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The Globalization of Business and its Leaders Published: Sunday, September 2, 2007 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

We are all living increasingly global lives.  But leaders, general managers and directors within manufacturing plants are more global than most.  As the new century dawns we are beginning to see and understand the importance and the challenges of the process known as globalization, and particularly the way it impacts the lives of leaders, executives and professionals involved in the manufacturing business. 

Globalization refers to the growing influence exerted at the local, national, and regional levels by financial, economic, market, political, social and cultural processes that are international or global in scope. The game is one of manufacturing products and services that comply with requirements of international market standards.  This means that the way we work is changing very fast due to an increase in the permeability of traditional boundaries, including those around countries, economies, industries and manufacturing operations.  This new reality has been accelerated by factors in the international business environment.

The day-to-day reality of a global manufacturing business involves more interactions and relationship between leaders and people at headquarters and at different parts of the world.  A new benchmark for leaders and executives is that they will have to spend around 60% of their time outside their organizations, exploring business opportunities.  A new management vocabulary is emerging and these leaders are being called boundary-spanning managers and professional constantly working with advancing the future potential of their operations.  Thus, the understanding that leaders had to be always in the “floor” (concept that is withering away in the new network-technological operation) is quickly banishing, for new professionals who are always traveling and gravitating around corporate power and decision-making centers.   The knowledge society and the learning corporation are creating a new definition of the globalization of leaders, becoming all knowledge workers responsible for what they are, know and do.

In the manufacturing business today, leaders constantly travel overseas among people from different parts of the corporation and among people from other cultures and other people.  Leaders are always speaking with other people on international calls, and heavily correspond with them by email.  (Everyday around 1.2 million puertorricans are accessing the Internet and around half of them are having some kind of global connectivity).  This trend is inexorable.

This globalization of leaders creates a new and mayor dilemma for those who work in a global manufacturing business:  having some kind of physical visibility or presence within their operations, while spending most of their productive time at the corporate and global level.  This is an aspect most overlooked by a traditional thinking of what is management all about.

The conclusion is clear.  Whether is comfortable or not, we need global leaders who are willing to work outside the traditional walls of their operations in order to advance the best interest and alternative futures for their organizations.  After all we should remember that a multi-national manufacturing corporation is operation on all global market stage and will be influenced by decisions taken at the corporate and international levels.  Leaders have to be always alert to these new decision-making dynamics.

So how is this dilemma of local presence and global work for leaders resolve?  By designing team-based organizations.  It a matter of making a mayor commitment to flattening their structures, and creating truly empowered people and teams to produce products and deliver services more competitive to customers and stakeholders.  This new type of management demands a fundamental change in the design and practice of the organization itself, and in the way to manage people, overpassing the paradigm of be like me, do it my way and incorporating the team-based organization where everyone is responsible and allow contributing to make it prosper in the 21st century.  The new design sequence is: 1) Identify the work teams. 2) Specify integration-coordination needs. 3) Clarify new management structure and roles. 4) Design integration processes. 5) Manage collective execution. The implementation process is the following. a) Identify new responsibilities and skills. b) Define scope of empowerment for individual members and team.  c) Develop support systems.

This new paradigm is being deployed as more is acknowledge about the globalization of businesses and its leaders.


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