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Trust Building and Social Networking

Created on 19 July 2009 Written by Jean Binder
Hits: 3779

The "PMBOK Cafe" blog published a very nice article about trust building using social networking, using the Global Project Management Framework as one of the refererences, and also some experiences from NASA and other references. The article is very well written and illustrated, providing interesting ideas that can be applied in real-life projects.

Click here to read the article

Last Updated on 31 July 2012

Offshoring Secrets: Trust

Created on 30 April 2008 Written by Utkarsh Rai
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A new offshoring company or partnership will not be successful if the core ingredients of trust are not present between the parent organization and the India operations.

Trust is mutual and plays a significant (but hidden) role in the success an Indian office. It is true that building trust does not happen overnight. It is also true that building the long bridge of mutual trust and respect gradually happens through each interaction. Achieving this requires significant effort and energy because both parties need to provide transparency in their dealings, with a mix of delegation and control. It is the duty of the parent organization to take the first steps towards building and maintaining trust.

Here are some examples of issues that can lead to mistrust if not handled properly:

A VP finance of the parent company starts working with the newly formed management team in India. They jointly decide that accounting and payroll should be outsourced and one person from the Indian team should coordinate the activities. So far, the intention is good. Slowly, the outsourced company starts having direct interaction with the VP finance without keeping the India employee in the loop. This leads to an environment wherein the outsourced company double-checks the suggestions from the India employee rather than the other way round. One can easily avoid this situation by empowering the India office in decision making and extracting the right output from the outsourced company. In addition, the VP finance can setup proper process of reporting financial transactions from India and can do some audits to receive extra assurance about the compliance.

The parent company hires a law firm in India based on recommendations received through its own contacts. This is fine even without consulting the Indian management team, because corporate level decisions take precedence over keeping everyone in the loop. It might happen that the legal firm in the parent company has relations with the firm in India or may have a better understanding with this particular firm in India. This can help in resolving the issues amicably at the global level. An issue may arise when the parent company starts relying more on the legal firm compared to the India head. The legal firm will have final say on contract negotiations with the third party, it will have the authority to sign higher value vouchers. The parent company is not using the legal firm as a consultant but using them as a tool to run the India operation indirectly. This leads to a situation where the India head will start focusing more on engineering and will leave all non-engineering decisions on parent company and the legal firm. This will lead to making decisions in isolation and without taking the engineering inputs, causing resentment in the employees. A better way to handle this is by making the role and responsibility of the India head clear and by ensuring proper documentation of the approval process of non-engineering activities.

The head of the Indian operation is in good tandem with the parent company.  The parent company begins talks on merger and acquisition. This leads to a reduction in the frequency of conference calls with India due to a lack of available time. The parent company transfers a good amount of funds well in advance for running the operation smoothly. Within a short time, another request for a fund transfer comes, which is honored. After a couple of months during the audit, the miscellaneous expenses reveal that the India head has spent a large amount of money in tools without approval from the parent company. Moreover, those tools were not in line with the company effort to standardize the tools across all locations. The weekly report does not mention it and the parent company did not examine the expense reports in detail at the time. A couple of lessons abound from this example. Proper documentation of the approval process is important. This should have two aspects: Multiple levels of approval based on amount of purchase and the requirement to take an approval in case the fund is used other than for the actual approved items. In addition to this, the finance person should be on dotted lines with the parent company (if it is not a shared service).

An Engineering manager in India executes the project as indicated by the agreed plan and provides the results to the responsible manager in the parent company. The data, provided to the parent company, is shared with a prospective customer. The customer makes some enquiries and seeks clarifications. In the detailed interaction with the engineering manager, the data reveals that some information is extrapolated rather than actually generated. Since the report does not mention this clearly, it leads to a misunderstanding between the manager of the parent company and the customer. The manager at the parent company has to apologize to the customer. To avoid these types of issues easily, one needs to ask the right questions, be on top of activities and be in contact frequently. These steps will help in finding out assumptions, which might not be of significance to one team, but could be important for another.

A person at the parent company, who has joined recently after replacing the existing manager, is responsible for one of the projects executed in India. He has good relations with a service company in collaboration with which he has executed a project with his previous organization. He decides to shift the existing project from India to that company and provides a new project to the team in India. Once the transition is over, he requests for the quality metrics of the existing software from the service company. On receiving the data, he directly asks the manager at the India office for an explanation on some of the metrics. The manager in India would have to dig up all the old charts and the risks communicated with the parent company. In addition, he has to provide the decision and the background of the decision. The manager in India gets frustrated, feels distrusted and thinks his skills are coming into question. This is a delicate issue and the supervisor who might have a genuine reason in asking the historical data should handle it properly. He should do this by setting the right perspective and making the purpose of his request explicitly clear.

All the above scenarios are manageable, as it requires careful planning and good, frequent communication. It is better to start with trust in the case of new relationships, until an incidence causes doubt and further consequences convert doubt into certainty. 

Now let us look into the scenarios, which might be fine in the West, but can become a trust issue in India.

It is common to have "skip level" (In formal settings, manager's manager talking with the manager's subordinate in the absence of manager) dialog in the West. In India, this is not common. It takes time to setup this type of culture as the manager might feel that they are not being trusted and are being double-checked by talking to his team members directly. The purpose of this type of dialog is not to find fault in the manager, but to get the pulse of the team and to act fast if something appears serious. The issue can be on work content, work environment, company policy or any other serious issues. A manager's manager can provide input to the manager on handling some of the issues in his own team. He can also provide early warnings on a potential people issue and equip the manager in handling it soon. Once the manager starts to see the benefit in this, his support for the process will begin to take shape. The success of this dialog lies in the skill of the manager's manager, but can be disastrous if not executed properly.

In the West, it is normal for commitments to be based on business needs, but in India, it is taken as a promise. Therefore, one should be very careful in communicating and putting the proper caveat to it. For example, any overseas travel and the duration of stay communicated to an employee will become binding, and any changes to this bond will cause a loss of trust. It is important to explain in the beginning that business needs are paramount in fulfilling such commitments. Similarly, clearly explain any change in work assignment and other work-related issues.

One needs to be sensitive in handling the issues of average or low performers who have worked in the company for a long time and who have contributed well in the past, but now have entered into a comfort zone and contribute far less than expected. Motivate them by counseling, moving them to other teams or providing them another role in the same team. If everything fails and the management asks a team member to leave, then explain the reasons for this carefully. In such a case, the person would have built a good network of his own and he might portray himself as a victim of the "use and throw" philosophy of management. Therefore, it is important that people themselves realize and agree with management that the contribution is below average in spite of various opportunities provided to them.

Productivity data

This is one major source of having a feeling of mistrust in India. Some of the common productivity questions are, "how many lines of code are written per day per engineer?", "how many manual test cases executed per day per engineer?", "how many test cases automated per day per engineer?", "how many bugs are found against per KLOC (Kilo Lines of Code)?" The parent company should lead by example and follow standard practices that are enforce across all locations to collect and publish the productivity data. There should not be an underlying sentiment of: It is often asked by the Indian team and not from other teams. In extreme cases, it is also used to justify whether it is still wise to get the project done in India (by comparing this data against the per engineer cost data). These exercises, if done before giving any work to India are fine, but during the execution process and making them, applicable only to the India team causes discouragement and low morale. 

Feeling of secondary citizen

Even though not stated overtly, the style of interaction, the choice of words and the level of expectation communicates the intent of the management team of the parent company towards the teams in India. One can easily make it out in which project team members in India are feeling empowered and in which they are not. It will be in the interest of the parent company to extend the treatment of equality in order to get higher output from the same team. In addition, it is important for the India team to rise to the occasion and grab the opportunity. If they continue to work on "tell" mode, (i.e. let the parent company tell me what we have to do and we will just do that) then they will continue being below par in the content of their work and in their contribution to the overall success of the company.

As organizations are becoming flatter and matrix-driven, it is possible to have a solid or dotted line reporting across geography in either direction depending upon specific functions or roles or projects. One rarely sees a team in the parent organization reporting to an India manager. Therefore, it is important to have the focus on logical teaming for better results, rather than purely based on geography.


The whole concept of teamwork came from rewarding result-oriented performance. A formation of a core team occurs when the company shifts a bulk of employees from a certain company or hires them based on referrals from existing employees. This helps in teamwork, but can lead to a couple of issues. The company will have an imported culture of the other company from where most of the people were hired. In such a situation, the group positions itself as the primary citizen and owns all critical activities, while future employees automatically become secondary citizens, performing peripheral work. This is because they trust the existing ones more than they trust newcomers. If the employer kept this perspective in mind during hiring, then it is fine, otherwise, this will not be good from the teaming and retention perspective. People have often left the company feeling that management does not trust new employees and hence does not give them full responsibility. It should be the challenge of the management team not to fall into this trap and ensure a smooth induction of all employees in a seamless way, so that people do not feel secondary.

Once an employee joins and becomes a part of the family, it is in the interest of all to bring the person up to speed quickly, and make sure that they enjoy the trust and faith of all. Senior employees continue to enjoy a better grasp on the product, the history of changes done in the product, and many experiences and decisions taken at different times. It is important to assign the right job to the right person based on their capabilities, rather than the employee identification number.

About the author:

 Utkarsh Rai

  Mr. Utkarsh Rai is the Author of "Offshoring secrets" and the Head of India operations of Infinera (NASDAQ: INFN) for over 5 years by building and successfully running the operation in Bangalore, India. His leadership style is "Lead by example", "build and retain a highly performing team", and "flawless execution". This has always helped him in achieving the right goals by building products from V1.0 onwards.

Click here to buy his book from Amazon "Offshoring Secrets: Building and Running a Successful India Operation"

Click here to see his profile on LinkedIn.

Last Updated on 31 July 2012


Created on 07 July 2007 Written by Jean Binder
Hits: 2399

 Lipnack and Stamps (1997) define trust as, ‘the belief or confidence in a person or organisation’s integrity, fairness, and reliability (…) [coming] from past experience, however brief or extensive,’ and conclude that trust is an essential quality in productive relationships across borders.


Bower and Skountzos (2000) suggest that, ‘with understanding comes trust and with trust comes the possibility for a synergistic relationship,’ when multiple companies form partnerships for the project execution.


There is a high level of dependency between trust and all other practices in the Global Project Management Framework®. Implementing the recommendations from the Global Project Management Framework® in all remote locations can help to increase trust, as all the program and project managers will share common processes, tools and communication techniques with the stakeholders in different countries. On the other hand, building trust from the beginning will simplify the implementation of common processes, tools and techniques into a new project team, increasing adoption. In chapter 3 of the book, I recommend a series of steps to evaluate your needs and increase trust among the project managers and coordinators, team members and other stakeholders:

·        identify the level of trust required;

·        determine the weak communication channels in your project team;

·        establish trust in the initial phases of the project;

·        maintain trust during the project implementation;

·        build on this trust to create a healthy and collaborative environment for future projects.



Bower, D. and Skountzos, F. (2000) ‘Partnering, benchmarking and alliances’ in ‘Gower Handbook of Project Management’ (Gower Publishing Ltd, UK) 

Lipnack, J. and Stamps, J. (1997) ‘Virtual teams: reaching across space, time, and organizations with technology’ (John Wiley & Sons, USA) 

 Image © Carole Nickerson | 


Last Updated on 31 July 2012

A mindmap on trust building

Created on 27 October 2007 Written by Jean Binder
Hits: 2451

Download a mindmap that can help you to build trust across your global project team members.

Click here to download a mindmap on Trust Building

Last Updated on 31 July 2012
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