Managers in international companies have got used to the fact that they have to spread their attention “across the globe” every day.First a conference call to Australia, then a video conference about plans to outsource a project to China, later discussions about the company’s European strategies in the office and finally talks with US colleagues about the progress of the latest project – “global managers” have their eyes, ears and minds on different places around the world nearly every day. The different time zones define communication windows.However, despite the benefits of modern communication technology, it is sometimes vital to go places. And this requires time and money for travelling.
You think this description exaggerated? It isn’t. This is simply a picture of the normal rhythm which today’s managers in international companies usually have to follow.
Visits to different sites are necessary to get a complete picture
It is important to understand the individual markets, their dynamics and the related opportunities and risks. Managers from China, India or North America may speak the same language – usually English – but mean quite different things. Just because people use the same language, they are not necessarily talking about the same issues. That is why it is so important to go places and take a look at the situation. Asking questions, listening and getting a personal impression are vital for forming well-founded opinions. It is not possible to get a complete picture by sitting in the company’s head office and talking to colleagues on the phone or writing e-mails. While this aspect of internationalisation or globalisation may make some people uncomfortable, it is a logical consequence of doing business globally.
Interestingly, persons who work in this field often show similar character traits and their origins and nationalities lose importance. Someone from a provincial German village may have gathered experience as a project manager world-wide, while someone from New York may not have ventured further than five blocks during his whole life. That is fine. It may simply make it a bit more difficult to form an adequate judgment of the person one is talking to.
In management, too, many roads lead to Rome
“Global managers” will certainly learn that different countries and cultures may have found radically different solutions to the same problems. Nevertheless, in the hustle and bustle of everyday business it is a challenge to accept the idea that many roads lead to Rome and to consider ideas which may seem harebrained at first. At the same time managers have to remain true to their local origins and try not to get lost in a “global approach”.
However, if people face the challenges of being “global managers” and make the effort of trying to understand things “on site”, they will certainly gain the respect of their employees, who will feel that the company takes them seriously.