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How ‘glocal’ is your organisation?

Jul 17th

Despite the clunky jargon, ‘glocal’, or thinking global and acting local, is fast becoming the hallmark of successful organisations. This issue includes also includes: understanding underperformance; taking the time to refocus; and how to centralise and standardise

Editor’s view

How ‘glocal’ is your organisation?

Despite the clunky jargon, ‘glocal’, or thinking global and acting local, is fast becoming the hallmark of successful organisations, and those that get it right are streaking ahead of the competition.

What does it mean to be “glocal”? It’s a truly ugly word, but aesthetics aside, “glocalisation” is important for the success of multinationals today. Simply put, the term means to “think globally and act locally.”

More than ever global organisations are having to ask themselves, “What do we keep central, what do we keep local? Where do we allow one thousand flowers to bloom?” Entering a new market has always been a cultural minefield, but with the increased affluence, choice, and market sophistication of developing countries, companies have to be able to adapt to local markets’ product tastes, and buying preferences in addition to any unique local supply chain, regulatory or infrastructure challenges. The trick is to do this whilst still maintaining economies of scale and the core of the company brand and culture.

Wal-Mart’s expansion overseas created a sharp learning curve for management, which, over time, has created interesting examples of adaptation. In China, they learned that they could not hold on to their core concept of centralised buying. Chinese consumers demanded twice as much fresh produce as their American counterparts. That, combined with China’s transport infrastructure, forced Wal-Mart to increase dramatically the amount of goods sourced locally. They also realised that in addition to their multinational brands, they would need to provide traditional Chinese items such as chickens’ feet and whole pigs hanging from a hook. Yet they were able to drive their core brand identity of value for money, as well as their branded store concepts.

Wal-Mart entered Germany through acquisition, so had the task of introducing their culture and ways of working to an already existing grocery network of employees and customers. They had to abandon the company’s iconic Greeters, who welcome every shopper as they came into the store, because the Germans felt they were superficial and looked upon them with distaste. By successfully introducing their core value of listening to employee suggestions, however, they were able to create innovations such as Singles Nights shopping, on which night profits rose 25%.

Every company has to wade through the “think global, act local” challenges on their own, but the driving force for decision-making should always be about responding creatively to local consumer preferences whilst identifying which core areas of brand, business model and culture they can and should maintain.

In the news

Understanding underperformance

The British Lawn Tennis Association has a budget of £59.7 million, part of it tax payers’ money, and yet consistently fails to deliver world class players. This month’s editor, Kiko Thiel, uncovers what’s going wrong.

Was there ever such an interesting management question as “Why does the British Lawn Tennis Association continue to fail to deliver despite ample funding and facilities?” The LTA has a budget of £59.7 million, part of it tax payers’ money, and fails to produce significant world-class tennis players. They spend £25m on support for “high-performance” players and supply world-class training facilities, sports science support and “high-profile” coaches at their National Tennis Centre at Roehampton.

So what exactly is going wrong?

The LTA is no different from any other organisation: to understand underperformance, we need to look at the skills, motivations and aspirations of the performers, and what they need to develop. But we also need to look at the picture from a structural perspective: the pipeline, grass-roots access to coaches and (in the rainy UK) all-weather facilities before the kids get to Roehampton, the level and frequency of competition available year-round; and what in the surrounding environment makes a youngster pick up a tennis racquet and dream?

Finally, from a managerial perspective, what I would want to ask the LTA, or any underperforming organisation is, “How clear are your goals amongst management and your people? How aligned are management on what to deliver and how to deliver it? What are the consequences if they don’t? If its goals are clear, how well do they influence and work together with other stakeholders to move everyone in the same direction?”

You can’t begin to solve the problem of delivery and underperformance until you know what the root causes are. And finally, to begin to craft the solution, you also need to understand “what good looks like” for all of those aspects above – what can you distil from examples elsewhere where world-class performers flourish?

In the LTA, the solution is there to be found if they will only allow Pandora’s Box to be opened, so that we can understand from a structural, developmental, and managerial point of view what exactly is going wrong, and therefore how to fix it. Will ego and politics stand in the way of doing the right thing?

Tip of the month

Taking the time to refocus

Successful leaders and top performers alike share the ability to pause before regrouping. By taking the time to refocus, they can switch quickly and effectively to the task at hand without getting bogged down in past activities. Find out how you can too.

While we’re on the subject of tennis, I’ve been thinking of the application of sports psychology to work situations. The particular tip I’d like to share is the pause to regroup, gather one’s thoughts, settle one’s emotions, and clear the mind from the last activity to better face the next task.

Sports psychologists talk about the need, for example, to take the time to regroup and clear the mind between each point in tennis, and before each serve. The last point, whether it went well or badly, is banished to the past. We are only in the here and now. This helps us refocus and concentrate on what is needed without any emotional overlay or noise from other things happening in one’s life.

In my on-going battle to improve my tennis, I have come to recognise that my biggest barrier to better play is not technical or one of fitness, but is all about achieving this concentration and focus. Not just on a point by point basis, but every time I hit the ball. So it is in business.

Try these exercises to refocus yourself and your colleagues:

  • If you’re in a meeting and it’s clear that individuals in the room are still fighting other outside battles in their heads, ask them to take five minutes to follow you on an exercise. Ask them to choose a word – any word – that has positive or neutral connotations for them, close their eyes and concentrate on repeating that word until you tell them to open their eyes. If their mind wanders, tell them, it’s ok, and just to note that their mind wandered and bring the mind back to repeating the word. The atmosphere after these five minutes will be dramatically different – much more relaxed, with people focused on the task at hand and each other, their thinking much clearer.
  • Or, when you need to switch from one major task to another, use the same exercise on yourself. Successful political and business leaders are masters at doing this without realising it. They can make the switch in seconds rather than minutes. They have to be, as they switch from dealing with terrorist threats to discussing the budget to dealing with the latest political scandal to hit their party.

How strange that such a simple, quick thing as taking the time to refocus can be so key to delivering one’s best performance.

Your questions answered

My company has decided it needs to centralise and standardise some of its practices. I anticipate a lot of resistance from my OpCos. How can I make the process run as smoothly as possible?

Some of it will depend on what and why you have decided to centralise and standardise. Concerns about maintaining proper governance around risk, accounting, and the financial health of the over-all corporation have different challenges from issues around maintaining safety and environmental compliance, maintaining a common culture and brand across regions and separate companies, or questions about where R&D and product development should reside.

Nevertheless, for all of these questions, there are a number of pointers that will help companies through this minefield:

  • Make sure there is a clear business need for any kind of standardisation or centralisation that does not already exist. On the local side, the amount of management time spent away from the customer or growing the business can be immense, costly and mind-numbing.
  • Communicate that business need – whether it’s for financial compliance reasons, safety, building the brand, increased efficiencies (once you’re through the initial slog).
  • Be clear what is absolutely non-negotiable (e.g. when not doing it gets you into legal or regulatory difficulties), and where you’re willing to see variation.
  • Where there is variation, identify with the local operating companies the one or two things that if they were similar could seriously increase efficiencies across the board (incremental change on their part, big efficiencies gained centrally).
  • Now the most difficult part – good judgement and decision-making will beat rules and procedures every time. Build strong underlying values in all your operating companies in such a way that even if there is variation in processes, procedures, rules, or products, you can be sure that each person in every company will be pulling in the same direction.

This article is filed under: business capability, leadership, organisation, organisation design, organisational development strategy, organisational performance, time management, transformational leadership

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