I spoke last week at the American Cleaning Institute’s national conference, and the attendees were generally from large companies, many with a global footprint. I was presenting on the findings from our When Millennials Take Over book, and one participants asked me about the role of cross-cultural differences. Digital, clear, fluid, or fast are going to be interpreted differently in different cultures around the world, so how do you manage those differences?
The answer is, you negotiate. You might determine, for instance, that your company’s success will be driven by a more fluid hierarchy, but for some of your regions, that direction may run counter to some deep-seated cultural (as in national culture) beliefs. That’s not really a problem—you just have to negotiate. You may decide to let them be more rigid in their hierarchy in that region, or you may ask them to bend a little and move out of their comfort zone—the whole point is that you’re negotiating based on what will drive the best results for the organization. Flexibility and compromise is fine—you’ll want to pick your battles and keep your eyes on the results.
And this doesn’t only apply to national cultures—you can use this approach with any subgroup within your organization. As much as consistency in culture is important, the variations are a natural part of any system, and you can manage them with effective negotiation.