Friday, October 13, 2006

APAC Regional Offices or APAC Marginal Offices?

Possibly I am a sucker for brickbats. This is one Pandora's Box, which once opened is likely to lead to lots of gall flow! This slightly acerbic piece is dedicated to all those affected by their very own APAC Regional Offices.

In our corporate lives, we would surely and invariably have come up against APAC Regional Offices. These could be located variously at Singapore, Hong Kong, UAE, Australia, and in some rare cases, even in India. These offices are separate from the local office in that market. Their ostensible role is facilitating coordination between local country offices and the global office.

There is a set of 10 rules they operate by:

1. Local country offices are babes-in-the-woods, and cannot even blow their own noses without barrels of help from these Regional Offices;
2. If someone points out that things are going wrong (whether or not they actually are), then surely the Local Office/s would have goofed up;
3. The key to acting as a flawless conduit between Local Offices and Global Office is to bury the Local Office under reams of reporting. Such reporting has only one parallel - a Country's Bureaucracy and the red tape that results there from;
4. Huge amounts of meaningless data must be sent in response to any request for help from the Local Office/s - in fact, the effort the Local Office/s must put in to get any meaningful stuff out of this should be approximately similar to that of getting 10 gms of gold from almost a ton of ore mined in South Africa;
5. The clients are always right;
6. Corollary to that - the Local Office/s are always wrong;
7. Global Office is always right;
8. When Global Office or client asketh, you are not to reason why;
9. Activity and work are not necessarily co-related (almost no work may get done while the activity generated by them may fill many a 150 hours-a-month time sheets for multiple resources at Local Office/s);
10. And last but not the least, processes and SLAs take precedence over deliverables.

With such clear set of rules, they naturally generate the same level of frustration amongst the Local Office/s as is experienced by a typical gamer while he's trying to master the newest version of his/her favourite game just after its release.

If Global Office crowd is 'Gods', the Regional Office crowd is no less than 'Demi Gods'. Their visits lead to hurried purchases and gifting of books/DVDs on the Local Office location. Many a times, ATG happens (those in Hotel Industry must be familiar with this TLA - for the lesser mortals, it means 'Aarti-Tika-Garland', and while we are at it, TLA means 'Three Lettered Acronym).

Whoever mentioned that corporates don't have any sense of humour, just need to take one quick look at the modus operandi of these 'Regional Offices', and I can bet my last dime, their view will hurriedly change.

Since this is supposed to be an objective viewpoint, let's take a look at why these Regional Offices behave the way they do.

These Regional Offices do not handle any clients on their own. More often than not, they get somewhat euphemistic job roles, and even more nebulous appraisal criteria. They are required to visit and be helpful to the Local Offices in their region. When they do, chances are they may end up impinging upon the Local Office/s' time. Lest it is seen as an unwelcome infringement, they need to invent ways to make their visits come across as important. While they are not travelling, they need to come across as busy and delivering to the larger organisational vision and objective.

These are no small challenges - and hats off to the smart guy or guys who contributed to creating this robust list of rules which all these Regional Offices live and die by.

These rules have led to assignation of such lovely descriptors for these Regional Offices as 'Watch Dogs', 'Dogs in the Manger', 'Wet Blankets', 'Stooges', 'the set that doesn't know its a** from its elbow'.

But let me remind you - these Regional Offices are a necessary evil. We, by now, have deliberated enough over the 'evil' part. But what makes them 'necessary'?

Surely, those of you you who have come across these 'Regional Offices', also have their Global Offices tucked away in some remote (or not-so-remote) corner of Europe or USA. All such sufferers would have also faced a perennial phenomenon called ConCalls (wonder why they have stopped calling these 'conference calls'). Typically, these calls happen with a blatant disregard to the time gap between the Global Office market and these Local Office markets. Willy-nilly, the Local Offices end up holding on to the short end of the stick. This is where these Regional Offices play a crucial role. Enough and more times, you can depend on them to attend and debrief you about what happened (or didn't happen) during these calls. You don't have to be on these calls at all kinds of odd hours. This is ONE important role they play for the Local Office/s which justifies their existence.

Another smaller, but still significant role they play is that of being the first punching bag for the Global Office. As everything else, even these punches get diluted by the time they travel from the Regional Office to the Local Office/s.

I am positive that the readers of this little piece will have a thing or two to add to this. For doing so, kindly do write to me and I will definitely make an attempt to incorporate as much of that feedback as possible.

No comments: