In my career, I’ve been lucky to work with a number of entrepreneurial companies on the fast track toward impacting people around the world with a game-changing product or service.
These companies often have aggressive goals for international growth: Projects with high content volumes, short TAT and many target markets. Structural changes to the program, such as new tools or processes. Innovative new tactics.
I’ve noticed the best results among these rising-star organizations usually depend on a strong trifecta of roles, each of which embodies a specific set of qualities which serve as critical success factors. I’ll detail these for each role in a three-part series of blog posts this month.
Let’s kick off the series by examining what makes a successful Globalization Manager. Titles may vary, though the role should sound familiar — the person who owns globalization as a business objective and runs the localization program. In a rising-star organization, that’s usually a small team — maybe just a single manager and a six- or low-seven-figure budget.
The globalization manager plays a pivotal role in setting the direction, the goals, the tactics, and establishing clear communication internally among the company’s stakeholders, and externally with program vendors.
The globalization manager needs to investigate and prioritize requirements, processes, systems and stakeholders throughout the organization. Are you the type of person who can bribe an engineer with coffee and learn how the development team has implemented Agile? Can you find out what makes your most passionate global stakeholders tick? The right questions are more important than knowing all the answers, so ask away and then apply what you learn from others. Your early enthusiasm for deeply understanding others’ needs will facilitate relationships with other teams that will prove indispensible in the future.
Rising stars rarely have the benefit of a mature localization infrastructure that’s fully optimized. That’s what the globalization manager is there to build! That means the globalization manager must be comfortable prioritizing goals and requirements based on constrained resources — while looking for creative ways to accomplish even more through innovation or even horse-trading. Creative practices such as A/B testing and in-market research groups can be developed for the international versions of products often more easily than with the original product team. These tactics can greatly improve the product’s global acceptance.
By which I mean borderline arrogant. The globalization manager must have knowledge and experience, but also the infectious confidence that helps other stakeholders feel comfortable turning over the reins. Trust is necessary for a stakeholder to hand over a product for someone to prepare for release in new markets: your confidence builds that trust.
By which I mean not afraid of failures or setbacks. Making mistakes is a crucial part of true innovation, but many corporate cultures unintentionally weed out good risk-takers with conservative HR practices. In Silicon Valley the culture is less averse to failure than other areas of the world, but regardless of location, fearlessness can be the factor that preserves you through the tough times.
Excellent Communication Skills
The globalization manager directs the relationship between the company and the program vendors, so clear verbal and written communication skills are crucial. The ability to communicate up to management will shape the organization’s view of the value of globalization.
Localization has so many built-in points of possible failure — communication in non-native languages, pressure to achieve rapid turnaround — that it’s important the globalization manager feels responsible for the program’s results.
Willing to Make Waves
Usually, around the time a rising star hires a globalization manager, the company has had enough success to justify expanding the program with internal headcount. Change is challenging for everyone to get used to, especially any stakeholders who had a vested interest in keeping things as they were. The globalization manager must be willing to assess the situation and share candid thoughts and remedies with colleagues and partners, even if they’re seemingly at odds.
By which I mean willing to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes. Entrepreneurial organizations rarely have the full complement of staff and resources required to do everything “right” and do it “once.” Without the globalization manager’s diehard commitment to see it through, many a localization program would go off the rails.
Seth Godin, the best-selling author and marketing genius, makes the point that you must get the product out. There will always be 10 percent more that can be done; there will always be one last quality pass to perform; but the best get their work out the door. This action is what the globalization manager was hired for and there is no greater feeling of accomplishment. Be careful: it is addictive.
These traits give the globalization manager the momentum to introduce the product or service globally, and then drive the globalization manager to improve and optimize the process. Often the success or heartache of product localization for a company is in the globalization manager’s hands. Therefore, it is key that they either have or develop these success factors.
Tune in next week for enterprise critical success factors in rising-star organizations. In the meantime, have you been part of a fast-growing organization on its way to new markets? What other traits do you consider critical success factors for a globalization manager?