What is in an Offset Idea?

There I was … digging through piles of documents (many of them electronic) for offset projects and outcomes as part of my doctoral thesis. So many projects, so few successes. But there have been successes, so the policy continues.

One of the best … and one of the worst … aspects of being in offsets is that anything legal and exportable goes (well, even those two restrictions have not been 100% followed, if you believe some of the water-cooler talk). The sky is the limit in terms of conceptualizing, proposing, negotiating, and implementing offset projects. This means, on the positive side, that no two programs are alike. As the offsets manager, you get to learn about a lot of new technologies and implement existing technologies and work-packages in new ways. No two days are ever alike. On the negative side, you are always being pulled in different directions. Some pulls come from the target countries – no two countries are alike, so you have to have a unique deck of playing cards for each country. Your own company will have its preferences for what goes (into an offset project) and what stays (keeping the local staff employed or a favored local supplier in the supply chain). Your government (especially in the US) will have definite ideas on what can be exported to whom, enabling some deals and killing others. Your professional life is one long, continuous, moving, never-ending jigsaw puzzle, and you are always taking a pile of yet-unplaced-pieces and fitting them into the puzzle as it grows.

Diversity of ideas is a plus. Here is just a surface-scratch list of past projects awarded offset credits: co-production of portions of a product; putting a customer’s national into space; product final assembly; restoring a medieval cathedral of national historical importance; establishing a small business introductory marketing office into a major country; improving financing of other projects; university partnerships; facilitation of other third-party company to company partnerships totally unrelated to the product.

Moral: The list is, quite literally, endless. It is bounded only by what the customer is interested in, and what you, the offsets manager, know about options to satisfy an obligation. The more cards you have in your play deck, the more likely you will succeed.