The effect of globalization and digitization is that our work is more complex and global. The speed of change is faster than ever. To stay ahead of competition, teams must communicate and collaborate more effectively, efficiently and inclusively across the globe. That is why Global Business Academy has created 8 competencies to increase global team performance. Vital, now that we continue to work remotely and team members are thousands of miles and cultures apart. The first competency we discuss in this series is: Strategy and Planning.
How can I influence headquarters?
A while ago I visited the CHRO of a large western telecoms company in India. He wanted to learn how to influence headquarters more effectively, and at an earlier stage. That’s an interesting question. “Why do you want to learn that?” I asked, “what happened?”
A powerful strategy… right?
“The global CHRO at head office wanted less hierarchy in the organization. So she drastically reduced the number of hierarchical layers” he told me. That sounded familiar to me. Holacracy, self-managing teams, it is a popular phenomenon. “So what’s the problem?” I continued.
“With well over ten thousand employees, India is the second largest division globally. Job titles are crucial in India, because they provide an illusion of growth. Without this, managers have to convince staff that they really on track for a promotion next year or the year after” he complained “and that doesn’t work”. I felt sorry for him. In a country with an average staff turnover of 20 to 25%, this is a hopeless task. If you don’t create a clear career trajectory for your high performers, they’ll create their own with their feet.
Yes, I will follow your strategy … (not)
On the other side, I also hear about the challenges from western professionals. “I am responsible for the branding worldwide,” a workshop participant told me. “I sent guidelines to South Korea and discussed those with them. They assured me they would execute it. When I looked at the website months later, I found out that nothing had been done. When I talked to them, they acted as if they had not understood”. I felt sorry for him too. ‘Saying yes, doing no’ is an easy way in Asia to get rid of requests you don’t want to do.
Reverse knowledge sharing
The most essential element of your strategy is the power of inclusion: getting feedback and ideas from all parts of the world. Some individuals are very good at this. Some company cultures are battling this. Yet many, like this global CHRO, suffer from the Corporate Immunity Syndrome: a tendency to drive out differences and a tendency to demand conformity. Of course it takes two to tango: not only should professionals be open to other opinions. They should also voice them and not take the easy path like the South Korean employee.
The emperor has no clothes! He’s naked!
An underestimated phenomenon is the impact of hierarchy. In the fairy tale “The Naked Emperor” a little boy shouts out what no one dares to say: “The Emperor has no clothes. He is naked! ” That does not exactly help in setting the right strategy. At the headquarters of well-known insurance company, they decided “to do things radically different” with their product strategy. The company has a good turnover, but the market share is dwindling. So the strategy works partially – they’re selling insurance, but they’re lagging. Did the Indian leaders know that? Of course. Did they say anything? Perhaps. Did Head Office hear the indirect feedback? Who’s to say. But the result, in one of their most important markets, speaks clearly.
Lets bring in the ambassador
I remember another conversation, in which a western ambassador in India told me that he had been asked to participate in a meeting between the Indian CEO, C-level and the Board. During the meeting – much to his surprise – he saw himself constantly confirming that what the Indian CEO claimed was true. The head office was clearly in a state of distrust and could no longer distinguish valid reasons and excuses. In those situations, local leaders usually get fired, but was that person really the problem?
Learning from trial and error… why would you?
All of this can be avoided when global teams understand each other. When there is psychological safety to open up. It makes me so happy when we can take away unnecessary frustration and help teams to create a One Team culture in which they map out their strategy together, everyone participates, takes action, create a planning with buy-in and action. Learning from trial and error… why would you?