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How Global Is Your Company’s DNA?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Transform your organization’s international reach with Inter-Cultural Intelligence

‘Conquering the world’ must include ‘globalizing your company DNA’!

I was talking to the senior executive team of a client about their global client base. They were working in just over 50 countries and I asked them: “Where would you like to serve clients?” They were quick to answer: “Everywhere! Wherever there is business to be had, we want to be there!” But when I asked the next question the room fell silent: “If you want to pursue business everywhere, is the DNA of your company global enough?”

After the weight of the question started to sink in, the room started to volunteer examples of issues they were facing in the countries they were already working in. Examples spoke of miscommunication, negotiations that misfired, sourcing global and local talent, local partnerships that were not what they expected, local supply issues and complex client challenges they had never dealt with before.

Although their business had gone global their DNA was still very local, resulting in stagnant global growth! The old phrase: “Corporate Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” had become a reality for them. As we discussed the subject further they started to realize that ‘conquering the world’ must include ‘globalizing your company DNA’!

How Global is Your Company DNA?

These days anybody can sell internationally! The internet, social media and companies like Alibaba and Amazon give you access to global customers and the ability to deliver to their doorstep. It becomes a different ballgame if you have to be on the ground in multiple geographies, operate across borders, engage local customers and suppliers, local authorities, localize your products and coordinate offices in multiple countries.

There is growing interest in what it takes to become truly global: able to adapt flexibly and operate with multicultural teams in locations around the world. To do this involves more than changing up product offerings and marketing strategy -- it means incorporating inter-cultural agility into the core of your business.

Changing Your Corporate DNA

In medical practice there is a phrase that is easily applicable to the question of changing your corporate DNA: “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice”. If you don’t know where you are today, you don’t know what needs to be changed to globalize your DNA!

This immediately brings up a tension: A company needs to stay true to their core values and (brand)identity while at the same time globalize their DNA to engage talent, customers, suppliers, client in all geographies! The challenge is: what do we want to zealously protect and what can we tweak locally or let go of altogether? Designing HR policies, employee handbooks and operational policies at HQ and then “shipping them out’ to all corners of the world will not work if you are serious about globalizing your company DNA.

At KnowledgeWorkx we believe that, ‘Corporate Culture is the sum-total of the expression of the thinking, speaking and acting of its contributors.’ In some cases this is reflective of policy & procedure but we have often seen that the day-to-day ‘thinking, speaking and acting’ is very different from company values, policies and procedures. This is specially true of companies that operate globally but have not intentionally globalized their DNA.

To guide an organization through globalizing their DNA - we use an expanded version of a model that was originally developed by Mr. Khoo from Singapore. The model has 6 C’s:

  • Core – Vision, Mission, Values and Goals

  • Capabilities – Products & Services, Strategic Planning & Action

  • Capacities – Structures, Processes and Systems

  • Competencies – Mindset, Skillset, Heart, and Habits

  • Customer Focus – Value Proposition, Internal & External Services

  • Culture – Environment formed by behaviors in the first 5 areas

When people think of the Core of a company they think of things like corporate values; and these are often used as a starting point. But employee behaviors in the areas of Capabilities, Capacities, Competencies, and Customer Focus are what flesh these out, and reveal if they have become our actual values.

Company Culture cannot be changed by focusing on changing the corporate culture. This might sound like an oxymoron but let me use an illustration from the world of sports. You cannot become an Olympic swimmer by focusing on that. You have to break it down into a comprehensive strategy that is holistic and long-term oriented. You will need to submit yourself to a disciplined journey that is well designed and broken down into incremental small steps. If you submit yourself to the journey you will become a better and better swimmer, maybe making it to Olympic level.

The same is true if you want to transform the culture of an organization; transformation it is shaped by what we do in the other five areas. Every change we intend to make needs to be vetted by the following question, “What impact will this have on the culture of our organization?” Aligning, changing and nurturing the behavior of the organization is at the core of globalizing the DNA of your organization.

This is why we use the ‘6C-model combined with our ICI framework to design corporate culture change initiatives. To globalize the DNA of an organization we also need to ensure that the changes include the on the ground realities of the current and future diversities of our talent, clients, suppliers and local markets.

Making Corporate DNA Global

In a multinational or multicultural company, people’s conceptions of corporate values and how these play out can vary widely. To lead in having this culturally-shaded discussion, we use elements from our Inter-Cultural Intelligence© Toolbox - particularly The Three Colors of Worldview© and 12 Dimension of Culture© .

As we work through the 6 C’s we are looking for behavior modifications that stay true to our values and brand, but also allow employees around the world to resonate and thrive in their local (cultural) environment.