Archives For International

Globalization and rapidly changing technology continue to sweep the world. Organizations working across international and cultural boundaries face significant challenges as they seek to reach and maintain market leadership – however, inherent in those challenges are often unrealized opportunities. One such opportunity, Multicultural teams, offers a wealth of leverage to the discerning global leader. Our research repeatedly identifies the following advantages when multicultural teams are leveraged effectively:

–       Global economies of scale and scope are realized

–       Effective global learning & knowledge transfer takes place

–       Global strategic capabilities are enhanced

–       More innovative products and services are developed

–       Better understanding of customers across multiple geographies is achieved

–       Strong cultural intelligence fostering competitive advantage is accomplished

In today’s complex global marketplace, success depends on a company’s ability to work effectively across different geographical locations and cultures in order to drive innovation and capture market share. Leaders must go beyond motivating people from very different cultural backgrounds, experiences and leadership styles – they must create an environment that facilitates multicultural teams to collaborate effectively across boundaries and borders. There is simply no better better way to understand and strategically exploit the global marketplace.

The truth is that most organizations under-utilize their multicultural teams as strategic assets. When properly developed, such teams contribute significantly to the growth and success of the organization and to its bottom line. In fact, multicultural teams are one of the most consistent sources of competitive advantage for any organization who deploys them – they are effectively the bridge between the workplace and the marketplace.

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“Think Global/Act Local”  was based on acculturation: Customizing products and services for regional consumption in accordance with the local language, currency, culture and regulatory climate. Not surprisingly, localization encouraged each country of operation to develop its own customized solutions and operational procedures. This has resulted in data silos around the world and companies operating with huge information blind spots across the spectrum. It can take weeks, even months, to collect, reconcile, translate and analyze regional performance – much less consolidate a global view of the corporate picture.

In addition to the above issues, business today is facing new challenges, and I do not believe the statement “Think Global, Act Local” actually holds true anymore. There is an under-acknowledged reality in global organizations today: easier access to international markets is creating limitless sales opportunities on a worldwide basis, but is also creating numerous challenges in how those products and services are presented in local markets. Escalating costs and increased competition are also placing companies under increasing pressure to improve innovation and raise shareholder value – on both the global and local levels. The new reality is that companies must think and act both global and local simultaneously.

Globalization requires common business practices and processes across the enterprise. The challenge is to reengineer processes to be globally efficient, yet locally accountable. A multinational company may have global processes, policies, and procedures, however they must still adhere to in-country requirements set by foreign governments, as well as honor the business traditions, etiquette and customs which are the underpinning of successful and long-term relationships in the local markets. The goal, therefore, is to establish shared services and global practices, which simultaneously have the flexibility and robustness to meet local market criteria, while leveraging the power of the global market.

However stringently a global corporate culture is imposed, to gain a true competitive edge it is critical to be able to implement effective global solutions with the flexibility of a local interpretation. However, determining the local subset of required functionality is not for the faint-hearted. In-country offices will defend every aspect of their local operation as essential. In reality, it will be a mix of real and manufactured needs that the discerning global leader will be required to effectively evaluate and strategically calculate in order to determine the method of change to be employed.

If put into perspective, global is about the size and strength of a business. Local is about the people the business touches – where they live and work, how they think, what they value, and what moves them to action. Acting local demonstrates a respect for local perspectives, priorities and traditions and demonstrates an understanding of how to compromise to bridge the gap and create an environment where both global and local thinking are simultaneously integrated into the fabric of the global organization.

Locally effective global businesses take into consideration how local attitudes and behaviors differ from those of the company’s home country and other local markets and create a puzzle that fits nicely together – all the pieces are different, but interconnected. Something as simple as observing local seasonal or religious holidays when timing the launch of a new global product can have a direct impact on the success or failure of the campaign.

If global is seeing the forest, then local is tending the trees. With only a view of the forest as a whole, it is possible to overlook the trees that need attention. Up close, it is easy to focus on the detailed care of each tree, but lose sight of its place in the overall forest. Balancing both viewpoints is critical to keeping both the trees and forest healthy. Global Corporations are like a forest – a sum of its parts – consistent, meaningful and effective local practices must contribute to the success of the whole.

You can contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next Thursday for the next installation on Global Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

Both the ancient Romans and Greeks called all foreigners “Barbarians”. The North Africans call their mountain people “Berbers”, Arabic for Barbar. The Europeans, until the late 19th century, called everything in North Africa “Barbaria”. The word “barbarian” refers to the uncultured, or those with unrefined communication skills – both explicit and implicit. The way we express ourselves is predetermined by our differing cultures (even if we often do speak the same language). How we communicate ultimately determines how we are viewed as global leaders. Damaging miscommunications can (and do) happen frequently when working across cultures, but they can be avoided if we apply some cultural intelligence to our diverse interactions – in particular understanding the differences between high and low context communications and leveraging both for personal and organizational gain.

High Context cultures communicate meaning not only with words, but with voice tone, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, speech patterns, and the use of silence. Words play a relatively small part in the overall meaning of the communication, and the context conveys the bulk of the information. People in high-context cultures, such as Asia and South America, tend to take time getting to know one another, providing for an understanding of the broader context of a conversation. This results in a knowledge of what to expect, what signals to look for, and how to interpret subtle signs or expressions – fewer words need to be said.

Low Context cultures are expecting explicit communications. People want detailed background information before making a decision, however they are generally unaware of subtle nonverbal signals going on around them. Documents and contracts are not taken seriously unless written or signed – details must be provided. For example, in the United States and Germany (both low-context cultures), contracts with numerous explicit clauses are a normal way to conduct business and the written word is taken quite literally. In low-context cultures, expect detailed documentation – thorough job descriptions, detailed accounting, and lengthy business planning documents. The devil is in the detail.

When communications become challenging, it can be tempting to access your “barbarian-reflex”, especially when messaging becomes unclear. But, as you can imagine, it is completely ineffective to view your colleagues, staff, or even clients as “foreign” or “unrefined” simply because they do not communicate as you do. If you are motivated to communicate effectively on a global, multi-cultural level, you will need to invest in building trust – the more you come to know someone, the less you tend to look upon him or her as a “barbarian”.

If your purpose is to ensure your colleagues and staff reliably implement to your specifications across the globe, the strategy you choose will vary depending on the cultural orientations you are working across. In those high-context cultures, your strategy will need to be relationship and trust based and may not be explicit – more soft-skills based and time intensive.  In low-context cultures the purpose of communication is to transfer information and your strategy will need to be explicit, efficient, and detailed in order to ensure the correct implementation. A sound strategic approach that is rooted in cultural orientation will be imperative to your overall success in the global organization.

As a global leader, everything you do conveys a message. Leveraging high-context and low-context cultures means relying on both implicit and explicit communication – carefully ensuring that what you say (low-context) is always mirrored by what you do (high-context). When there is alignment, you automatically build trust across all cultures  and your strategic approach becomes less diverse by nature – your message becomes stronger, and you can more readily achieve your global organizational goals, exceeding everyone’s expectations.

For the next several weeks, I will continue to discuss specific cultural orientations that will facilitate successful communications and business results.  You can contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website atwww.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next Thursday for the next installation in a multi-tiered discussion on understanding cultural orientations for successful communication Across Boundaries & Borders.

DDI’s Global 2009 Leadership Study  indicated that 37 percent of leaders filling global leadership roles fail.  These leaders failed to achieve their global objectives and, most commonly, left the company – unsuccessful. “Clearly, something is wrong worldwide with leadership development…”, reports DDI in its 2009 Global Leadership Forecast. But what is being done about this epidemic problem?  I repeatedly hear people willing to state the problem, but very few who actually propose and facilitate solutions.

After 20+ years of working in global business, and several more coaching global executives, I am repeatedly asked what is needed to facilitate success in global environments. I can tell you that it is not fancy terms or academic theories that move executives forward – but it is the ability to take reality-based theories, put them into layman’s terms, and apply them into real-world scenarios – while simultaneously  incorporating some less obvious skills that are not necessarily taught in business school.

I can provide you with the basic components I use to evaluate the likelihood of leadership success in the global marketplace, as well as the competencies I seek to further develop/position executives for global success. It is by no means a formal, definitive “global leadership” list of competencies, as the challenges are always very complex and involve a mix of both hard and soft skill development, but it is a methodology to leverage when evaluating global executives or  partnering with them to further individual or group development. The reality is that I am a practitioner, not a scientist – and I promote and teach what I know through real-world experience.

For each of the next three weeks, I will cover one of the three core components that I know from experience are essential to global leadership success (Intellectual, Psychological, and Social)  – followed by a discussion specifically on those more covert competencies that are critial to global leadership success.

This week we will look at the first component: Intellectual Acumen and it’s corresponding subsets:

  1. Intellectual Acumen: Understanding how the business works on a global scale / having the functional and market competencies to succeed.
  • Business management capability: Is there a capacity for strategic decision-making, functional expertise, efficient resource allocation, effective time management, problem-solving ability, ease in managing complexities, and ability to stay flexible? Can the executive adapt his/her leadership style to a variety of situations?
  • Global business knowledge: does the executive know how the business/industry works worldwide? How global customers behave across various geographies? How competition targets global clients? How strategic risk varies by geography? Is the executive mindful of diverse business protocols and legalities across areas of responsibility on a global basis / how it effects the overall business?
  • Cognitive complexity: does the executive have the ability to relate diverse scenarios with many moving parts without becoming overwhelmed? Is s/he aware of corporate/proprietary competencies that include navigation of internal culture, institutional business protocols, and proprietary skills that affect the global business?

It is rarely a simple matter to assess the right competencies for a global leader, and is very situational.  From my experience, intellectual acumen is the basic starting point for global leadership success. Although a significant portion of intellectual acumen is gained through education and organizational experience, if the basic competencies are not present, and incredibly strong, the leader has failed before s/he ever begins. If these elements are present, but need development or refinement, more than “traditional training” methods are required. These are longer term, organizational integration issues, which if not incorporated through sustained, continual, coaching and reinforcement, will ensure that the failure rate of global executives will continue to soar – a key contributor to global organizations inability to achieve their potential. I have seen it time and again…

How would you rate your global intellectual acumen? If it is not where you need it to be, what are you going to do about it?

You can contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next installation  of Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders. 59DCENEFB9N7

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Globalization and rapidly changing technology continue to sweep the world. Organizations working across international and cultural boundaries face significant challenges as they seek to reach and maintain market leadership – however, inherent in those challenges are often unrealized opportunities. One such opportunity, Multicultural teams, offers a wealth of leverage to the discerning global leader. Our research repeatedly identifies the following advantages when multicultural teams are leveraged effectively:

–       Global economies of scale and scope are realized

–       Effective global learning & knowledge transfer takes place

–       Global strategic capabilities are enhanced

–       More innovative products and services are developed

–       Better understanding of customers across multiple geographies is achieved

–       Strong cultural intelligence fostering competitive advantage is accomplished

In today’s complex global marketplace, success depends on a company’s ability to work effectively across different geographical locations and cultures in order to drive innovation and capture market share. Leaders must go beyond motivating people from very different cultural backgrounds, experiences and leadership styles – they must create an environment that facilitates multicultural teams to collaborate effectively across boundaries and borders. There is simply no better better way to understand and strategically exploit the global marketplace.

The truth is that most organizations under-utilize their multicultural teams as strategic assets. When properly developed, such teams contribute significantly to the growth and success of the organization and to its bottom line. In fact, multicultural teams are one of the most consistent sources of competitive advantage for any organization who deploys them – they are effectively the bridge between the workplace and the marketplace.

Multicultural teams are, at the same time, both the most challenging teams to bring to high performance and the highest performing teams when properly developed. Indeed, multicultural teams can be considerably more creative and effective than same-culture teams, but only when they are built and managed knowledgably. This requires the global leader to consciously and intentionally build diverse multicultural teams to drive the best results for the organization and its clients.

Despite the layers of complexity inherent in multicultural teams, such groups offer their companies distinct advantages. They provide diversity of thought and perspective that leads to ongoing innovation, which ultimately drives better business results. The philosophy and uniqueness of diverse cultures brings richness to problem-solving. The different methodologies used in product and service development and an openness to diverse methods leads to better products and services,  leveraging cultural differences for innovation, collaboration, and ultimately, organizational success.

As a global leader, what then is your responsibility? It is simple, but not easy: You must leverage your multi-cultural, global teams as strategic assets – use them to gain competitive advantage. Invest in global innovation and diversification through your people to create blue ocean strategies instead of continuing to fight in bloody seas for small pieces of marketshare. Leverage the diverse knowledge that is inherent in your organization. For you and your organization to succeed, you must continually find ways to maximize the contributions of all of your varied workforce. Multicultural, global teams are the seldom leveraged keys to unimaginable success, because diverse people are truly the only sustainable competitive advantage in today’s global economy. The effectively leveraged multicultural team will certainly add up to more than the sum of its parts, revealing a wealth of Hidden Treasure just waiting to be discovered and appreciated.

You can contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next Thursday for the next installation on Global Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.

“Think Global/Act Local”  was based on acculturation: Customizing products and services for regional consumption in accordance with the local language, currency, culture and regulatory climate. Not surprisingly, localization encouraged each country of operation to develop its own customized solutions and operational procedures. This has resulted in data silos around the world and companies operating with huge information blind spots across the spectrum. It can take weeks, even months, to collect, reconcile, translate and analyze regional performance – much less consolidate a global view of the corporate picture.

In addition to the above issues, business today is facing new challenges, and I do not believe the statement “Think Global, Act Local” actually holds true anymore. There is an under-acknowledged reality in global organizations today: easier access to international markets is creating limitless sales opportunities on a worldwide basis, but is also creating numerous challenges in how those products and services are presented in local markets. Escalating costs and increased competition are also placing companies under increasing pressure to improve innovation and raise shareholder value – on both the global and local levels. The new reality is that companies must think and act both global and local simultaneously.

Globalization requires common business practices and processes across the enterprise. The challenge is to reengineer processes to be globally efficient, yet locally accountable. A multinational company may have global processes, policies, and procedures, however they must still adhere to in-country requirements set by foreign governments, as well as honor the business traditions, etiquette and customs which are the underpinning of successful and long-term relationships in the local markets. The goal, therefore, is to establish shared services and global practices, which simultaneously have the flexibility and robustness to meet local market criteria, while leveraging the power of the global market.

However stringently a global corporate culture is imposed, to gain a true competitive edge it is critical to be able to implement effective global solutions with the flexibility of a local interpretation. However, determining the local subset of required functionality is not for the faint-hearted. In-country offices will defend every aspect of their local operation as essential. In reality, it will be a mix of real and manufactured needs that the discerning global leader will be required to effectively evaluate and strategically calculate in order to determine the method of change to be employed.

If put into perspective, global is about the size and strength of a business. Local is about the people the business touches – where they live and work, how they think, what they value, and what moves them to action. Acting local demonstrates a respect for local perspectives, priorities and traditions and demonstrates an understanding of how to compromise to bridge the gap and create an environment where both global and local thinking are simultaneously integrated into the fabric of the global organization.

Locally effective global businesses take into consideration how local attitudes and behaviors differ from those of the company’s home country and other local markets and create a puzzle that fits nicely together – all the pieces are different, but interconnected. Something as simple as observing local seasonal or religious holidays when timing the launch of a new global product can have a direct impact on the success or failure of the campaign.

If global is seeing the forest, then local is tending the trees. With only a view of the forest as a whole, it is possible to overlook the trees that need attention. Up close, it is easy to focus on the detailed care of each tree, but lose sight of its place in the overall forest. Balancing both viewpoints is critical to keeping both the trees and forest healthy. Global Corporations are like a forest – a sum of its parts – consistent, meaningful and effective local practices must contribute to the success of the whole.

You can contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next Thursday for the next installation on Global Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders.