When a certain U.S. multinational corporation sought to adopt a global policy on employee mobility, it convened a yearlong symposium with representatives from units worldwide. Through a format that encouraged brainstorming and in-depth discussion, a consensus gradually emerged that enabled executives to reduce mobility classifications from eight to two. One category, the expatriate assignment package, encompassed managers who agreed to a company-requested posting of two or more years; it included 23 core elements that were standard. The other category, the international assignment package, covered employees who were assigned to a position for less than two years or requested an international posting; that had 13 core elements and left the other 10 adjustable to local situations. Both the policies themselves and the process used to develop them were well received abroad.
In another U.S. multinational, however, a task force of U.S. employees from different levels and functions drafted a major revision of work-force policies. The draft was discussed in several managerial forums, and a detailed questionnaire solicited the opinions of all U.S. personnel. Corporate executives considered the final product, which reduced the number of policies from 120 to 10, a notable success. Unfortunately, the process included little input from overseas. Instead, headquarters presented the results to all geographic units as a fait accompli. A company executive later commented, “International participation was an afterthought.” The policies and the process were not well received abroad.
Both companies had progressive reputations. Why then did they approach international involvement in such different ways? A corporate global mind-set was the critical difference: The first company showed it, whereas the second did not. We define a global mind-set as the ability to develop and interpret criteria for business performance that are not dependent on the assumptions of a single country, culture or context and to implement those criteria appropriately in different countries, cultures and contexts.1 The global mind-set is a critical component of globalization. And as often noted, the truly globalized corporation is more a mind-set than a structure.2
Getting to a corporate global mind-set requires individual managers to demonstrate a glocal mentality, which features three components.3 First, think globally; recognize when it is beneficial to create a consistent global standard. Second, think locally: The process of becoming “truly global … means deepening the company’s understanding of local and cultural differences.&