Many involved stakeholders, different interests and goals, cultural complexity and above all the demand to achieve results advancing the organisation. The challenges of international leadership programs are numerous. If you want to have success you have to plan thoroughly and, in case you need any further ideas and assistance, think about the following strategic factors of success we developed in more than 50 years.
Factor of success #1: Concrete need
The cause for international leadership development is often a concrete business need or organisational pain point. Examples are:
- The organisation is expanding and isn’t able to cover the newly needed leadership positions with the existing staff. In emerging markets with high economic growth it’s nearly impossible or very expensive to find qualified managers and leaders during the first “booming” years.
- Due to disruptive technical changes the whole leadership culture has to change. Practical example: An energy company did run traditional electricity stations in the past and now has to concentrate on renewable energy. This requires an agile and dynamic innovation culture.
- The turnover rate within the organisation is too high, especially when it comes to high potentials. The best talents leave to join competitive companies. On the long-term, only good and qualified leaders can keep good employees.
- An employee attitude survey shows that the satisfaction with the internal leaders decreased.
- Top positions within the organisation are occupied with external staff since the succession planning and development doesn’t work satisfactory.
No matter which need it is, it should be seen as such in all affected company departments. Of course there might be centrally developed programs with which the market organisations get, in a manner of speaking, “delighted”. But the prospects of success are much higher if there is a consensus about the need. Therefore, if HQ notices a need which is not yet seen in the markets it could help the whole program if the need is specified with representatives from the countries right at the beginning. Therewith sentences like “The headquarters forced something on us again! Let’s show them that it won’t work” should be a thing of the past.
Factor of success #2 – Involve stakeholders
Before it’s time to talk about the goals of a program there should always be the question: Who is relevant in order that our international development measures succeed?
Really successful projects with a high impact always involve the most important stakeholders at the beginning and at neuralgic project points. Start with the top management because you can’t delegate leadership culture!
In order not to claim too much time from the executives it’s sufficient on this level to define rough goals and to decide which representatives should be involved in the details. For big projects we recommend the structure of a steering committee, for smaller ones a slight project group is enough. The project’s person in charge will afterwards collect all different stakeholder interests and try to consider them as far as possible. Different opinions should also be heard early in order to anticipate possible resistances in advance and to solve them by win-win-negotiations.
Bring relevant stakeholders on board from the very first.
Stakeholders relevant for international projects normally can be found on all organisational levels in the headquarters as well as in the country organisations: The board, global and local leaders and their employees, local HR departments in the countries and local trainers and existing development partners as well. Extent, time and kind of the implementation of these stakeholders depends on different factors:
- Company politics (e.g.: Are decisions made centrally or locally?)
- Organisational structure (e.g.: Matrix organisations, classic hierarchical models,…)
- Dimension of the planned development program
- Expected value and where it should appear
- Costs and those who bear them (most of the times costs are separated between all involved units)
Our experience shows that the farer away country organisations are or the bigger and more important business units are, the bigger is the temptation to diverge from the organisational standards to do one’s own thing.
Therefore, conscious stakeholder management is a key element for success with international development projects.
⇒ Real-case example:
Some time ago, a European-based international industrial concern with about 10.000 employees – most of them in Asia – entrusted us with 2 big group events about “Lateral leadership and leading in a matrix”. One event in Europe, the second one in Asia. The events have been prepared and followed up with two very differently casted virtual steering committees. The reason: It was an obvious guess that the European and the Asian culture will be a very different base for working and leading in a matrix culture.
We recommend an internal marketing and communication concept from the very first. To create it you can stick to the following questions for well-planned communication:
- What shall be communicated? (e.g. an introduction at the beginning and afterwards ongoing reports about the progress)
- By whom? (e.g. involvement of the executive board)
- To whom? (e.g. participants, their leaders, colleagues, …)
- In which order? (e.g. consideration of country hierarchies)
- In which form? (intranet, social media, employee magazine or TV, …)
Success factor #3 – Clear and measurable results
When it comes to targets, results, values, milestones to be reached and desired behaviour, organisations and development partners need a common idea.
In this regard we work with the Kirkpatrick methodology which is especially suitable for mission critical programs and in addition the most proven and tested model on the market for design and evaluation of effective development measures. The four levels of the model are:
Level 4 – Company success
What are the goals and expectations of the company? Which results have to be achieved and how can they be measured?
Example: 10% rise in productivity
Level 3 – Change of behaviour
Which behaviour of employees is necessary in order to achieve the goals and expectations?
Example: Concentration on the value adding tasks
Level 2 – Learning success
What should the employees know after the training? Which tools & techniques and shall they master?
Example: Know how to use prioritisation tools
Level 1 – Participant satisfaction
How can the process of the training itself be satisfying for all persons involved so that everyone is happy in the end?
Example: Learning was fun and therewith supported the acceptance of the content
The Kirkpatrick methodology builds the bridge between training on the one side and company success on the other.
Result of an approach according to the Kirkpatrick methodology are not only a clear vision of what to do including targets but also so-called performance drivers and leading indicators supporting and steering the transfer from learning into practice into real company results.
These targets and further parameters are the base for continuous controlling during the program. The evaluation of the project as well as the desired ROI or ROE (return on expectations) should be treated very early in the project. A good motto here is: Nothing succeeds like success! Each success note has the potential to cause a positive domino effect. And each non-attainment is a hint that adjustments are necessary. Furthermore, in times of Scrum and agile leadership we should not act on the assumption that once set goals will be valid forever.
Factor of success #4 – Trust and long-term relationships
If organisation and training provider create and realise development measures together, trust is indispensable for success. In terms of sustainable human resource development, good providers are those who perceive themselves as responsible and partnership-based companions. Good customers are those who are ready to find and work on the real pain points within the organisation and who do not hesitate to call a spade a spade. Sometimes this needs some courage. On both sides.
What serves you next?
Survival of the fittest – Only those survive who optimally adapt to their environment or who are able to procreate in spite of adverse circumstances. Darwin’s principle is still valid for nature and, in the figurative sense, also for modern organisations who have to sustain their position in a complex environment of digitalisation, globalisation and therewith a constantly changing world of work and customers.
Since decades there are leadership programs for leaders and sales programs for sales managers. In terms of the development of experts you find comparatively few specific offers and programs. Even more surprising if you think of the fact that the experts’ importance is constantly rising in nowadays knowledge society and that they can give a boost to an organisation’s innovation potential.
Lateral leadership – which means leading without hierarchical power – is THE leadership model of the future. Parameters like the democratization of society, higher educational standards and much more contributed to the fact that the classical hierarchical leadership model, working top-down, meets its boarders nowadays.