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The Competitive Advantage of a Global Manager from the Perspective of Italian Companies

By Alessia di Lacovo

The Italian way compared to corporate Goliath.

We all remember the era dominated by the myth of globalization. A global market, universal and universally appealing brands, the Anglo-Saxon multinational model representing a widely imitated benchmark. Contrasting this corporate Goliath, “our” very Italian entrepreneurial way still persists, with its unparalleled mix of brilliant creativity and excellence of execution. Very focused on technical aspects and product contents, but less oriented to consider structural and organizational aspects as relevant. Very much product driven rather than market driven. Very local and lean rather than global and matrix.

There is a significant common denominator to these two faces of the same coin, these two worlds apparently destined to never meet: the need to identify, exploit, and develop a global management.

The 2008 world crisis still affects Italy in terms of loss of competitiveness of Italian companies, and one of its more subtle by products is a dangerous tendency to narrow the vision of many companies and professionals to a tactical horizon, to running the day-by-day business. is is absolutely understandable: only a few brave or innovative players could afford a strategic frame of mind when the visibility of the future was very limited. The common sense was “Let’s start by making sure we will all be up and running next month. What’s in two years we will see when we get there“.

Priority is to survive as a company

Under a tactical perspective, you work with what you have. Any idea of developing one’s structure or resources is not a priority for your business, and even when it is grudgingly implemented, it better have a short-term ROI: in other words, the cost for the training or the consultancy should smoothly convert into a turnover increase in the next quarter. What is behind numbers matters only to a certain extent, the priority is to survive as a company.

The creation of a cosmopolitan metropolis

And yet…something has changed in the meanwhile. Globalization, and its reassuring and levelling standardization, has turned into internationalization: new Countries have stepped up as key players in the business scene, while claiming all their specificity. More and more often companies need to manage their business across several countries, to work with international teams, to open subsidiaries or plants in new markets. Ever more M&A or Joint Venture dynamics expose us to new ways of working, which require the skills to adapt to and to read scenarios, but also a different awareness of the diversities involved. e “global village” has become a cosmopolitan metropolis with a hectic urban layout, making it difficult to orient oneself.

We nd ourselves working with Morocco, and feeling incredibly frustrated because planning a meeting two months ahead seems to be more complicated than watering the Sahara desert.

We need to present a new project to our Japanese partners, but after a manic preparation and an intercontinental flight, once we get there we find out the decision somehow seems to be already made. We award a Mexican employee for his performance with a celebratory toast in front of the entire team, convinced we are going in the right direction towards keeping a talented resource…and we see him feeling uncomfortable as we have offended him.

We need to manage the accounting team in Sweden, with focus on a close control on processes and deadlines and…well, it is a self-management most of the time, and we have no idea how to interact with a team that appears to have a life and will of its own.

It’s not easy to manage across countries

When the manager operates on a Regional level (EMEA, APAC, LATAM and suchlike) or across several countries, the scenario becomes much more complex. If you have had experiences like coordinating from Italy the logistics in Poland with the sales office

in Belgium or Singapore; align production in India with the product development team in Germany; working with the Spanish and French divisions under a Dutch HQ, you have a good sense of how misunderstandings are the norm, and of how often you feel like the way forward is based on trial and error, with little control over the final result.

A functional global organization

A really global organization recognizes its diversity capital and converts it into an asset. It has common internal structures and processes, but does not cage in its subsidiaries imposing from the top a sole way of working…ending up shaking the head disconsolately when our colleagues in Singapore have a hard time working by MBO!

From diversity to asset: Work of the global Manager

To operate this conversion from diversity to asset, managers need to develop the skill to manage businesses and people on a global level, understanding the differences and knowing when best to use them according to the objective. e global manager does not only need to work in the best way in China, India, UAE, but to manage effectively the structure and resources in all those countries and many more. is, in turn, means not only interacting effectively with multiple countries simultaneously, but also to ensure that people based in those countries interact just as effectively between themselves. It means governing the delicate balance between centrifugal forces based on a common corporate DNA with shared logics and best practices, and centripetal forces of local autonomies and specifics. Is “bipolarism” is present in both multinational and entrepreneurial environments.

Create a profound cultural awareness

You do not need to be a Superman to act in this direction: a good starting point would be to develop a 360° cultural awareness to interpret and adapt your actions and managerial skills not to a single country, but to the objectives and diversities you are facing at the present moment. Only in this way will the manager be able to deliver results for the company, generate customer satisfaction, maintain his reports’ motivation, negotiate effectively with his suppliers and continue growing in a personal and professional way.

The Hofstede model and organizational effectiveness

A framework model that others such a complete interpretation exists, and it is Hofstede’s model: over more than 40 years of research, Dutch anthropologist Geert Hofstede, ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 20 most influential business thinkers of the world, has developed a comparative cultural analysis model based on six dimensions. This model has been successfully applied to organizational effectiveness since 30 years.

Organizational Culture – a powerful engine

The cultural dimension represents until now an extremely under-rated business aspect, or even considered of little relevance to the corporate world. It is actually a powerful engine and a significant competitive advantage in a world where, in order to be successful in aggressive or saturated markets, goodwill or the “copy and paste approach” (“as I do in Italy, so I do elsewhere”) are not enough, and can much limit the results that would be possible to achieve. The amateurish “business tourist” approach that has prevailed until now

is not effective anymore to be competitive in the current market.

Global Managers enhance performance

The new, international orientation of companies permeates every sector, dimension and management model. Companies need to adjust to this new dimension in order to be successful, and effectively achieve their business objectives. e opportunity for them is to

identify and train Global Managers to further enhance their performance.

Performance enhancement will be achieved when the Global Manager creates a cohesive organizational identity, which crosses the geographical boundaries, at the same time recognizes, and supports the cultural differences.

Through Access Conscious Performance and the ability to effectively integrate differences in the workplaces, the Global Managers and their companies will succeed to develop a corporate environment that is both functional for its resources and profitable on the international market.

“Global Managers and their companies will succeed to develop a corporate environment that is both functional for its resources and profitable on the international market.”
Alessia Di lacovo
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