The ever more cross-border commercial environment has resulted in significant interest in, and an increasing requirement for, global management skills. There is much in the way of writing and musings about ‘going global’, including specific courses on the subject. Leading organisations are now learning and delivering solutions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Global demand and the activity this generates is continuous.

Infosys is a good example of a company supporting organisations in their global reach – a leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing, with revenues in the region of US $7bn. The company provides services for clients in more than 30 countries. Its global footprint extends to 65 offices with 74 development centres in US, India, China, Australia, Japan, Middle East, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Poland and Canada. Infosys and its subsidiaries have in access of 150,000 staff world wide. Its continuous global expansion is supported by heavy investment in its L&D function. Its L&D capability is both substantial and a benchmark for global industry standards. Global and cultural agility, and how these competencies are both developed and measured, is big business.

It is my belief and experience that intercultural competencies and the integration of significant diversity on multiple platforms are the obstacles and challenges that businesses must now master. It is often within these cultural and communication challenges that ‘service’ differences emerge, less so with ‘project management’ or less ‘soft’ aspects of project delivery or client engagement. The increasing necessity of flexible soft skills is a hard fact. Ignore these sometimes subtle complexities, differences and similarities at your peril. Cultural agility and developing a global mindset are increasingly not just on the business and consulting agenda but at the top of it. Getting this right is essential to both offshore partners and local teams to work effectively together. Evidence shows that business ‘relationships’ are at least as important as the ‘task’ in hand; often more so. Global working is not just about 24 hour business models, processes, hand-overs, services and projects. It is about people, their differences and communication.

I work with many organisation that work hard to battle communication misunderstanding between offshore and local teams. Often global agility and cultural competence are the main inhibitors to successful delivery, partner competence levels, trust between teams, smooth hand-overs, increased business and staff engagement. Let’s take a look at a recent situation from two perspectives:

Picture scene one: Abhay leaves his home in Bangalore for the first time and travels to Chennai to work within a development team for an investment bank on a back office support project. He has to communicate with a European offshore team, local team, management and suppliers based in Singapore a daily basis. There appears to be little interest from his virtual colleagues in investing in getting to know him or building any form of relationship. Scope creek is a real issue and everything is demanded with very tight deadlines. There is very little trust. Ask yourself: in this environment, how important is global agility in his everyday communications and effectiveness? How important is his cultural competence to those with whom he is working with both locally and virtually?

Picture scene two: Angela works in the back office support team based in the UK. She is managed locally but has a dotted line to an offshore manager who manages a team of developers including Abhay. Angela feels that the hand-over to offshore often appears smooth and understood but next day delivery is not meeting expectations. She also feel that the competence of some of the offshore team is not comparable to that of the experienced local team who have more business knowledge and domain experience. She is frustrated, demotivated and at a loss as to how to improve things. Ask yourself: what impact does this have on engagement? on attrition? on trust? on relationship development?

So what can we do? Global working and cross cultural skills involve commitment, first in our thinking and then our actions. Positive development is not an accidental outcome of experience but a deliberate and sustained committed focus. As with any change or growth in organisations or individuals, there are stages and challenges to overcome as well as opportunities to seize. Effective management of these cross cultural environments involves a focus and dedication to building relationships and trust.

In summary, the investment in global agility and cultural competence grows client satisfaction and performance. The ROI is clear. High quality training, consulting and globally competent managers continue to drive innovation and results in business. You can be sure that businesses will continue to strive to increase their global footprint. The question is, will we lead, just keep up or be left behind?

Bradley Honnor

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