Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Sixty-six blog posts and counting, a couple hundred articles, 3 books, several interviews and a podcast series, and yet it's only today we swing the Ax directly at Global Readiness®. Those other efforts touched elements of, rather than the core of what Global Readiness® is. So, like the old anti-smoking TV commercial said, "Let's get to the heart of the matter." What is Global Readiness® and why should you care?
But before the heart, the start. Once upon a time, or to be more precise: Once upon a sunny Tokyo morning in 2001, the Japanese branch of a global pharmaceutical giant called, asking if we could help them assess their staff's potential for short- and long-term overseas assignments. The HR department wanted a way to measure "readiness;" in other words, who among their staff possessed the skills and willingness to perform on these assignments?*
Through several collaborative meetings, we identified what later we'd refer to as "the Attitudes, Attributes, and Abilities needed to thrive in the global market." (Thanks to Andrew Hankinson, host of the Now and Zen podcast for the clever alliteration). These 3A's included "hard" technical skills as well as "soft" skills, or what Seth Godin calls "real skills" (at the 23 minute mark) such as leadership, teamwork, and communication. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we reviewed research that had been done by the turn of the century. Believe it or not, there already was quite a bit, but none tailored to this client's particular needs. Now before I relate some of the funny and not-so-funny results, here's what went into the "secret sauce."
The Secret Sauce–and a Few Surprises
As I said, we didn't re-invent the wheel. But we created a new way for our client to make better people decisions in that specific case: who would do well overseas? We (the HR department's half of our "we" anyway) could evaluate the required hard skills rather directly and easily. A candidate's job performance and HR record would usually be enough to show technical ability to do the job. But what about the soft/real skills, including self-awareness, cultural adaptability, leadership, teamwork, communication, and more?
Breaking those down further, we identified emotional intelligence (EQ), cultural competence, presentation & negotiation skills, personal and interpersonal attributes, business writing, etc.. All in all, over 25 different elements. Identifying and articulating these elements provided excellent markers, but again, how do you measure them?
Our client relied on AMT Group's 10+ years working with applicants to top business schools, who are assessed on much the same criteria, and we trusted our core of experienced MBAs as evaluators. Most had studied in international graduate degree programs, and all had worked in multiple countries. They had already seen and participated in plenty of successes and, just as important, plenty of failures. With solid client collaboration, we knew exactly what to look for.
While not completely fool-proof, the GRP did what it was supposed to do: separate the ready from the not. We thoroughly covered the terrain by requiring an updated résumé in English, a personal interview, a presentation on "what makes you globally ready?" Then a couple of essays to check business writing and a simulated meeting where GRP candidates evaluated, assessed, and negotiated for fictitious other candidates, assessing their Global Readiness®. Plus, at least 3 of the candidates' colleagues provided independent assessments.
By video recording all the interactions, we gained a good feel for candidates' thinking as well as their ability to express that thinking. We recorded and evaluated their performances during one-on-one, one-to-many, and simulated meeting sessions. Three different evaluators for each candidate provided their input with scores and written evaluations on the elements of Global Readiness®. And then we met with each candidate to de-brief them personally. The Global Readiness® Profile (GRP) was as close to comprehensive as we could make it.
The biggest surprise (to us, not to the HR department) was that 1/2 of the candidates assessed were found seriously lacking in willingness, abilities, or both. They were nowhere near "ready." But this didn't surprise HR. Instead, two of their senior people looked at each other and then at us and almost simultaneously said, "We knew it."
You see, prior to the deployment of the GRP, about 1/2 of their staff sent overseas had failed their assignments. And since the firm's hiring practices hadn't changed much over the years, those in HR weren't at all shocked by the current result. The good news was that by using the assessment, the company saved costly errors and wound up creating separate career tracks, one for employees who were assessed as potentially contributing to the firm's global business, and another for those who were not.
One "funny-and-not-so-funny" result emerged when we tailored the GRP for an international glass manufacturer. They were concerned (as many firms were, and some still are) about too much overtime, not enough "work-life balance." Now you can argue that "work-life balance" may not always be achievable or even desirable, but this client wanted us to check their GRP candidates on this new dimension. So we included an interview question. When I asked their first candidate, "How would you describe your work-life balance?" he replied, "Work-life Alex?" Exactly. The concept was that foreign.
We used the Global Readiness® Profile (GRP) for a couple of other firms, including one IT Solutions provider (Fusion Systems) who tailored the profile further to create a "Fusion Readiness Profile." We aimed for more corporate clients and even tried to market the GRP to individuals, but it didn't gain much traction. Why not? Was it bad marketing?
Maybe, but the bigger issue was the internal cost. As tough as the GRP was to create, it was even tougher to deploy, especially at scale. Even though we put it online (removing paper from the equation) the hiring and training of multiple evaluators (remember, three per candidate), the time a client used for peer assessments, not to mention some client internal politics, led to us to nearly abandon the Global Readiness® Profile somewhere around 2010 or 2011.
Did I say nearly? Actually, we fully abandoned the GRP–the profile, that is. We kept Global Readiness®, and not only because we owned the registered trademark. Back then, we found that assessing 25 different elements, with 3 different evaluators and multiple people inside a firm consumed too much time and other resources. But we find today that all of our clients want at least some (and often all) of their people to be motivated global thinkers. You prefer to work with that kind of person too, right? So rather than invest in the GRP, we use other, easier-to-deploy personality or competency assessments (DiSC®, M.B.T.I., Profiles® and others), and we focus simply on improving Global Readiness®–for ourselves and for everyone we work with.
Entering the 4th Decade and Counting: "Developing Global Thinkers"
When we founded AMT Group with the mission of "Developing Global Thinkers!", one of the first pieces of unsolicited advice my dad offered was, "Be sure to add, 'since 1992,' because some day that's going to seem like a long time ago." Thanks, Dad! You must be smiling down on us. Fortunately or unfortunately, you were right--it is a long time ago now. And yet, in some ways, we're still at the beginning of the journey, along with our clients.
Because our clients share the belief that it's more important to identify, promote, and reward people with "global mindsets" or, in AMT-speak, Global Readiness®. They seek ways to improve on the dimensions they (you) identify, the ones that resonate today. A key result of creating the GRP emerged from one smart client who, after listening to our pitch said, "You know, it all sounds so good. You've hit on exactly the areas we need to work on. But what if we assume everyone needs help across all the 25 elements that make up your GRP? What if we just work on global improvement right off the bat? I'd rather invest in that!"
And thus for that client, we jumped right to the Global Readiness® Improvement Plan, (G.R.I.P.), originally the "end point" of the GRP, and now a growing series of books, a podcast, coaching, and in the not-too-distant future, games. These fit under the umbrella of Global Readiness® programs, all designed to inspire improvement across the 25+ elements of Global Readiness®. They can work for a domestic SME and for a global or multinational giant. This may sound like an ad, but it's true: "If you want to improve performance, Global Readiness® can help."
Just yesterday, I was speaking with my long-time friend Patrick Newell (founder of Tokyo International School and consultant to Japanese and international firms) when he shared, "My clients are saying, 'Now is the time for Japanese companies to globalize.’" YES! We've been hearing (and saying) it for 30+ years now, along with Patrick.
And in a recent conversation with my good friend Paul DuPuis (CEO of Randstad Japan and author of the best-selling Rule of 5), renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith identifies "global thinking" as the first of 5 factors distinguishing leaders of future from leaders of the past. Note that he’s saying this in 2021. So again: YES!
Now if I did my job today, you know what Global Readiness® is and where the concept came from. And in answer to "Why should I care?" I say: Because (y)our future demands greater Global Readiness®!
Remember: Not all change is an improvement, but every improvement requires change. What element of Global Readiness® do you want to improve today?
*Note that our original GRP client shared a clear and specific goal. That's where we started, and that's what put us on this path, eventually leading up to the now-abandoned "Global Readiness® Profile as well as the always-improving Global Readiness® Improvement Plan and Programs.