Friday, March 16, 2012
Global standardization-What's a leader to do?
This week has been mostly about global standardization, why it's important and why people resist it. Today, I want to touch on some techniques, tools and approaches leaders of global teams can use to successfully tackle global standardization of anything...fremeworks, portfolios, processes, systems. At the outset I'll acknowledge that much of this is about leading change. John Kotter and Robet Quinn have both published excellent books on this subject. I've studied them and practiced both approaches. You'll see both their books on my recommended reading list. I won't try to replicate either but highlight what I've learned in practice in global teams. The first point is you've got to get the governance aligned toward global. Simply, this means where the hard reporting line is on the org chart. Most global organizations of which I'm aware operate in some sort of matrix with a "hard" reporting line and a "dotted" reporting line. The hard line usually means who writes the annual performance appraisal and determines the variable portion of pay...more commonly known as the "annual bonus". If your organization has a history of local autonomy and a history of optionality toward corporate center initiatives, unless and until the governance changes, global standardization initiatives will struggle. This doesn't mean it can't be done through influence, shared vision, building guiding coalitions and so forth....it does mean it will be a long, hard, uneven, and painful slog until the governance is aligned. My second point is the leader has to set stretch targets. A good rule of thumb is double what most think is achievable. The stretch target forces people to fundamentally rethink approaches to a particular challenge. If the target isn't stretching enough people will gravitate to solutions that are incremental changes to what they are already doing. A third point is around engagement and communication. Kotter's work in this area is especially instructive here. I'll emphasize three elements. One is sheer scale. Its not 10X what you estimate it's more like 100X. This means you have to use every tool in the kit...email, webcasts, video conference, small group engagements, large group...it also means the leader has to listen. Engagement isn't only about communicating a message, sometimes the concept of what's standard changes as leaders better understand local issues. The last point for the day is that the scale of the engagement challenge means one leader cannot do it alone. Kotter calls this the guiding coalition. In a global team this means leaders in every country or region communicating a consistent message. In addition to the formal leader role, there are huge influencers in the informal networks. Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" and Rob Cross's "Driving Results through Social Networks" are especially useful in this regard.