One of the nuggets of wisdom that organizational leaders quickly learn about is that whatever made their firms successful in the past is not necessarily what will make it successful in the future. In fact, the components of competitive advantage are often discovered by competing organizations which makes it difficult to replicate that success in the future. This is why the strategic has to be a living document rather than a finished one.
The same is true of organizations interested in expanding beyond their firms original borders. Successful companies that wish to launch themselves into new markets and extend the reach of their products into new geographies must reconcile two competing ideas that form a sort of tension in the organization. On the one hand the company’s offerings have to be aligned to its strategy and position of strength in its home market. However, on the other hand the firm has to recognize that launching into a new market without taking into consideration the uniqueness of that market is an exercise in futility. These two points of tension are a challenge as it often becomes almost impossible to stay true to the organization’s strategy while customizing the implementation approach to the market.
While there may be areas of compromise that organizations manage to reach, there are others that should not be open to debate. For example, organizational goals and objectives may change based on market conditions and geography, but organizational core values should not. While this may seem obvious, the challenge however is that often organizations don’t spend the necessary time discussing what their core values are, nor do they examine them to see if they can stand the test of time.
For core values that profess seemingly universal beliefs such as integrity or honesty, the process is fairly simple. However, how do we reconcile a value that focuses on customer service when that very notion is localized? This is the hard dialogue that leaders need to be engaged in to help define what these core values mean and what kind of flexibility, if any, will they allow their team members in the endeavor to expand into new markets.
Indeed going international is not only a complex project that should be managed accordingly, but also a dialogue that starts with examination and definition.