Once the state of your organization, past and present, is well understood and this understanding properly diffused throughout the organization so that everyone is working from the same page, then it is time to look to the future. This is the time to focus on cultivating within the organization strong commitment to and individual understanding and acceptance of a shared vision.
Building the commitment required to successfully transition to the transnational organization, as described in Managing Across Borders, involves providing a sense of unity. Top management must be equally concerned with the perceptions and behaviours of individual managers within the organization, as well as their own. Do these managers share an understanding of the company's purpose and values? Do they identify with the company's broader goals? Do they display a clear commitment to the overall corporate agenda? Leaders must be able to genuinely answer yes to the above questions when asked of their teams. Ensuring this is the case puts the company on the path to establishing a 'global glue' across the organization, where upon strategic initiatives are more successfully executed.
To build this, the authors suggest that leaders must:
1) Develop a common understanding of a clear and consistent corporate vision.
2) Ensure each manager understands and accepts the logic and importance of the objectives.
3) Cement individual understanding and identification through a 'co-option' process, i.e. giving managers a direct role.
It is impossible for an organizational leader to honestly answer yes to the earlier questions above if these three steps are not followed through on. Answering yes to these questions in absence of these actions behind-the-scenes suggests a leader out of touch with their managers and teams. However, if a leader doesn't necessarily take naturally to this type of commitment building, then it is possible that they empower other leaders to assist in the process. But in the end, both approaches result from a leader honest with themselves and their managers and teams.
Building commitment and a shared vision requires with no compromises a clarity, continuity and consistency of purpose - clarity provided through simplicity, relevance and reinforcement; continuity backed by a managerial commitment to consistent implementation; consistency established across organizational units so that the vision is shared by all.
It must be said that the cost of inconsistency can be horrendous - it can result in confusion and inefficiency in the best scenario; in the extreme, it can lead organizational units to pursue agendas that are mutually debilitating.
Individual Understanding and Acceptance
According to the authors, breaking down attitudes and perceptions that act as barriers towards transnational development fundamentally relies on a human resource management program that aims to 1) broaden perspectives, 2) build experience, and 3) develop relationships that result in management flexibility and close inter-unit linkages.
The central objective of this program is to develop an organization in which the individual managers' perceptions, capabilities, and relationships becomes the basic building block for an integrated, yet flexible worldwide organization.
Reflecting on this for a moment, this theory makes sense in that people are an organization's most important resource. There must be a central program that ensures an organizations' people are recruited, selected, trained and developed in a focused, consistent manner. Otherwise, a weak and transactional HR function allows organizational units and individual managers to deviate from a shared vision, thus building barriers infested with separate agendas. Once this critical program is established, it drives a continuous feedback loop throughout an individual's career path that acts as a guide and influencer towards developing that understanding and acceptance of the shared vision.
In more detail, recruiting and selection function finds ways to identify those individuals most likely to succeed in transnational organizational processes by setting the right hiring criteria. The training and development function aims to inculcate a common vision and shared values; broaden management perspectives and capabilities; and develop contacts and shape management relationships. The cycle of career path management tops this off by establishing a foundation that includes a human resources inventory and evaluation system that allows top management to identify and track the scarcest of all corporate resources - skilled management.
Co-opting Management - The Binding Commitment
'Co-opting management' is a concept that the authors emphasize strongly in making the journey to becoming a transnational organization. The challenge can be summarized as:
Most managers may understand the company's strategic vision and they may have had the training to develop a broad corporate frame of reference, but they are so consumed by their immediate operating responsibilities that they often think and act in a parochial manner when global issues impinge on their turf.
The approach to this challenge advocated by the authors can be summarized as:
Give managers direct responsibility for achieving part of the corporate vision and key roles in coordinating the new organization and, by doing so, co-opt them into the transnational agenda.
It is not uncommon that senior managers like to keep their plans closeted from middle managers and others further down the organizational chart. The psychology behind this behaviour may result from distrust or an attitude that subordinate managers need not be aware of such plans in their respective roles, at least until those plans are already in motion. This psychology is dangerous because it actually reinforces barriers and distrust by constructing a distance and separation between managerial levels. Rather than co-opt managers, the senior manager is effectively and one-sidedly opting managers out of key initiatives that will have a significant impact on their role and how they will be able to operate in to the future.
Thus, my opinion is that the authors are spot on in terms of emphasizing that managers should be co-opted in sharing the vision of what and where we aspire to be by being provided additional responsibility, ownership and accountability in not only achieving the vision but in also, even prior to that, testing the vision's validity.