"So, we'd like you to go to Romania to help the new team ramp up over there," Stephane told me.
I shifted in my chair and glanced at the fake golf ball stuck to the glass door of his office. "What exactly would you like me to do?"
"We've never opened an offshore office before, Melissa. We need you to figure out the best way for the Romania and Ottawa teams to work together."
My stomach churned for a second. I was supposed to fly halfway around the world and, in two weeks, get a group of developers I only knew as voices on the phone to change their entire way of developing software to match our long-standing and ever-evolving process. Did I even have the tools to get this job done?
Then I realized that I did. The core of my company consists of great development services and our code of conduct standards: transparency, responsiveness, agility, collaboration, and constant improvement (TRACC).
What I needed to do was get the Romanian team members to really understand these principles. If they bought in to TRACC, they would naturally start acting like we did. It would be like having another Ottawa office in Romania.
My anxiety died, replaced by excitement about teaching them to work like us. My first step would be a PowerPoint presentation aimed at convincing them how right our values are.
I'd get the new office on track and still have enough time to visit Dracula's castle.
"OK," I said to Stephane. "No problem. By the time I leave Cluj you won't know the difference between them and us."
The plane's nose tipped down just about the time I put the last spinning, flaming bullet point on my final slide.
Ahh. Everything fell into place, and I relaxed into my seat. Yep, it would all be fine now.
But something tickled at the back of my brain. It took me a few minutes before I realized that it was Stephane's voice. We need you to find the best way for the Romania and Ottawa teams to work together.
Hadn't I done that? Obviously we wanted to work together like one seamless team with no differences between the two offices. They could work like us and everything would be great.
I felt a chill, and it wasn't from the overhead fan. I glanced at my presentation and saw it from another point of view--the Romanian team's.
Was I really figuring out the best way for us to work together? No, I'd just assumed
that Ottawa's way was the best and intended to imprint it on them as if they were baby ducks following their mother around.
If I had come into the Cluj-Napoca office with a presentation on how they would be working from now on, I would have set up the dynamic that the Ottawa office was going to provide all the leadership.
In short, I'd been thinking about the Romanian team as "them" and the Ottawa team as "us." So wrong. There was no them. We were all us. The first C in TRACC stands for "collaboration," after all, not "commanding people to be like you."
I saved my TRACC presentation. Maybe I could recycle it for training new Ottawa hires or post it on the wiki. I wasn't going to need it this trip.
John, the general manager, met me at the door to the Romanian office. "Do you have a presentation or something?"
I thought about my spinning bullet slides and laughed. He raised an eyebrow
"No presentation. Why don't you show me around the office? Then we can have coffee. I have some questions about what you guys are planning."
"We have some ideas," John said, a little tentatively. "If you want to hear them."
"Sure do. I also wondered if there was anything you wanted to ask me."
He brightened. 'You've been doing this for a long time and we want to take advantage of your expertise. You can help us avoid some mistakes."
"Sure, I'm happy to answer anything you want, but I'm not here to tell you guys how to work. Maybe we can work together to figure out the best way for us to work together." I grinned. "Hey, is that a foosball table?"
"We heard you had one in Ottawa," John said.
"You don't have to do everything just like we do in Ottawa," I told John. "But in this case, I think you made a smart decision. Are you up for a quick game?"
If you were asked to open an offshore branch, how would you identify challenges? How would you deal with the integration?
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