An American and an Indian are rushing to an 11:00 meeting. Just outside the meeting place, each runs into a dear friend they have not seen in 5 years. What happens? You will laugh, but culturally, the American will quickly say hello, say they are late for a meeting, and as they rush for the door, tell the old friend that they will email them to connect. The Indian, on the other hand, will stop and invite the friend to sit down for a cup of coffee. Who is “rude” in this situation? Strikes me that your answer as you are reading this is influenced by your culture.
When you/your organization is tasked with taking a successful learning project global, initially it may sound easy. Just replicate what we did around the globe! Right? However, as you likely already know, it is very difficult when you add different expectations, beliefs, and languages, as exemplified in the story I just shared.
It has been our experience that four elements are critical to taking a learning project global. The four elements outlined below make good sense for any learning project, so I am often asked what makes it different when you go global. Since all strategies need to be implemented by people, what makes a difference when you go global is globally effective people. These people are not only aware and understand the differences in culture, they also have the global skills that enable effective Alignment, Inclusion, Sustainability, and Integration of the multiple local projects tied to a global strategy.
Four Elements of a Global Learning Initiative
- Alignment — Alignment is gaining agreement at the global level, but also at the local level, for what you are setting as your target. Reframing the global learning project to be more of local projects that are implemented based on a global direction is important here. This will allow you to deal with the global objective, but in a way that addresses, and in fact honors, the local situation. We often say that consistent does not mean the same.
- Inclusion — Where Alignment is about direction and targets, Inclusion is about involvement, communication, and ultimately how the individuals in the organization choose to use their energy. Communication of a global learning project can often feel as though it is directive. The goal here is to make sure that everyone has information to help them feel involved. The communication systems and processes not only need to be effective at getting the information out as a two-way dialog, but in a way that is globally aware and sensitive to the local needs.
- Sustainability — This element is about realistic assessment of where you are in the global learning project. Think of sustainability not as maintenance and keeping the project on course, but rather, always correcting to put the project on course. Things happen, so if you plan to be always correcting, you take an approach that is much more realistic. That means you need to understand where you are with the project at all times, and then, using the targets set in Alignment, and with the help of the people you have involved through Inclusion, you learn and adjust.
- Integration — When I talk about this with customers, they often assume that integration is about integrating the global learning project into the existing systems and processes. The perspective that we take is more about integrating the learning into performance on the job. This is called Learning Transfer, and our research indicates that there are 11 factors that enable better Learning Transfer. In Integration, we need to consider these 11 factors, across all the local learning projects tied to a global strategy, and determine what we can do in each situation to enable performance improvement.
How does this fit with your experience trying to deliver on a global learning project?
How could you use these four elements to make the implementation of your next global learning project run more smoothly?