Too little — or too much — attention from head office executives can cause problems in a company’s global operations.
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How much of their attention should a company’s executives give to its international operations? To study the question of executives’ global attention, we interviewed and surveyed senior executives in 135 multinational companies over a five-year period. While subsidiary managers can and often do pay much attention to international events, our research focused on the attention of head office managers — such as CEOs, COOs, senior vice presidents and general managers — who control the levers of global strategy. The companies we studied were all publicly listed, had extensive international operations and were all based in one of six countries that, collectively, account for approximately half of the world’s foreign direct investment expenditures: the United States, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan.
At an aggregate level, global attention consists of the time and mental effort that a group of senior executives directs to a company’s international activities or its global environment.