“Company based in Country A. Headquarters is in Country A. Manager is native of Country A. Manager is working in Country B, however. And customers are in Country B.
Headquarters makes product changes without input from countries. Customers in Country B do not like the product changes. Danger of losing customers. Manager escalates with Headquarters.
Response: “Customers in Country B are much smaller than those in Country A. Nothing can be done for customers in Country B. Manager has to accept.” Result: Country B loses customers.
How can Manager in Country B best address this problem?”
First, let’s take a look at the context.
Headquarters has their goals. They are under pressure, too. They have to see the world from a global perspective, to see the big picture. Their goals are corporate goals. Among them maintaining consistency, control, overview. Across the regions.
Keep in mind that headquarters seldom understands the regions. And how could they? Headquaters staff typically have little to no experience working in a region. It is difficult for them to see things from the regional (country) perspective.
Often it is not a question of willingness to listen, but an ability to understand. So be patient with your colleagues in headquarters. They are asked to deal with all of the regions. Multilateral relationships. A complex task.
In one respect the regions have it a bit easier. They focus on their country only. And they interface with headquarters only. It is a bilateral relationship. However, they have to hit their numbers. They’re under pressure. Understandably they want headquarters to help, and not hinder, them.
Keep in mind that the regions seldom understand headquarters. And how could they? Regional staff typically has little to no experience working in headquarters. It is difficult for them to see things from the headquarter (global) perspective.
Often it is not a question of willingness to listen, but ability to understand. So be patient with colleagues in the countries. They are asked to bring in the business. They pay the salaries of colleagues in headquarters.
Tension is healthy
Tension between headquarters and countries is natural, unavoidable. It is reality. And reality is always good because it’s all we have. But the tension itself is good, positive, a source of strength. If, however, acknowledged, addressed, understood, and managed cooperatively.
Headquarters can, and should, constantly learn from the regions. A whole is made up of its components. No components, no whole. The components are the key to success.
The regions, on the other hand, can learn much and benefit from headquarters. HQ keeps them informed about overall strategy. The countries benefit from approaches which HQ has harmonized and streamlined.
Headquarters and the regions are dependent on each other. Neither cannot succeed without the other. They have no other choice but to enter into, maintain and deeper their dialogue, constantly.
Dialogue is a must
And that conversation is always based on – cannot work without – first understanding eachother.
Headquarters has no other choice but to constantly strive to understand the business in the individual countries. The countries have no other choice but to constantly work on understanding what drives headquarters, how HQ tries to hold the whole thing together.
And that dialogue involves: Who speaks with whom. About what. Why. With what concrete influence on strategies, processes, decision making. And a whole host of other questions.