In global economy :
What must Sri Lankan organizations do?
Sri Lankan organizations must be able to connect
with and build close personal relationships with decision makers
in the local culture. In hiring leaders and managers to compete
in this new economy effectively, companies must look for
individuals who thrive on team work and global collaboration.
In the new evolving global knowledge economy, especially during a
downturn or severe economic crisis, all organizations must realize that
to survive and prosper they must develop a global mindset within,
examine everything they have done in the past and redefine their
organizations. They cannot stand still. How they did business yesterday
will no longer work tomorrow.
This is what I see in my work around the world. The worst is still to
come, as the new American President has reminded us. Several of the
world’s leading thinkers at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos
agreed that the world as we knew it no longer exists.
Consider the coming impact on Sri Lanka’s most critical foreign
exchange earners: apparel, tea, foreign remittances from migrant workers
and tourism. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but every
organization must be prepared.
Whoever imagined six months ago that the stock value of the world’s
largest and arguably most prestigious bank, Citibank, would drop to USD2
a share and become almost a penny stock?
That the world’s most admired and profitable car company, Toyota,
would declare it’s first loss (according to CNN on January 29, 2009) of
a staggering USD4.2 billion in 70 years? In addition to the world’s
principal economy, the USA, the three other giants, Britain, China and
Japan, are in severe crisis. Layoffs on an unprecedented scale globally,
the worst in the last 50 years, have just begun.
China has laid off over 20 million migrant workers, the entire
population of Sri Lanka, Malaysia or Australia! No country or
organization is immune.
Sri Lankan organizations, both Government and business, must now
understand national cultures and the ways of doing business in the
Several of the most admired organizations in the world derive 50 per
cent or more of their profits from markets outside their own countries.
All Sri Lankan organizations must learn from this.
For simplicity, I have selected five competencies, in addition to a
deep knowledge of their business, which leaders and managers in Sri
Lankan organizations must possess to effectively function in the new
Understanding other cultures is the key to global success in the new
global economy. This is also critical for “thinking globally and
strategically”. The world’s greatest brands have paid a tremendous price
for overlooking this very basic fact.
Walmart, which has succeeded in China, struggled to “connect” with
Japanese consumers. Coca Cola had a steep learning curve in Japan. India
remains a great challenge.
In the world of mergers and acquisitions, the clash of national and
organizational cultures of the German Daimler and the American Chrysler,
was a principal reason for the failure of Daimler-Chrysler. Even in the
world of international relations, understanding the other culture is
It is critical that organizations develop cross-cultural competence -
the ability to understand, respect, listen and learn from other cultures
- in every one of their leaders and managers. In several cultures, not
everything is expressed in words. All of this must be incorporated into
the hiring process.
In most of the world, business and international relations are based
on personal relationships. Connections or “guanxi” as the Chinese call
it, are critical. Leaders and managers of Sri Lankan organizations must
be able to connect with and build close personal relationships with
decision makers in the local culture.
A Sri Lankan leader or manager can have all the technical and
financial expertise, but if he or she does not have the patience and
competence to establish and develop genuine personal relationships and
trust, the individual and organization will not succeed in the local
context. Yes, patience.
This must be factored into the hiring process. Can one teach
patience? Some people are just patient by nature and some are not. I
don’t think you can teach it in a business school.
In many parts of the world, western contracts and agreements mean
little or nothing. Trust is key. One’s word is often the bond that makes
English is the language of global business. But Sri Lankan leaders
and managers must understand, that a knowledge of the local language in
which a company wants to do business goes a very long way. It is amazing
what can happen when a local national sees that the “foreigner” is
attempting to speak in the local language.
Multilingualism is an asset that an organization should look for in
its search for talent. Given the nature of the new global economy and
the major players in it, a knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin, Japanese,
Spanish, English and a major Indian language can give one a real edge.
Little is accomplished in the new global economy without
collaboration across national boundaries. In hiring leaders and managers
to effectively compete in this new economy, companies must look for
individuals who thrive on team work and global collaboration.
In the 24/7 world where time zones really don’t exist, virtual teams
are running the world! Facebook, Skype, Google Talk, Yahoo Instant
Messenger and the internet have revolutionized the world of global
Men and women are getting to know each other without even meeting
physically, and collaborating on tasks and projects, across boundaries.
There are no age, gender or racial barriers in this new world of global
What is demanded is the ability to solve problems, get things done
and sell products and services anytime, anywhere, new leadership and new
In the final analysis, everything has to be sold.
To be truly effective in the 24/7 time-zoneless world, companies
should hire leaders and managers who are above all terrific marketers
and sales people.
Nothing happens in any organization anywhere unless a product or
service is sold. No one gets paid.
Listening to customers everywhere on this planet, bonding with them
and helping them and employees achieve their dreams, is what
distinguishes the winners and losers.
Financial, supply chain and technology systems must exist to focus
totally on the customer.
Remember the words of the father of management, Peter Drucker,
decades ago: “The purpose of a business is to create a customer”.
Little has changed. Today’s challenge is to retain and multiply them.
Only the right leadership and talent within every organization with the
above competencies, among others, can take a company to where it should
be in the new global economy. We are in unchartered territory.
The writer is the Founder/Chairman, Center for Global Leadership