The Death of the Global Manager

Sounds kind of morbid.

But it only means that a previously important, but separate, function of management, that of managing international or global outreach, has morphed into a requirement for most mid-level or senior managers in companies with an international presence.

An article in Harvard Business Review’s newsletter remarks upon this phenomenon, quoting the author of the “bible” on the topic “Transnational Management”. This sparked the recognition that while I was in undergraduate classes, we still studied “international business”, but by the time I started my MBA almost 10 years later, there was an underlying assumption that business was international and the idea of global alignment versus localization was included in most subjects as a matter of course, requiring attention, but by no means separate.

The article notes that there are three imperatives for successful cross-border management:

– to use worldwide operations to build global scale efficiency

– |to be sensitive and responsive to national differences

– to leverage the world for information, knowledge, and expertise

The primary reason for this shift from an international department to an international dimension is the profound change in the way communication is conducted.

It is now nearly instantaneous, cheap, and ubiquitous. And it has brought about changes that us marketers know all too well. We are now walking the tightrope between global and local, and our balancing act includes:

– deciding where the locus of strategy should be

– deciding which elements of the brand need to be used as they are globally, and which are susceptible to change

– ensuring that when some local divergence is permitted, this local divergence will  not contaminate the global brand or other local territories (which, with all consumers having access to products and info online, is harder than it may seem)

– deciding the amount of globalization vs. localization, on a scale that may range from ensuring a commonality of tone, messaging and visual guidelines to localizing global campaigns to straight implementation of global advertising, with just translation as a nod to local sensibilities

It is a quiz to which there are no straightforward answers.

So yes, we marketers know that the type of manager concerned only with international or domestic issues became extinct long ago. We’ve been contributing to his demise.

1 Comment

Filed under Management thought

One response to “The Death of the Global Manager

  1. Very well put together case. I think your right, the introduction of cloud computing will only further blur the line between local and international. I guess this is why a lot of larger organisations are placing a sharp focus on cultural diversity as rather than a manager just having to manage, they now have to be able to adapt with different cultures and societies around the world within the same organisation.

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