- Born and raised in Japan, with advanced studies in the U.S., France and Spain, Mary Yoko Brannen has worked as a cross-cultural consultant for over 25 years to mostly Fortune 100 companies.
- Specializes in helping multinational firms realize their global strategic initiatives by aligning and integrating critical internal organizational resources. Advises management on developing knowledge-sharing architectures, creating a global language strategy, leveraging bicultural boundary-spanners, and careful selection and deployment of global teams.
- Holds the Jarislowsky East Asia (Japan) Chair of Cross-Cultural Management at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business and holds a Visiting Professorship of Strategy and Management at INSEAD. She is a founding director of the Institute for Global Learning and Innovation.
- Serves as Deputy Editor of the Journal of International Business Studies – the highest ranked journal in the field of international business.
- As a researcher, internationally recognized as an expert in ethnomethodology and qualitative studies of complex cultural organizational phenomena. Current research includes knowledge-sharing across distance and differentiated contexts; also, directing a global research project focusing on biculturals and people of mixed cultural origins as the new workplace demographic.
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Global Strategic Audits - Making the Most of Your Global Footprint
- Too often, companies expand internationally without a strategic plan around how they'll maintain their corporate identity.
Companies start growing internationally to expand their market reach. They get to a place where they’ve expanded into a number of different markets, but haven't been strategic about how they’re going to grow their global footprint. The result is that they lose their corporate identity. It could be a branding issue, or it could be an issue of clients not understanding what they represent. That can dilute their core competencies. When expanding into global markets, companies need to think about global integration and ensuring their core competencies and their organizational culture are consistent across their global operations. A strategic audit helps make this happen.
- When expanding internationally, companies can lose focus or become complacent in their home market.
- People and companies often can't see themselves clearly in their own context. That can result in complacency, which can negatively affect a business. Managers at subsidiaries are more likely to be able to see problems at headquarters, and their input can be critical to preventing complacency. This happened at Tesco, one of the world's largest retailers, when it expanded into markets outside of the United Kingdom. It discovered it had a great deal to learn from the Asian managers about the success of its growth in that market.
- Companies are deploying talent poorly, not recognizing the value of experience versus culture.
- This is often a problem when it comes to deploying a multicultural workforce. For example, a person whose background is Japanese may have been born and raised in the U.S. and never set foot in Japan. On the other hand, someone who was born in the U.S. may have extensive experience working in Japan and would be better suited to help the company understand and grow its market in that country.
- Strategies for maximizing a company's global footprint fail because there is not sufficient buy-in from top management.
- Top executives need to take advantage of the skills and knowledge of their managers in different locations, setting aside any differences that may arise, for the betterment of the organization. For a knowledge-sharing architecture to work, organizations need to make the most of their global footprint. Buy-in from the top is critical.
- Companies may recognize differences across cultures, but not within cultures.
- Not all words have the same meaning across cultures, especially when translated from another language. For example, "bonus" in Japan isn't something extra you receive from your employer. In Japan, "bonus" is something you negotiate when you are hired at a company and it's expected twice a year. There are many examples like this. Not recognizing it can create misunderstandings.
- Global businesses don't appreciate that there needs to be a language strategy: That includes having more than just English as their lingua franca.
- In today's global market, it may make sense for more companies to operate in a few different languages, such as Chinese, Spanish and English, depending on what markets it serves. Creating a corporate dictionary that can be used across the global organization is one way to address these potential issues. For example, Tesco created "The Jargon Buster," and asked its employees to have a shared understanding of 93 words, as opposed to the whole English vocabulary.
- In mergers and acquisitions, companies don't know how to manage or avoid the pitfalls of cultural challenges.
- When conducting mergers and acquisitions (M&A) companies are often focused on the business synergies and the potential revenue growth. They should also spend time looking at how they can best integrate cultures of the organizations. An audit can help companies see potential cultural, language and other challenges when combining organizations. This is part of learning from the periphery.