JOURNAL ARTICLE | Harvard Business Review | 93 | October 2015
When Culture Doesn't Translate
As companies internationalize, their employees lose shared assumptions and norms. People in different countries react to inputs differently, communicate differently, and make decisions differently. Organically grown corporate cultures 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.INSEAD’s Erin Meyer presents five principles that can prevent disintegration. Managers should:• identify the dimensions of difference between the corporate culture and local ones• make sure every cultural group has a voice• protect the most creative units, letting communication and job descriptions remain more ambiguous• train everyone in key norms• ensure diversity in every location.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 working in a global marketplace will sooner or later stumble because of unnoticed potholes. By the time they regain their balance, their economic opportunity may have passed.