Tuesday, September 26, 2017

5 Steps to Successful International Transformation

Culture / Strategy

At Rightpoint, we work with organizations all over the world that are looking to transform their business, from the inside out. As a member of our Change Enablement practice, I partner with our clients to strategically address their organization’s future-state goals for their people and culture. From a change enablement perspective, every major transformation must begin with both the organization’s people and culture in mind. It is important to understand how an organization works, what their norms and practices are, how colleagues communicate and collaborate with one another, and what key behaviors leadership exhibits during times of change. And when a transformation impacts teams all over the world, understanding an organization and how to plan for change, can become even more complex.

There are several ways an organization can begin to plan for a global effort. To help our teams get started, there are a few key questions that we like to consider. While not all-inclusive, the questions below will help ensure every project has some of the basic, yet very critical items, in focus from the beginning.

1. Why should teams in each country care about the transformation?

It is important to spend extra time understanding and highlighting “why” the project exists in the first place and “how” it will ultimately help the bottom line. Investing heavily in this strategy from a global perspective will help you build trust, leadership support, and ultimately a better transformation strategy. Keep in mind, every country has its own norms around trust and communications. Additionally, “value” can be perceived and applied differently in your global business units. What might be a large change for some, might be small for others. The more time you can invest in this phase of the project, the better. Not only will your communications improve, but how you plan to support each area of the business will be more efficient.

2. How can an organization plan for a global audience?

There are a number of ways to tackle the additional planning needs for your organization. One really successful strategy we’ve seen work is to set up a project sub-team focused specifically on the global audiences. The team should be constructed with your standard team players (PM, tech, change, exec sponsor, etc.), but with international experience. You should also consider including colleagues from impacted regions/business units, someone from your HR/Diversity and Inclusion function to share perspective and best practices, and translators for your communications. This team can be focused on planning for the global blind spots: language, culture, technology, infrastructure, bandwidth, etc., all while supporting the larger goals of the project.

3. How do you plan for differences in language?

If you are looking for full adoption across the organization, language is a key ingredient to success. We get a lot of questions about language and how important it is to the project. Imagine using a second language, if even available, at work every day, to try and get things done quickly and effectively. One can only guess at how frustrating of an experience that would be, on top of trying to learn a new way of doing a job. It is absolutely critical to take inventory of the languages used by your employees and plan for accommodating those needs. Perhaps you cannot do everything at once, and that will likely be the case, but you can design a phased roll-out approach and adjust expectations of the employees using the new tools accordingly.

4. Are there international laws or regulations preventing teams from using the planned capabilities?

Regardless of your goals, chances are the project will ultimately impact how someone does their job. It is important to take inventory of these job changes, their specific impacts to employees and investigate country-specific laws or regulations pertaining to these changes. For example: in many European countries, identity and privacy laws are regulated differently than the United States, and as a result, impacts how social tools can be used. One area of the project that we recommend clients pay special attention to is when business and technology requirements are being formed. Taking the requirements, outlining their impacts and completing the due diligence of understanding the country-by-country rules and regulations will really pay-off. The earlier a project team can discuss country-specific needs, the easier it will be to address.

5. How is culture different by location, team, or even leader?

A general practice we recommend including in any large transformational program is to complete an impact and culture assessment. Through this process we look at the vision, solution design, organizational impacts (by people, process, and technology) and map how behaviors, expectations, and structures will need to change as a result. In the case of a global change, we recommend going one step further to take note of important culture considerations by location and function. The way we approach a change in Japan is going to look very different from one in Australia. Be sure to spend time getting educated on general business norms by country, and find additional context related to your organization through stakeholder interviews.

Every organization is evolving their business to meet the fast pace of change in today’s economy. If you find yourself driving an initiative that has a global audience, addressing some of these questions will be key. Anything you can do to develop a global change plan and avoid blind spots, will certainly pay off for your project and colleagues around the world. 

Carlee Wolfe is a Senior Leadership Development & Change Enablement Manager at Rightpoint. Follow Carlee on Twitter and LinkedIn.