Global Operations

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Rethinking the East Asian Leadership Gap

Many western multinationals have a tough time finding local talent in East Asia — a problem that global companies originating in East Asia don’t seem to face. One problem: The cultural values and expectations of those doing the hiring and those seeking the jobs are at odds.

Revisiting the Logic of Being Global

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The state of the multinational and how “the world is losing its taste for global businesses” is the subject of a recent cover story in The Economist titled “The Retreat of the Global Company.” For many multinationals, the article notes, the case for global integration has been hurt by falling profits, lower returns on capital, and increasing pressures from governments looking to protect local jobs and tax revenue.

From the Archives: How to Reshore Manufacturing Successfully

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The Trump administration has an aggressive stance about finding new American manufacturing jobs, which could pressure some companies to consider bringing overseas operations back to the U.S. But the task is complex. “While the macroeconomic data on comparative labor and factor costs may be compelling, the actual process of reshoring — bringing assembly work back from abroad — is hard work,” wrote Harvard Business School’s Willy C. Shih, in a 2014 article in MIT Sloan Management Review.

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Does Your Supply Chain Risk Management Strategy Hold Water?

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Water’s deceptive abundance and low cost in many countries is not yet promoting responsible management within many companies. That needs to change, argues Alexis Bateman, director of the MIT Responsible Supply Chain Lab. “Increasingly stressed water resources represent a major threat to the integrity of global supply chains,” she writes. Mitigating or eliminating these risks will require action on multiple fronts.

A Fresh Take on Supply Chain Innovation

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For PepsiCo, entering the natural beverage markets of coconut water and smoothies meant developing new risk-management practices. In the coconut water business, “lead times are longer and supply is more variable than in PepsiCo’s traditional beverage supply chain,” write Tim Rowell of PepsiCo and James B. Rice Jr. of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. “The company has had to build enough inventory to minimize stock outs — without causing excessive losses through obsolescence.”

Harnessing the Best of Globalization

Globalization offers significant opportunities, yet most companies approach key decisions haphazardly. Although the complexity of globalization means managers rarely can fully analyze a global business opportunity before they need to act, the basic tensions in global business models are straightforward. A simple analysis of global ventures along these dimensions can help entrepreneurs develop clearer expectations and decision-making processes.

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Developing New Products in Emerging Markets

How can multinational companies turn ideas from their emerging-market subsidiaries into global products? A successful innovation developed by Cisco’s R&D unit in India offers practical insights into how to make that process work effectively. Key enablers in the Cisco case included well-developed R&D capabilities at a company center in Bangalore, a large market opportunity, and the support of executive champions. The process also demanded clarity about what product to develop, and how — including working on a shoestring budget.

Fighting the “Headquarters Knows Best” Syndrome

Belief that headquarters knows best can be damaging to the long-term success of a company operating in global markets. One company’s solution: a decision to operate out of dual headquarters, in the Netherlands and China. “No longer a prisoner of its home base, the top team was viewed as mobile, agile, and geographically dispersed,” write Cyril Bouquet et al. “The company was able to make more effective resource-allocation decisions informed by diverse thinking and divergent points of view.”

Preparing for Disruptions Through Early Detection

In an adaption from his new book The Power of Resilience, MIT’s Yossi Sheffi explains how companies are learning to more quickly detect unanticipated problems that can interfere with their global operations. Sheffi looks at how leading companies are using an array of detection and response techniques, from sensors to supply chain control towers. These tools are helping companies become more resilient to disruptions such as hurricanes, the discovery of product contamination, and political events.

Developing Effective Intellectual Property Partnerships

All too often, companies from emerging and established economies talk past each other when discussing intellectual property. The result is that often fail to consider all their options for a productive collaboration. The authors detail five ways that companies can structure such IP partnerships, and say that it’s important for a company to choose the one that’s the best fit for the project: “The choice of IP business models is a strategic decision, not merely a legal matter.”

How Global Is Your C-Suite?

New research shows that the vast majority of the world’s largest corporations are run by CEOs native to the country in which the company is headquartered. Does that matter? Some studies indicate that national diversity in the top management team can be associated with better performance. What’s more, the presence — or absence — of nonnative executives in a company’s top management team can send a signal to employees outside the home country: It indicates the long-term career prospects for foreign middle managers already in the company as well as for potential hires.

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From Risk to Resilience: Learning to Deal With Disruption

In a volatile, global economy, supply chains have become increasingly vulnerable. Supply chain practices designed to keep costs low in a stable business environment can increase risk levels during disruptions. But companies can cultivate resilience to unexpected disruptions by understanding their vulnerabilities and developing specific capabilities to compensate for them. The authors identify and detail 16 capabilities companies can use to respond to particular vulnerability patterns.

The Perils of Attention From Headquarters

Visits from corporate headquarters to operations in markets such as China are often seen as overly time-consuming and unproductive. According to one China country manager of a European luxury-goods group, “Not only do they come often, but they want to spend more time, and they all come on weekends! For my team, it means that nearly every weekend, there is somebody to entertain.” The authors offer a set of recommendations for healthier dynamics between corporate headquarters and affiliates.

Creating More Resilient Supply Chains

Global supply chains bring increased risks of disruption from events such as natural disasters. But by understanding and planning for such risks, Cisco Systems improved its own supply chain resilience. Its five-step process: identify strategic priorities; map the vulnerabilities of supply chain design; integrate risk awareness into the product and value chain; monitor resiliency; and watch for events. John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO, calls this type of risk management “a key differentiator.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ming Xia.

Protecting Intellectual Property in China

“By operating in China, overseas businesses expose their intellectual property to risk,” write Andreas Schotter (Ivey Business School at Western University) and Mary Teagarden (Thunderbird School of Global Management). “But deciding to stay away entails the even greater risk of missing opportunities to acquire knowledge that is critical for competitiveness across a wide range of global markets.” To protect their IP, companies need to control and manage their IP vulnerabilities proactively.

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Reducing the Risk of Supply Chain Disruptions

Most managers know that they should protect their supply chains from serious and costly disruptions — but comparatively few take action. The dilemma is that solutions to reduce risk mean little unless they are evaluated against their impact on cost efficiency. To protect their supply chains from major disruptions, companies can build resilience by segmenting or regionalizing supply chains, and limit losses in performance by avoiding too much centralization of resources.

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