - a Quiz - How Trusting Are You?)

Borrowing from a more reputable source, Tom Peters, I'll call my tip "Celebrate what you want to see more of".

Here's an anti-pattern I see in outsourcing projects. Actually, I see it in the way people manage people as well - one of my colleagues is going through this now (not at Macadamian mind you, at another startup). Some customers of outsourcing projects (and managers of people), especially people new to outsourcing, worry that their outsourcing partner will get too comfortable, or worse, take advantage of them, if they are praised. So they dwell on the negative - quick to give negative feedback, but never giving positive feedback. They worry that if they give good feedback, they won't get the attention they think they deserve and quality will slide.

While it creates an adversarial position, most outsourcing firms with experience can handle this - they've been through it time and time again and will weather it without complaint, though their project managers won't sleep well at night.

But not giving any positive feedback does something worse - it leaves people guessing. The team creates, submits their deliverable, and the only feedback they get is "I don't like this, this and this, and lets not even talk about the color of that." You're leaving out at least half of the data. Tell them what they do like, and you'll find the team will make better decisions next time. Because really, the majority of firms like ours want to do a great job and impress the hell out of you, because they build their business on repeat clientele. The cost of always finding someone new to impress is prohibitively high.

So if you are tasked with managing an outsourced design or development project, when you see something you like, don't hesitate to say so. Not only does it motivate the team, but it gives them more data to work with about what you want to see on the project. The end result will be a superior product in shorter time. So go ahead and give us good feedback - we can take it.

As an aside, when I found that quote from Tom Peters, I also stumbled across another one of his tidbits. He talks about transforming large company departments into professional services firms, and learning from the best services firms. He says: "The cool professional service firm is just that: cool people/talent, a portfolio of cool projects, cool clients. Period. It's only asset -- literally -- is brains. It's only product is projects. It's only aim is truly memorable client service." I rather like that. That's really what our business boils down to, isn't it?

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