No need to stop at global borders

Globalisation - Globalization

May 3, 2002

Today, it is possible for a small start-up in Croydon, Surrey, to use American financing and the skills of computer programmers living in the Indian state of Kerala to create software that sells in continental Europe. The business organisations of today are global. And as the predilections and antics of the boards of Enron and Andersen have shown, these organisations without borders have the power to do substantial mischief as well as enormous good. As discussed in a recent issue of the Journal of International Business Studies , globalisation is Janus-faced.

There have been many books, polemical and scholarly, about globalisation and global organisations. Many of these have been successful at airport bookstalls, without carrying much weight. On the other hand, there have been relatively few comprehensive primers about firms that the layman can readily access and refer to.

These two edited books are neither airport books nor scholarly tomes, but rather something in between. They are products of the Ashridge Management Centre, a private training organisation offering short courses, and contain material for course attendees encapsulating key issues for firms facing the pressures of globalisation. Short courses typically deal with wide subject matter rapidly and in a practical, journeyman-like way, and these books provide the necessary back-up.

The first volume deals with the external perspective - or, to use academese, the exogenous factors, that drive, constrain and otherwise influence globalisation. The second concerns endogenous issues, factors internal to the firm, that one has to keep in mind while globalising. All the contributors are associated with, in various ways, the sponsoring institution. They have plenty of training and consultancy experience between them. The presentation throughout is entirely unpompous. A set of chapters in the first volume relates to concepts and issues such as the degree of globalisation, the globalisation process in the world economy, global labour markets, the internet and globalisation, global parenting (in other words, how head offices of global organisations operate), managing global partnerships and alliances, global marketing and managing global customers. A further chapter treats the global pharmaceutical industry, and a concluding chapter sums up the volume. The structure of the first volume is a top-down framework, in which the book starts with the big picture and gradually gets down to specifics, oriented to particular industries.

The second volume takes a more organisation-oriented approach. Chapters deal with issues such as the design of global organisations, managing across culturally diverse situations, change in the global organisation, learning in the global organisation, building a global e-learning environment, working in complex global teams, developing global leaders and developing global competencies in organisations.

Both books are good summaries of the practical literature on global firms. They are uncluttered with polemic and theoretical frameworks, and there is little in the way of econometrics. Of course, polemics capture what people really feel, theoretical frameworks provide precision, and econometrics make data meaningful. But polemics, theories and econometrics require readers to invest time and effort-and managers are pragmatists.

Functional to the core, these books tell managers "what is" and "what to do". Their statements are often supported by good diagrams that really are worth a thousand words. The books represent one-stop shopping for the busy middle manager interested in globalisation.

Sumit K. Majumdar is professor of strategic management, Imperial College, London.

Globalisation: The External Pressures

Editor - Paul Kirkbride
ISBN - 0 471 49938 2
Publisher - Wiley
Price - £24.95
Pages - 335

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