Today almost all companies have the aspiration to be a global company. For many, that means having presence in multiple countries or conducting business in several parts of the world. While, being physically present across many countries may help the business growth, that in itself does not make a company truly global. Globality, I believe, has more to do with the thinking and the character of a company, than about the geographical presence or the business reach. It is the presence of certain kind of awareness, structures and abilities which set an organisation apart as truly global.
I see Globality as a mindset. A mindset that allows an organisation to transcend borders and cultures, to create a corporate environment where everyone experiences respect and dignity. Where everyone experiences authentic humanness. It’s instituting “no tolerance” towards acts and behaviours that are driven by prejudices rooted in gender, race, religion or any other kind of divisive beliefs.
Being global is to have a mindset of openness. A mindset that receives and affirms every person as they are, every situation as is, accept diverse perspectives and insights as part of a large tapestry of multifaceted complex reality. In a global organisation one sees forums and systems to receive and dialogue with diverse views and ideas, irrespective of where they have originated from and harvest them to create powerful business solutions.
Globality is that rare ability of an organisation and its people to crossover into another culture, experience its gifts and insights with an open mind and come back enriched. This requires strong sense of rootedness (with a deep purpose, core values and clear vision) and leaky margins to let in and absorb the essential goodness from outside. Global organisations equip their people to discover and understand the purpose and the meaning behind what seem to be “foreign” and not reject anything just because it is the ‘other’.
Global organisation is one which has an intuitive ability to identify, source and engage the best capabilities, innovations and solutions from different parts of the world and deliver them most efficiently and seamlessly. Global organisations do not look at countries with just one single lens, for eg.,Vietnam and India for cheap labor, China for bulk manufacturing, African countries for the scarce resources. They see the rich capability of people and their potential. They harvest the knowledge and insights to solve difficult challenges and create innovative solutions. They establish “centres of excellence” not just building on the available expertise, but also looking at the untapped potential.
Global organisations translate their philosophy into operating policies and structures. They put collaboration and teamwork at the heart of how they deliver products and services to their clients. Individuals and teams, irrespective of their location, operate as a continuum to fulfil customers needs. Regardless which part of the organisation customers interface with, they would experience one face, one organisation, one team. The accountabilities, rewards and recognitions of the end result are shared by all. All aware and responsible for the total.
Being global is to operate out of the present map of the world and not continue to operate out of the past paradigms. Many multinational companies based in Europe or North America have special allowances for their employees when they are sent to “third world countries”. This practice was introduced to ensure the “first world” employees are able to maintain a certain level of lifestyle in another country. Today the realities of “first” and “third” world are present in every country. Organisations that are truly global have equitable policies and practices for all people irrespective of where they are located. Health insurance, education allowances and social security based on where one has come from, stock option plans based on nationality rather than the roles people play, accident coverage limits based on the hierarchy – are all but signs that an organisation is merely being a multinational. When I was part of a company that was spreading its operations to multiple countries, we had to define our philosophy in this area and set new expectations among our employees. Willingness to challenge the age old practices and implement policies that are based on providing the best possible benefits to all people, irrespective of where they come from , sets the organisation on the road to becoming truly global.
Global organisations exhibit a mindset of expanded space and extended time. They operate with the understanding that all are interconnected – customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, regulators-regardless of where they are located. That everything the organisation does, affects all stakeholders, not just today but for a longtime in the future. Often in business we give importance to achieving results, ignoring particularly the long term effects on employees, environment and possibly even on clients business. An organisation’s appetite and leadership’s willingness to make some difficult decisions based on impact that cannot be seen or felt in the immediate, is a good indicator of global mindset. I often wonder, how many boards pause and reflect the impact on people and places, of their decisions!
We can cultivate authentic globality in our organisations by challenging the norms and practices born out of old economic, political and cultural paradigms. Any organisation can think, act and be global, irrespective of how small or large it is and regardless of where it is located. First step is to create a nucleus of people who think, act and are being global.