Contributors

Copping a Global Attitude

Recruiting globalizers does not necessarily mean finding process specialists. Mindset can trump expertise.
 
 
 By Atul Vashistha
 
 
Globalization is not about a single action, or even a group of actions. Globalization is about an attitude. Yet even when the CEO of a company embraces globalization as a new attitude, it will fail unless the company’s partners embrace the attitude too. But getting others on board is not a job the CEO can do alone; they must recruit the best people to help.
 
 
Recruiting the best people to help roll out (and guide) globalization initiatives throughout the company is crucial. With the best people at the helm, globalization initiatives can find support at all levels of the organization.
 
 
Wim Elfrink, chief globalization officer of Cisco, says that assigning the best people was a key to success for the company. “Assigning the best people is a key differentiator between what we did differently from companies that traditionally approach the management of outsourcing. We had to have the right people empowered as decision-makers on both sides of the house. We insisted on having people who could make the decision in the actual negotiation process. And that was huge in us being able to accelerate the timeline and deliver value. I don’t think that you can afford to do anything else in this process.”
 
 
Assigning the best people to the initiative makes sense for successful globalizers. “You take your second- or third-level people and put them on the initiative, and you’re going to get a second- or third-rate result. Globalization deserves the organization’s best people,” said Ron Kifer, CIO at Applied Materials.
 
 
As football great Vince Lombardi said, “Individual commitment to a group effort is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” The fifth secret of successful globalizers is about generating that individual commitment to the group effort.
 
 
Strong participation from the organization’s C-level executives is important for its role-modeling effects and to help generate buy-in within the organization’s lower levels.  In addition, attention and recognition by senior management make it easier to lure the best talent to lead globalization initiatives. And developing the practice of strategic learning will allow the organization to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities our increasingly interconnected world offers.
 
 
This secret reminds me of the adage, “You get what you pay for.” If the organization doesn’t put its best people in charge of services globalization—if it sends in the B-team, for example—it will see second-rate results.
 
 
The best people are not necessarily those who know the most about the function being globalized. Instead, they’re the people who are agile, understand change, and are globally savvy. All too often, companies trade the sometimes challenging task of finding the best people in favor of the most easily accessible people, even when those people are not right for the job. In many of those cases, the initiative does not reach its full potential.
 
 
When former GE CEO Jack Welch was globalizing the company in the 1980s, his best people were those who knew how to adapt to, and even embraced, change. He defined the best people not as the best performers, but as the best fit for a globalized, cross-cultural environment.
 
 
Take the example of an organization that assigns various leaders from different departments. These people have a record of embracing or spearheading change. They enjoy leading; they’re admired and have proven their ability to build consensus among employees. Though most of these people know little about the details of the organization’s process in question, the organization assigns them to head the initiative. The initiative succeeds.
 
 
Why? The organization assigned as leaders those people who had demonstrated the ability to be good leaders and possessed many of the “global people” characteristics. When they needed to understand the details of IT processes, they sought out the IT managers, who were able to do what they did best.
 
 
Indeed, being one of the company’s “best people” is not necessarily about knowing things, Elfrink explains that it’s more about the right business relationships. “It’s not about knowing the scope of definition of the activities from the start; that’s all detail to be added. Instead, we looked for people who understood proper contextual relationship that we were going to establish with these service providers—people who understood the business relationship and could make obligations to that business relationship.”
 
 
At Cisco Elfrink looks for people who have “a never-ending desire to be challenged and to win. “I think that it’s a special A-type personality who absolutely enjoys driving these big changes. I always say that at the end of the day, the best people want to leave their mark. Their mark is the big change—the big results that they deliver. I think you’ll find that consistent with people who are good at globalization—they really do enjoy it.”

 
Atul Vashistha is founder and chairman of Neo Advisory (formerly neoIT), a management consultancy focused on offshore and global sourcing. He can be reached atul@neoIT.com.
 

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