Culture, or “the way we do things around here”, is created collectively by everyone in an organisation. Behaviours and actions are then guided by the shared culture. Peer groups behaving in ways required by the perceived “OK culture” legitimise and reinforce it further. Add internationalisation to the mix and without clear guidelines you can develop a volatile and ineffective mix!
Joint venture Satamana-KFVC-Energy Quest
Building an effective global business culture
In a business context, it is good practise to understand both organisational culture and national cultures. Inadvertent misunderstandings can become deal breakers. At the very least, cross cultural misunderstandings are minor irritants; at worst they lead to major conflict. I have lost count of the times that we have been invited to carry out interventions for organisations with serious business performance issues resulting from seemingly small differences which had become blown out of all proportion!
Organisations with strong global cultures combined with multi-cultural understanding perform better. They bring the best teams together, sustain high morale and keep employees as well as each other focussed on the purpose and mission. Companies who understand local business rituals together with their own strengths and weaknesses fare better than more introspective companies.
A strong global culture does not happen by accident.
Effective global firms require systems, policies and competencies that encourage positive leadership behaviours – then they will inspire and renew the people around them. Through sound leadership and encouraging ideas from the people who are operating the systems and processes, companies will encourage free flow of ideas. In addition, different countries will have other specific issues that need to be addressed.
When putting together your programme try and include some of the following areas:
1) Degrees of inequality
2) The Power-Distance Index (collectivism vs individualism)
3) Gender and diversity issues
4) Attitude to uncertainty
5) Approach to time
6) Business approaches to strategy
7) Intended versus unintended conflict
8) East- West communications
9) Organisational stereotyping
10) Virtual communication across time zones
Finally, listening and being able to understand local nuance will make a difference. A potential global leader must understand how to think and adapt globally. Gaining insights into cross-cultural beliefs and behaviours will broaden leadership thinking.
Taking these recommendations will help your organisation to develop advantage through a strong, inclusive and collaborative global culture. I hope this helps to stimulate your thinking on internationalisation? It might seem simple but do dig beneath the surface to be even more effective.