Integrating cultural tendencies to achieve synergies on international projects requires a goal-oriented focus. The practices below help shift the emphasis from partner preferences to the unique needs and goals of the international venture:
#1: Sacrifice Your Leverage
To ensure a goal-based culture, the partner with greater leverage (a customer, for example) must put aside this advantage in the name of outcomes. Forcing one partner to do most of the accommodating results in production inefficiencies and reduced employee motivation and fails to address the unique needs and conditions of the joint project.
#2: Prioritize Goals
Project goals, rather than either side’s preferences, should shape a collaboration’s policies and processes. Partners should consider the resources and constraints that shape their approach to business and how they differ from those of the collaboration. Identifying factors that are unique to the project—and different from either parent—will help collaborators draw on practices from each one that will serve it well.
#3: Respect—But Don’t Worship—Local Practices
Firms that gain overseas employees in an international expansion may inherit policies and practices that differ from, and even conflict with, headquarters’ values. At the same time, headquarters policies don’t always translate well into new cultural contexts.
To decide what to keep and what to change, firms should conduct a cultural assessment of the local environment. They should ask about local practices, pinpoint the systems and processes associated with them, and identify the values that drive them. Understanding the ecosystem of business behind local practices can help management determine which ones should be encouraged and which must be replaced.
#4 View Culture as an Asset
A company acquiring a successful firm to gain access to new markets or customers should think of the acquired firm’s corporate culture as a significant, although intangible, asset. To avoid dismantling the systems and processes that made it successful in the first place, the acquiring company should consider how the company’s values and policies have contributed to its ability to serve the market. Discussing the possible results of changed policies on the acquisition’s productivity, quality, and customer relations can help separate structures and processes that should be preserved from those that must be changed to better integrate with parent culture.