This topic came to mind from a recentÂ conversation I had with the branch manager of a global company. She was facingÂ a challenge with her COO; he had requested that certain functions and rolesÂ needed to participate in her monthly branch meeting. Now for their otherÂ branches the number of people present in the meeting would be around 7 or so.Â In her case it was almost 30 people.
There are two things about thisÂ conversation that surprised me. The first was the manager and the COO were having an argument over the number of people that should be present in theÂ meeting rather than discussing the purpose of the meeting. Once youâ€™veÂ determined the purpose, from there you can figure out who needs to be there toÂ achieve the purpose/desired outcomes. The second is why would a COO go to thatÂ level of detail in a globally based organization to dictate who needs to beÂ present in which meeting, rather than giving direction on outcomes that need toÂ be achieved and being open to mediating locally as circumstances require.
There is a subtle, but importantÂ difference between standardization and harmonization. Standardization is about conformity. For example, there is some beauty in the fact that McDonaldâ€™s usesÂ Heinz as its ketchup supplier all around the world. (Well I think itâ€™s niceÂ that youâ€™re guaranteed to get the same taste of ketchup no matter where youÂ are, which is nice because you can get comfort from that familiarity). Itâ€™sÂ also in McDonaldâ€™s interest to standardize their ketchup supplier because itÂ reinforces their brand.
Harmonization is about consistency. ToÂ me, this subtle difference indicates that when you harmonize you focus more onÂ common goals and outcomes. In this case an executive board member could provideÂ the outcome and frameworks and allow these to be adapted to local needs andÂ market opportunities.
If youâ€™re a global company, it doesnâ€™tÂ necessarily mean that you are the same everywhere. Now this isnâ€™t to say thatÂ companies can choose an either/or approach. Both can exist and what matters isÂ considering which approach is appropriate/necessary for the circumstances. ForÂ example, Iâ€™m not sure weâ€™d be so happy if the International AviationÂ Association let countries select their own ways of directing planes; the riskÂ is too high for something to go wrong.
I think all this again comes back toÂ the fact that leaders simply need to think and be conscious of the â€˜whyâ€™ behind their decisions/actions/approaches; essentially better considering the impact they will have. IÂ think this is a post Iâ€™ll have to come back to later as I can already see itÂ connected to several other questions/themes. One of these being how can we getÂ leaders to start thinking so they can manage the complexity present in a globalÂ organization in a way that truly builds a world-class company?