Over the 7 years I have worked overseas, I have been in organizations and teams where people have come and gone at various levels. The impact of these organizational changes depends not just on the roles and responsibilities that each person is assigned but also the context / environment that they are either entering into or departing from. At the same time, a person brings with them their own personal history, timeline and set of aspirations / goals that must be considered against the history, timeline and aspirations / goals of this organizational context / environment. If neither the personal nor organizational characteristics mentioned above are understood by organizational leaders, then it is possible for breakdowns to occur in achieving the success and professional excellence that leaders often envision their teams achieving and displaying respectively. This is essentially what I refer to as 'knowing where you are', whether you are considering your own individual situation or that of an organization you are leading.
Take as a generic example the global office of a project-driven, services organization that has seen significant sales volatility and thus volatility in resource demand over the course of several years since the office's initial market entry. It is admittedly difficult to structure an organization to properly balance the resourcing needs of a relatively new market while avoiding the risks of either over-resourcing or under-resourcing. This is the structure vs. environment link.
Strategy comes in to the picture to guide the building of organizational structure as well as respond to the environment. In our example, at the extremes, there are a couple strategic options available to the organization:
1) Source resources from within the established talent pool of the global organization; this equates to a rapid build-up of services expertise at the expense of local market knowledge and experience. The objective of this strategy is project execution rather than organization building and development.
2) Source primarily local resources with local market knowledge and experience, but with limited to no expertise as it relates to the organization's services and offerings. This equates to a rapid build-up of local market knowledge and expertise at the expense of a strong services delivery. The objective of this strategy is organization building and development.
Obviously, neither of the two strategies above are ideal on their own--it is obvious that a blending of the two is required to capitalize on short-term project opportunities while establishing a foundation for future success without an over-reliance on the global organization's talent pool. But how to balance the two strategies for maximum effect?
I have learned from my experience that it is often best to focus on acquiring experienced local resources around the products and services that are more difficult to source from the global talent pool. For example, if the global organization is strong across the board in transportation management, with a number of key resources willing to take leadership roles in global offices, then better to get a local, experienced lead familiar with say distribution. Sales is another area where the organization is best served by hiring a consistent local presence, complemented by regularly rotating global leads in marketing, product management, etc. At the same time, the organization can 'slow hire' in the area of transportation management to internally train more fresh and inexperienced hires that can learn on the job from the global resources rotating through in this area.
This all sounds great, but one of the most difficult aspects of managing a smaller global office is team cohesiveness. As already discussed, globally rotated resources must be carefully chosen based not just on availability but on how personal and professional timelines fit the state of the organization. These timelines must balance with the timelines of locally hired resources so as not to cause unnecessary disruptions that might negatively impact the quality of project delivery, overall team morale, career development, and the degree of administrative oversight required. In a smaller office, a leader's inability to manage and cultivate this aspect of team cohesiveness is much more visible than in a larger office with more layers and middle management 'handlers'.
Clearly understanding the state of the organization and its administrative heritage, as put in Managing Across Borders, and preparing new team members in advance of their global transfer or local hire is the least a leader can do for the benefit of team cohesiveness. In addition, it is critical that the leader properly frames the state of the organization within the strategy- structure - environment linkage before proceeding with the execution of a decided strategy. The above ultimately contributes to how the larger global organization is able to develop into a 'transnational' that appropriately leverages its existing configuration of assets and capabilities; its distribution of managerial responsibilities and influence; and ongoing set of relationships that endure long after any structural change.
In Part 2 I begin to explore the ways that Managing Across Borders suggests an organization can develop and build the transnational mentality towards achieving high performance as a global entity. A key part of this is not only understanding the role you currently play within your company, but also the role you aspire to be in and how to categorize the roles that others play in the organization.