Developing Global Managers
"When going global, you have to communicate to everyone what the company vision is and what the long term goals are. And then you have to follow through and design processes that force the interaction to continue. Every single employee must believe that there is a great value in managing the company in an integrated way. To do that, you have to bring people together on real projects that tackle real problems or that explore opportunities on a cross border basis.” David Whitwam, CEO, Whirlpool
Transnational corporations, as explained in earlier chapters, are complex entities with diverse roles and responsibilities and a highly sophisticated configuration of resources and assets. Without suitable mechanisms for integration and unification of various activities, such organizations will become too unwieldy to manage. Top management commitment and suitable systems and processes can help. But what is clearly needed to make such an organization work to its full potential is the personal commitment of individual managers, who can take a sufficiently broad perspective while solving problems. To sum up, a major challenge for global companies is to develop a cadre of managers, who can understand and respond to the needs of the international business environment. These managers need to go beyond a narrow national perspective towards a multidimensional view, which takes into account the requirements of the entire global system. In other words, these companies have to create a cadre of people who are comfortable with 'global' careers.
This chapter will deal with some of the special challenges, which global companies face in the selection, training and development of their human resources in general and expatriates in particular. It will also look at some of the key behavioural issues faced by global companies in the coordination of their activities across the globe.
Understanding global mindset
As Vijay Govindarajan and Anil K Gupta mention, mindset refers to the cognitive filters through which people observe and make sense of the world. People tend to be selective in what they observe and biased in how they interpret, what they see. As they learn from experience, they develop cognitive filters. A firm’s mindset shapes perceptions about the nature and size of risks and opportunities, customer needs, competitors, technologies, etc. The point to note is that a firm’s mindset is shaped by the mindsets of individual employees. Govindarajan and Gupta mention that openness and inclusion form the basis for a global mindset: “An organization with a global mindset operates on the premise that cultures can be different without being better or worse than one another. Such an organization dedicates itself to becoming well informed about different value systems, different norms of behaviour and different assumptions regarding reality. It accepts diversity and heterogeneity as natural and as a source of opportunities and strengths, rather than as a necessary evil. This acceptance of diversity does not imply that the organization with a global mindset becomes a prisoner of diversity and closes itself to the possibility of working across cultures or transferring innovations and superior practices from one culture to another… on the contrary, the openness inherent in a global mindset implies an openness to change over time - in one’s own culture as well as in that of others.”
Jacques Nasser, former CEO of Ford, once explained: "Increasingly, the markets value a global approach to business - an approach in which a company's units, divisions, teams, functions and regions are all tightly integrated and synchronised across borders. The markets reward the kinds of companies in which, for instance, a manager at an assembly plant in Cologne says, ‘It would definitely lower my costs to change such and such supplier but it would damage our global strategy for raw material...