Culturally Agile Organizations

Here are examples of companies who are really culturally agile and doing very well.

One is the bank HSBC. For example, when they go into a country first of all they get as much local staff as possible and as much local talent. They develop it very well. But when they send their managers there, their managers stay for decades. Most other companies have a two to three year rotational cycle. For example, German companies. They move into a new country, they are trained by the local staff in local culture and how to do things and then about two to three years into it right when they are really understanding it they get sent back so all of that investment into them understanding it is then taken out and the local staff just gets drained and demotivated by having to do it all over again.

Another example of a company who is very culturally agile in doing things very well is IBM. When IBM, for example, entered China they went over with Singaporeans and American-born Chinese as much as possible. Then they invested very heavily in developing their local talent and they have quite a string of mainline Chinese who are in charge of things. It is actually fairly rare to see someone who is not Chinese in IBM. The other thing where they have gone further beyond their leadership in management is they are localizing their value chains. They are localizing all of their operations to be relevant to the country that they are in. Everyone in the organization has a high level of individual cultural agility. The organization as a whole communicates so one thing doesn’t happen in one country that other people don’t understand. Then finally they localize. IBM is localizing their value chain, meaning that they have specialized logistics, procurement, manufacturing, sales, distribution, service, and support, which are all relevant to the country that they are active in. They are not just taking one global system and imposing it everywhere because quite honestly that is not effective.

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