Shrinking Cities


One of the biggest challenges for the world this century is how to accommodate the hundreds of millions of people who will flock to cities, especially in emerging economies. Coping with this human torrent will be fearsomely difficult but at least the problem is widely acknowledged. That is not true of another pressing urban dilemma: what to do with cities that are losing people.They are hardly unusual. Almost one in ten American cities is shrinking. So are more than a third of German ones and the number is growing. Although Japan’s biggest cities are thriving, large numbers of its smaller ones are collapsing. Several South Korean cities have begun to decline a trend that will speed up unless couples can somehow be persuaded to have more babies. Next will come China, where the force of rapid urbanisation will eventually be overwhelmed by the greater power of demographic contraction. China’s total urban population is expected to peak by mid-century; older industrial boom towns are already on a downward slope.

An abandoned street containing a rotting nursery or primary school is a sad sight. And declining cities have more than visual problems. Disused buildings deter investors and attract criminals; superfluous infrastructure is costly to maintain; ambitious workers may refuse to move to places where the potential clientele is shrinking. Where cities are economically self-sufficient, a smaller working population means a fragile base on which to balance hefty pension obligations. That is why Detroit went bust. So it is unsurprising that governments often try to shore up their crumbling smaller cities. Japan recently announced tax cuts for firms that are willing to move their headquarters out of thriving Tokyo. Office parks, art museums and tram lines have been built in troubled American and European cities, on the assumption that if you build it, people will come. For the most part, they will not. Worse, the attempt to draw workers back to shrinking cities is misconceived. People move from smaller to larger cities in countries like Germany and Japan because the biggest conurbations have stronger economies, with a greater variety of better-paying jobs. The technological revolution, which was once expected to overturn the tyranny of distance, has in fact encouraged workers to cluster together and share clever ideas. Britain’s productivity is pitiful these days (see article) but it is almost one-third higher in London than elsewhere.  Policies meant to counteract the dominance of big cities are not just doomed to fail but can actually be counter-productive. The most successful metropolises should be encouraged to expand by stripping away planning restrictions. If housing were more plentiful in the bigger conurbations it would be cheaper, and the residents of declining cities, who often have little housing equity, would find it easier to move to them. Rent controls and rules that give local people priority in public housing should go, too: they harm the poor by locking them into unproductive places.

A new kind of garden city

Even so, many people will stay stuck in shrinking cities, which will grow steadily older. Better transport links to big cities will help some. But a great many cannot be revived. In such cases the best policy is to acquire empty offices and homes, knock them down and return the land to nature—something that has worked in the east German city of Dessau-Rosslau and in Pittsburgh in America. That will require money and new habits of mind. Planners are expert at making cities work better as they grow. Keeping them healthy as they shrink is just as noble.

In the US at least, cities house poor people, often racial minorities or from lower classes, who global capitalism no longer wants to employ. The excesses of finance with harmful if not predatory mortgages, ended up kicking people out their houses, which become vacant and vandalized, driving people away from cities. Who will pay to restore or repair them? Excessive wealth inequality may favor a few high lifestyle metros, but also prevent capital from investing in places where the those who control capital seek only to exploit. Growing populations may keep property values inflated, but low and stagnant wages will not make cities liveable. Our biggest crisis is how to employ everyone, or if that is becoming more obsolete, to ensure that the productivity of the society is widely shared. Whether that happens in large metros, smaller cities or even repopulated and renewed farmlands is less important than that it happens at all.

Cities rise and fall. Take the former City States of Rome and Venice as two significant examples. This pattern will continue and the global pattern of key cities will also shift. Cities with strong economic drivers will prevail. Cities with attractive natural qualities will prevail. Cities which are well marketed and offer a better quality of life will prevail. Cities in countries whose governments offer significant financial and taxation advantages will prevail. Competition will always prevail at the Local, Regional, State, National and International level. Larger cities with characteristics such as those above will continue to prosper provided they can compete. Smaller centres located within short travel times to such cities will also benefit and transport technology here can play a large role. In addition locations with good cyber connections to people in such centres also have potential. The urban settlements patterns of the past and today will be quite different to those of tomorrow. Government will always have a regulatory role in ensuring that citizens are safe and prosperous and make a fair contribution to society. People will migrate to seek a better life. Those people captive to their own predicament and their country’s policies will be unable to move and policies of countries may restrict immigration. Humanity adapts.

By Naved Jafry

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Tragedy Of The Homeless 



Every year over 70 million rural migrats are moving into urban centers around the world. Unfortunately most of them land up  into the slums of their new cities.  In such a situation can the buy-one-give-one model work for housing? Imagine if every slumdweller or homeless family on earth had their fully paid home. Thanks to our new social concious buyers Many such projects and proposals are well under way to make that a reality. Buy A Luxury Condo or home, Give A Slum Dweller A New Home is a reality and is launched one of the first partnership in the U.S. and India. Buy a new luxury condo in San Diego, and you can help build a home for a family currently living in a slum in Manila or Mumbai. The philosophy and the social impact behind this has inspired many developers a one-for-one real estate gifting model,” says Pete Dupuis, who co-founded World Housing with his business partner Sid Landolt in 2013, beginning with a development in Vancouver.

  

The business model is simple in theory: Real estate developers donate a portion of their marketing budget to the nonprofit, and then the nonprofit creates local factories that build low-cost homes in the developing world. Each home, which can cost about $5,000 in a place like Manila or Mumbai, is part of a bigger neighborhood with a playground, community garden, and other common areas. “Our mission at World Housing is to create social change by connecting the world to be a better community, so the idea of ‘community’ is foundational to how we think, design, and create our homes,” says Dupuis. In Cambodia, where the nonprofit has been building homes for the last two years, they’ve partnered with Cambodia Children’s Fund to help provide services like health care, nutrition, and education for residents.The team’s new project in Manila was inspired in part by a trip Dupuis took to a slum called Smokey Mountain, where about 300,000 people live in shacks in a landfill. “The abject poverty has left a lasting impression on how I saw the world,” he says. “However, the one thing I discovered was the welcoming and hopeful nature of the people there. One of my best memories was playing a game of pool in the middle of a slum, on a table reconstructed from garbage. The people made me feel like part of their family and I made a promise to myself that when World Housing opened we would return to help the people there.”

In India, anyone who buys a condo or house at any of its new developments in and near Mumbai, Houston and Tanzania called micro Cities will help change the lives of a family locally. The Bosa condo development in San Diego will fund 64 homes in Manila, housing 300 people.
The condos, which will be available in 2017, are polar opposites of the simple houses under construction in Manila, with amenities like ocean views, a pool and sauna, and even potentially an indoor dog run. But the developer thinks that buyers will respond to the idea of doing good as an added perk. “We hope to set a new norm in residential development and inspire buyers, who will be the driving force in building this community,” says Nat Bosa, president of Bosa Development, the company behind Pacific Gate. Companies such as Zeons Realty which builds off the grid Micro-Cities also donates to the local community in which it starts any project.  “We believe it will attract domestic and international buyers, so it is a natural progression for the company to expand its philanthropic footprint within the community it does business,” Garson Silvers says CEO for Zeons. World Housing has housed 2,000 people so far, and hopes to reach 30,000 by 2020. Bosa believes the model may start to spread in the development community. “As the industry continues to grow we believe this model of giving will also grow,” he says. “There’s nothing more powerful than having owners and developers see the physical impact they are having on a global scale. They are affecting lives in the most profound way.”

By Naved Jafry

Reference : A. Peters

FUTURE OF WORKPLACE 

  
The officespaces of our times are quickly becoming a coffee shop again. History has a tendency of repeating itself. The state of the original officespace really started as recent as 400 years ago at Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop in London (now Lloyd’s of London) and it’s probably the way we should be designing our offices for the millennial and Z generations of today. Ten years from now, most of the baby boomers will be retired and millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, will make up 75 percent of the workforce. Even now they make up a third of it. A new study from Bentley University, The Millennial Mind Goes to Work, looks at “how millennial preferences will shape the future of the modern workplace.” They are also sometimes contradictory. Some of the points directly affect the physical form of the office: They love their phones, but face time is important too. Given the purported love for texting (and love for the Skype virtual water cooler) It was a surprise that recent survey’s concluded that 51 percent of millennials prefer to talk in person, 19 percent email, 21 percent chat or text and the phone is so dead at only 9 percent. But according to Ian Cross of Bentley, it depends: Particularly at the beginning of their career, millennials need more validation than previous generations. They like praise, and they want clear direction as to what a manager may be asking of them, which explains their desire to speak to a colleague in person. Even so, says Cross, don’t be surprised to find millennials communicating with friends by text, which is still their primary vehicle for social interacting. Which all seems to contradict the next big finding: 9 to 5? Home or office? the end of 9 to five.  About 77 percent of the millennials surveyed say that flexible hours would make them more productive, while 39 percent of them want more remote working. I was surprised at how low the remote working number was, but the study also notes that “31 percent of millennials do worry that their desire for workplace flexibility is often mistaken for a poor work ethic.” There’s probably some worry that if they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind, and they want to keep up that face time with the manager noted above and what about that work ethic?

  
   
There is a complaint in the study that millennials don’t have that good old work ethic, aren’t willing to put in the hours and devote their lives to the office. But is this a bad thing or an opportunity?  While older generations think of their job as a large part of who they are, millennials see work as a piece of their life but not everything. In other words, work doesn’t define them. Family, friends and making a difference in their community are much more central to them than previous generations.” As a result, millennials seek to have more work-life balance. Frankly this could be an example of a healthy adjustment to our world view of work.” So what we appear to have with the millennials are workers who:

want to be part of their community and have a better work/life balance,

want more flexibility in work hours and location,

And want to retain the ability to have real face time with their managers and co-workers.
  
You get together when you want or need to talk, hang out if you want to be seen, but otherwise generally work where and when you want. This sounds familiar.

A few years ago I noted that the major purpose of an office now is to interact, to get around a table and talk, to schmooze. Just what you do in a coffee shop. Hence there is no accident that office spaces of the world are emptying out and new trend trend of live work space is taking over. 

By Naved Jafry & J. Witwit

 

Preparing Businesses For Generation Z

  Buckle up businesses and governments as a dramatic shift is coming.  Just when we could barely  understand or could monetize the millennials, generation Z is on its way. Since most of generation Z were born after 2000 their oldest members are turning 18 and will start entering the work force in large numbers in just a few years. 

  
To make it even more interesting Gen Z’s career attitudes are significantly different from the millennials who preceded them. This will completely change the way this future market will buy,work,live,play and date. I personally think the best in super efficiency is yet to come. 
  

Research firm Universum surveyed high school students and recent graduates in 46 countries. One big theme around the world: Members of Generation Z see themselves as entrepreneurial. In fact, 55% of 50,000 Gen Z-ers Universum polled said they’re interested in starting their own company. Why? They want to be their own boss and think starting a business is a great way to make an impact. 

   

 Even though Millennial generation is bigger, more diverse than boomers, Universum researchers have seen a gradual rise in entrepreneurial interest with each generation, and expect that trend to continue from millennials to Gen Z, says Katharine Lynn, Universum’s associate director of marketing and communications. The “growing pervasiveness of startups” like Facebook and Uber”. The increasing desire for independence are helping fueling that drive and interest which Inturn has increased a strong sense focus on their tech skills, which can be learned regardless of where you go to school or what you study. 
  

Gen Z’s independent streak is much stronger than millennials’, with 32% of Gen Z respondents saying autonomy is one of their most important career goals, compared to just 22% of Gen Y. Less essential for Gen Z? Work-life balance, cited by 40% of Gen Z-ers vs. 54% of millennials. And the intellectual challenge of a career is critical to just 19% of Gen Z compared to 32% of Gen Y. Meanwhile, only 27% say it’s important to feel they’re serving a greater good with their work, compared to 35% of their elders surveyed. Even though Millennials aren’t like the Gen X’s the rest of the subsequent generations will benifit greatly from their leapfrogging of technology, goods and services produced. Of course, Gen Z is still made up of mostly students and their relative inexperience may be their single biggest strength of not being influenced by current ways of being and thinking. Despite their zest for entrepreneurship, members of Gen Z are not terribly optimistic about their financial prospects as only 56% of Gen Z expects to have a better lifestyle than their parents, compared to 71% of millennials. I would predict that it would not be long when super efficient shared economies will be the norm spearheaded by the world of Generation Z’s. 

  
By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

Tracking Third World Deindustrialization 

According to Raymond Zhong’s recent research parts of South Asia, Africa and Latin America are failing to create thriving manufacturing sectors even though their wages remain low. Manufacturing employment and output are peaking and declining at vastly lower levels of income and development than they did in the West. The West and East Asia more recently first got rich because of their factories but over time, as incomes rose and their economies became more sophisticated, they shifted into modern services like health care and finance But economists worry that the factory led model of advancement may no longer be available to today’s poorest nations. This poses a huge challenge for places like India where its working age population is growing by a million people every month. Even though logically having lots of young people working, earning and spending should turbocharge growth for decades. But it can turn into a disaster if jobs don’t materialize. For instance when  Recently, Gujarat state government ( an industrial state in India) sought to hire 35,000 clerks, accountants and other low-level officers at salaries as low as $120 (INR 8000) a month. The state received 700,000 applications.

  
Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, who began compiling data on manufacturing world-wide a few years ago, says he is seeing growing evidence of what he calls “premature deindustrialization” the idling or shrinking of manufacturing sectors as a share of the economy in poor countries such as India is very unsettling. This trend is not unique to South Asia only, in South Africa, manufacturing was 15% of output in 1962 and peaked at 25% in 1981. By 2011, the share was closer to 18%. Factory activity in fast-modernizing Ethiopia hasn’t managed to grow beyond 6% of the economy. In Tanzania, it peaked at 13% in 1976 and dropped since to around 10%.

Many reasons such as inefficient infrastructure, cumbersome business regulations and corruption have been cited for this trend. But factory automation and robotics are reducing the need for unskilled workers. More factories also might not translate into as many jobs, at least not for humans. According to the International Federation of Robotics, sales of industrial robots shot up by 29% last year to a record of nearly 230,000 units and are expected to keep climbing, especially in Asia. This tragedy is compounded when Industrial latecomers now have to compete against China, whose massive, integrated manufacturing machine has made it the world’s factory floor and created a huge barrier to entry. With tariffs falling and trade becoming freer, it is tougher for developing countries to shelter their producers from foreign competition.Lower trade barriers and better communication have made it easier for supply chains to be spread over farther-flung locales, bringing more countries into direct competition with each other. This phenomenon only perpetuates the canabilizing of already limited global factory investments. 

Even though some industry leaders and experts may argue that service industries, such as real estate, back-office business and tourism, can create as much of a jobs-and-growth engine for developing countries as they have been for the postindustrial West, we think that it is  time that public administrators and policy makers start thinking of other alternatives. 

By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

NEGOTIATING CROSS CULTURAL CHALLENGES

cross cultureIn the following paragraphs, we’ll dissect how we tackle with our company’s multinational, regional, cultural and subcultural process of cultural disintegration and illustrate how traditional solutions can backfire. We’ll conclude with few strategies that may help executives prevent disintegration from setting in. Consciously and wisely applying them will lead to a more nuanced understanding of the forces at play, which in itself will increase the chances of success.
In the recent past most of us have worked in organizations that were largely local have interacted with colleagues and clients who were like us and culturally similar. Fellow staff members were often in the same building and at the very least were in the same country, which meant that they had similar ways of communicating and making decisions. But as companies internationalize, their employees become geographically dispersed and lose their shared assumptions and norms. People in different countries react to inputs differently, communicate differently, and make decisions differently. Organically grown corporate cultures that were long taken for granted begin to break down. Miscommunication becomes more frequent, and trust erodes, especially between the head office and the regional units. In their efforts to fix these problems, companies risk compromising attributes that underlie their commercial success.
Implicit Communication Breaks Down
In companies where everyone is located in the same country, passing messages implicitly is frequently the norm. The closer the space we share and the more similar our cultural backgrounds, the stronger our reliance on unspoken cues. In these settings we communicate in shorthand, often without realizing it reading our counterparts’ tone of voice, picking up on subtext. A manager at Louis Vuitton told me, “At our company, managers didn’t finish their sentences. Instead, they would begin to make a point and then say something like ‘OK, you get it?’ And for us, that said it all.” A lot of work is done in this implicit way without anyone’s taking note. If I walk by your office and see you studying October’s budget with a worried look, I might send you a comprehensive breakdown of my costs for the month. If I see you shrink in your seat when the boss asks if you can meet a deadline, I know that your “yes” really means “I wish I could,” and I might follow you to your office after the meeting to hear the real deal. In such ways we continually adjust to one another’s unspoken cues.
But when companies begin to expand internationally, implicit communication stops working. If you don’t tell me you need a budget breakdown, I won’t send one. If you say yes even though you mean no, I’ll think that you agreed. Because we aren’t in the same place, we can’t read one another’s body language and because we’re from different cultures, we probably couldn’t read it accurately even if we were within arm’s length. The more we work with people from other cultures in far-flung locations, the less we pick up on subtle meaning and the more we fall victim to misunderstanding and inefficiency.
The obvious solution is to put in place multiple processes that encourage employees to recap key messages and map out in words and pictograms who works for whom, with what responsibilities, and who will take which steps and when. For many organizations, that kind of change is largely positive. One banking executive told me, “The more we internationalized, the more we were forced to recap both orally and in writing what was meant and what was understood. And that was good for everybody. We realized that even among those of us sitting at headquarters, the added repetition meant better understanding and fewer false starts.”One downside, of course, is that companies become more bureaucratic and communication slows down. But that isn’t the only cost. At Louis Vuitton, for example, mystery is part of the value proposition and infuses the way people work. Employees are not just comfortable with ambiguity; they embrace it, because they believe it is central to the company’s success. One manager told me, “The more we wipe out ambiguity between what was meant and what was heard, the further we wander from that essential mysterious ingredient in our corporate culture that has led to our success.”
For companies in beauty, fashion, and other creative industries, the advantages of implicit communication may be particularly strong. But many other types of internationalizing companies have activities that may benefit from letting people leave messages open to interpretation, and they, too, need to think carefully about processes that might erode valuable ambiguity in an effort to improve communication.
Fault Lines Appear
Breakdowns in implicit communication exacerbate the second problem an internationalizing company faces: Employees frequently split into separate camps that have an “us versus them” dynamic. It’s natural to feel trust and empathy for those we see daily and those who think like us. We eat lunch together. We laugh together at the coffee machine. It’s hard to feel the same bond with people we don’t see regularly, especially when they speak an unfamiliar language and have experienced the world differently. When one New York based financial institution opened offices in Asia, it struggled to export its highly collaborative culture, in which key decisions involve a great deal of consultation. Despite management’s best efforts, the local offices created what one executive described as “overseas cocoons,” in which employees shared work and consulted with one another but remained isolated from their colleagues in the United States. Often headquarters wants to be inclusive but finds that employees’ exchanges are hampered by differences in social customs. One Indian manager in the financial firm explained, “In Indian culture, there is a strong emphasis on avoiding mistakes, and we are very group oriented in our decision making. If the Americans want to hear from us on a conference call, they need to send the agenda at least 24 hours in advance so that we can prepare what we’d like to say and get feedback from our peers.”
Unfortunately, the Indian manager told me, his U.S. colleagues usually didn’t send the agenda until an hour before the call, so his team was unable to prepare. And it struggled to understand what was said during the call, because the U.S. participants spoke too quickly. He also said that the Americans rarely invited comments from the Indians, expecting them to jump into the conversation as they themselves would. But that kind of intervention is not the norm in India, where it is much less common to speak if not invited or questioned. The Indian manager summed up his perspective this way: “They invite us to the meeting, but they don’t suggest with their actions that they care what we have to say.” The team members ended up just sitting on the phone listening giving the Americans the impression that they had nothing to contribute or weren’t interested in participating.
Corporate Culture Clashes with Local Culture
As companies institute rules about communication and inclusiveness, they often run into a third problem. Consider the Dutch shipping company TNT, which has long put a premium on task-oriented efficiency and egalitarian management. When it moved into China, it found that neither of those values fit with local norms. Its corporate culture gradually became more relationship oriented and more hierarchical, as leaders in Asia adapted their styles to attract local clients and motivate the local workforce. The problem with that kind of adaptation is that a company’s culture is often a key driver of its success. Let’s look at L’Oréal. Confrontation and open disagreement are a strong part of its corporate culture. As one manager put it, “At L’Oréal we believe the more we debate openly and the more strongly we disagree in meetings, the closer we get to excellence, the more we generate creativity, and the more we reduce risk.”
Yet in many important growth areas for L’Oréal, including Middle East and north Africa Southeast, that attitude is in direct opposition to a cultural preference for group harmony. A employee explained, “In muslim culture, open disagreement is considered rude, disrespectful, and too aggressive.” An employee said, “To a culturally Islamic person, confrontation in a group setting is extremely negative, because it makes the other person lose face. So it’s something that we try strongly to avoid in any open manner.”“The more we wipe out ambiguity between what was meant and what was heard, the further we wander from that essential mysterious ingredient in our corporate culture that has led to our success.”

If you believe that your corporate culture is what makes your company great, you might focus on maintaining it in all your offices, even when it conflicts with local practice. This can work for companies with a highly innovative product offering and few or no local competitors. In other words, if your corporate culture has led to extreme innovation and you don’t need to understand local consumers, it may be best to ignore local culture in order to preserve the organizational core. For example, . believes that its success is largely the result of a strong organizational culture. Part of that culture involves giving employees lots of positive feedback. The company’s performance review form begins by instructing managers, “List the things this employee did really well.” Only then does it say, “List one thing this person could do to have a bigger impact.” When . moved into France, it learned that in that country, positive words are used sparingly and criticism is provided more strongly. One French manager told me, “The first time I used the . form to give a performance review, I was confused. Where was the section to talk about problem areas? ‘What did this employee do really well?’ The positive wording sounded over the top.” But .’s corporate culture is so strong that it often supersedes local preferences; the French manager added, “After five years at . France, I can tell you we are now a group of French people who give negative feedback in a very un-French way.” Creating a strong corporate culture that is pretty much the same from Beijing to Brasília makes things easier and more efficient internally. But it carries risks. A company with a strong culture typically hires employees who can fit into that culture and trains them to work and behave in a globally accepted fashion. But if you hire the rare Saudi who will challenge authority figures and encourage him to do so, you may find that his egalitarian directness keeps him from closing deals with local clients and suppliers.

Planning for Your International Culture
As companies internationalize to exploit new opportunities, how can they prevent communication breakdowns, fault lines, and other risks? As with most cultural and organizational dysfunctions, the cures are often less obvious than the symptoms, and the specifics will vary from case to case. Nonetheless, my experience suggests that if companies apply some ground rules carefully, they are more likely to adapt their culture to new countries without losing key strengths.
Identify the dimensions of difference.
The first imperative when managing a clash between a corporate culture and a national one is understanding the relevant dimensions along which those cultures vary. Are decisions made by consensus, or does the boss decide? Are timeliness and structure foremost in everyone’s mind, or is flexibility at the heart of the company’s success? Only after you’ve figured out where the pressure points are can you make plans for dealing with them. It’s important to perform this analysis along multiple dimensions, because managers tend to boil cultural differences down to one or two features, often causing unexpected problems. For instance, French executives expecting straight talk from U.S. colleagues are routinely tripped up by Americans’ reluctance to give harsh feedback, while expatriate Americans are often blindsided by their outwardly polite and socially aware French bosses’ savage critiques. That said, you can typically reduce the differences you actually have to manage to just three or four dimensions.“The first time I used the company’s form to give a performance review, I was confused. Where was the section to talk about problem areas? The positive wording sounded over the top.”
-A MANAGER AT . FRANCE
Give everyone a voice.
Although you can vary many rules according to culture and corporate function, the one you absolutely must adopt is ensuring that every cultural group is heard. In practical terms, this involves applying three tenets during meetings and other interactions, especially when people are participating remotely:
• When you invite local offices to phone or video conferences, send the agenda well in advance (not the same day!) and designate a time for those in each location to speak. This allows participants to adequately prepare their comments and double-check them with colleagues.
• Insist that everyone use global English, speaking slowly and clearly, and assign someone to recap the discussion, especially when conversations speed up.
• Check in with international participants every five or 10 minutes and invite them to speak: “Any input from India?” or “Bhatia, did you have any feedback?”
If you follow these basics, you’ll go a long way toward preventing people from thinking that their colleagues in other cultures “never speak up because they are hiding information,” “have nothing to contribute,” or “say they want our input, but act like they don’t care what we think.”

Protect your most creative units.
As your company expands geographically, map out the areas of the organization (usually functional units) that rely heavily on creativity and mutual adjustment to achieve their business objectives. Draw a ring around those areas and let communication within them remain more ambiguous, with flexible job descriptions and meetings that are less predefined.
Elsewhere in the company, where there is no clear benefit to leaving things open to interpretation, go ahead and formalize all systems, processes, and communications. The areas that lend themselves to more-explicit procedures include finance, IT, and production. You might want to put everything in writing to avoid misperceptions later on. If you don’t have an employee handbook, or if your handbook is sometimes vague, you’ll need to create a detailed one. But before you start crafting precise job descriptions, make sure you have protected the parts of your company that rely on implicit communication and fluid processes for business success.
Train everyone in key norms.
When entering a new market, you’ll inevitably have to adapt to some of the local norms. But you should also train local employees to adapt to some of your corporate norms. For example, L’Oréal offers a program called Managing Confrontation, which teaches a methodical approach to expressing disagreement in meetings. Employees around the world hear about the importance of debate for success in the company. A Chinese employee told me, “We don’t do this type of debate traditionally in China, but these trainings have taught us a method of expressing diverging opinions which we have all come to practice and appreciate, even in meetings made up of only Chinese.”Exxon Mobil, which prides itself on task-oriented efficiency but has large operations in strongly relationship-oriented societies such as Qatar and Nigeria, reaps tangible benefits from getting employees to adapt to its culture, rather than the other way around. One Qatari employee told me, “The task-oriented mentality gives us a common work platform within the company, so when Texas-based employees are collaborating with Arabs or Brazilians or Nigerians, we all have a similar approach. Cultural differences don’t hit us as hard as some companies.”
Be heterogeneous everywhere.
If 99% of your engineers in Shanghai are Chinese and 99% of your HR experts in London are British, you run a high risk of having fault lines appear. If all the Shanghai employees are in their thirties and all those in London are in their fifties, the rifts may widen. And if almost all the Shanghai employees are men while most of the London employees are women, things may get even worse. Take steps at the start to ensure diversity in each location. Mix the tasks and functions among locations. Instruct staff members to build bridges of cultural understanding.“The task-oriented mentality gives us a common work platform within the company, so when Texas-based employees are collaborating with Arabs and Brazilians or Nigerians, we all have a similar approach.”

cross culture 2When Zeons Media, a division based in the United States, expanded into South Asia, cultural differences quickly arose regarding communication up and down the hierarchy. One U.S. manager, told me, “I often need information from individuals on Sanjay’s staff. I e-mail them asking for input but get no response. The lack of communication is astounding.” When I spoke with Sanjay, he said, “Sarah sends e-mails directly to my staff without getting my OK or even copying me. Those e-mails should go to me directly, but she seems to purposefully leave me out of the process. Of course, when my staff receives those e-mails, they are paralyzed.”This relatively minor cultural misunderstanding created tensions aggravated by the fact that all the local employees in Bangalore had spent their entire lives in India; none were in a position to see things from the other perspective. The majority were software engineers in their twenties. And the California office was made up entirely of American mid-career marketing experts, none of whom had ever been to India. A small issue threatened to sink the enterprise. After holding face-to-face meetings with Sarah’s team and Sanjay’s, during which the misunderstanding was explained and worked through, Zeons took further steps to get the collaboration back on track. Five executives from the US office were sent to India for six weeks, and three Indians moved to US. Some Americans already based in Bangalore were hired for Sanjay’s team, and Sarah hired several Indians living in California. Bit by bit the divisiveness decreased and a sense of unity emerged.
Getting culture right should never be an afterthought. Companies that don’t plan for how individual employees and the organization as a whole will adapt to the realities of a global marketplace will sooner or later find themselves stumbling because of unnoticed cultural potholes. And by the time they regain their balance, their economic opportunity may have passed.

This article is contribute by Naved Jafry, Garson Silvers & Premod Varghese