Sunday, March 13, 2011

Five Principles of Effective Cross-Cultural Management - Elizabeth Bernhard & Joseph A.Cook

Published March 2011

I came across a useful article on Cross-cultural Management, another one of the issues that I like and wish everyone could take a course in this - as we are a really globalised workforce and need to work across cultures on a daily basis.

How do you prepare an organization, its leaders, the employees and the transported executives for cross-cultural management? If not approached in a thoughtful manner, cultural subtleties can limit communication, trust and the necessary mutual cooperation needed to drive an organization forward. But with careful planning and proven techniques, effectiveness can be accelerated and the chances of success enhanced.

Consider the following:

Awareness. Leaders who are considering bringing in talent from another part of the world to take a place on the senior executive team have already reached the first milestone. They have an awareness of the full global talent pool. While many Western business concerns have already developed an appreciation for the full range of talent available worldwide, some are lagging behind or don’t even have it on their radar. These businesses don’t know what they don’t know — and what they don’t know is that they’re missing out on opportunities.

Development. Once aware of the concept of the full global talent pool, the next step is to create a program for building the global executive bench. Expanding one’s horizons doesn’t mean neglecting the people right under one’s nose. Progressive companies have complete executive-advancement programs that develop talent for local opportunities and look abroad for talented individuals who are ready to cross borders for the next step in their development.

Executive Selection and Integration. Any selection process for global managers should begin with a clear understanding of the factors necessary to the assignment’s success. This includes both global management competencies — such as adaptability, flexibility, comfort with ambiguity, inquisitiveness, etc. — as well as role imperatives related to the particular assignment. Because home and host country expectations may vary considerably, these will frequently need to be aligned. Often an external assessment by a trained professional can be helpful.

Once the executive is in place, a strong focus on integration can reduce the time it takes for him or her to get up to speed and deliver results. Equally important is the positive impact an effective integration program has on long-term retention. This is especially significant with cross-cultural transitions, where “derailing” episodes can occur even more frequently than usual.

Acknowledging the Challenges. Once the right executive has been selected for a global management position, special attention must be paid to the difficulties of working in a new cultural environment. To optimize talent in the multinational corporation, talent must be sourced both locally and from around the world. However, as seen in both the experience of the colonial and expatriate phases of history, talent can be squandered and positive contributions minimized because of limited respect for local cultural norms and practices, poor communication and misunderstandings among individuals with different cultural orientations. Cultural habits that are deeply ingrained and respected in one country can raise the ire of individuals in another. This can create strained working conditions that undermine collaboration and the drive toward organizational goals.

While cultural communication differences and norms can start as simple style differences, they typically grow and fester, creating significant ill will within organizations. While stories of miscommunications regarding issues like hierarchy, negotiation style and directness are commonplace within multinational companies, the animosity, mistrust and team dysfunction they create are rarely addressed. People often aren’t even aware that they’re falling prey to culture clashes and misconstrue them as negative measures of others’ true talent and trustworthiness. This ill will, which often goes unrecognized as such, can be the root of multicultural team breakdown. Accusations fly, with little recognition that the players are both uncomfortable with foreign behavior and unsure how to negotiate it.

Multicultural Team Building. Multicultural team building is an approach that addresses the needs of the global team. Respecting that organizations cross borders and their members may hail from anywhere on the planet, the need to balance local custom with global leadership characteristics is vital. This approach can enhance understanding among team members and optimize team member communication and functioning.

Using a variety of interactive processes, team members learn about themselves, the culturally based assumptions that drive their day-to-day behavior and judgments of others, and their team members’ corresponding views. By highlighting and clarifying these differences and helping team members learn their own culturally derived hot buttons, teams are able to create their own norms for communication and grow greater awareness on how their behavior is impacting those around them. In doing so, executives learn to anticipate and correct problems before they grow, appropriately adjust their style by audience and quickly separate intercultural stress from other organizational issues. In the best cases, the team builds its own highly functional culture, complete with its own norms, behaviors and language, where collaboration and trust are foundation.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The sustainable choice: changing the way consumers think

Lucy Yates is principal policy advocate at Consumer Focus.

Businesses must stop waiting for consumers to take the lead to mainstream sustainable consumption.

I came across this excellent article that captures the need for companies and corporates to do more and be proactive and follow the sustainability conscious consumer and make it easy to do the right thing. 
The idea of a sustainable business has developed to be something of a chameleon concept – it can change to mean different things in different settings and at different times.
Traditionally, business has tested itself by asking: "Is the business sustainable? Will it make a profit? Will it grow?" But for some companies, sustainability means behaving in an economically sustainable way that protects the environment and includes ethical behaviour, social justice and fairness.
But it still feels that business is holding back, waiting for consumers to take the lead. Of course, where consumers lead business needs to follow – an increase in demand from certain companies and a palpable decrease from others is as direct a message as businesses can get.
It is a hard ask of consumers. Those who make an effort to live more sustainably can often find themselves coming up against barriers in their daily lives and end up as a niche group. We know that many people want to do their bit for the environment, but the sustainable choice is often more difficult, more expensive or harder to find.
Despite consumers saying they are interested in sustainability issues and being willing to change their behaviour, we are not seeing mainstream behaviour change or engagement with enough sustainability issues. In the context of high consumer concern but low levels of action, the idea of integrating sustainability through business action makes sense.
A solution lies in making sustainable choices easier for consumers by making them part of everyday life. That means moving away from the current emphasis that is often placed on the niche of consumers to buy our way out of unsustainable practices.
When people are making purchasing decisions, they expect some issues to have been dealt with and may not be aware that retailers are delegating to them much of the responsibility to make the "right" choice. As a result, people's concerns are not always reflected on their shop floor choices.
Sometimes consumers want less choice rather than more, safe in the knowledge that certain issues have already been dealt with. People can then choose between a range of sustainable products and services.
That is clearly where business comes in. Businesses need to be a positive catalyst for change. One way they can do this is by choosing the products they make available for consumers to buy.
Business can bring out the responsible consumer in all of us by making sustainable products and services mainstream, not just niche. Consumers benefit from the assurance that the issues they care about have already been considered, rather than having to grapple with all those complexities themselves.
Further mainstreaming of sustainability will be achieved through companies fully incorporating these issues into their business models. That means developing businesses that minimise the negative impacts and preferably have positive impacts - on the global or local environment, community, society or economy.
Many leading companies now understand the strategic value of a robust sustainability strategy that is translated into tangible action programmes and taken to the frontlines of commercial activities.
Unilever, for example, has developed its Sustainable Living Plan, and Proctor and Gamble recently announced their sustainability vision. The fact that these businesses are no longer just talking about individual environmental products but about their entire business, is a powerful message on the progress being made. It also acts as a signal to the market and hopefully, in time, to consumers.
More businesses need to follow. Companies such as Unilever and P&G have a lot of influence over what consumers buy and what standards are expected by consumers. With proper engagement from companies, the impact of improving the sustainability standards inherent in business as a whole could be huge.
This takes some of the responsibility away from consumers who find it difficult to navigate their way through excessive amounts of complex information and decision-making. In addition, there is also a clear benefit to business. Once they look at their operations through the lens of sustainability, business will find the reputational, commercial and investment benefits as well as benefits for the community and the environment.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Senior Executive's Sustainability Agenda - Steve Goldstein


I found an excellent article that shows the way senior executives can further the sustainability agenda with justifiable goals that have developed since it became necessary.