Smart moves: Make way for those intrepid explorers of the global jungle

Ray Wild unravels the complexities of the international management market
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AS businesses become more international, so must managers. They must have the ability to work in and lead international teams, understand international marketing, finance, and cultural differences. They need languages and skills in international negotiation and they need to be mobile. But to be able to select international managers we need to know more about the nature of the business and the manager's role in it.

Very few international businesses work globally. Most work in a number of countries, often with a regional focus and the circumstances they face differ substantially. International businesses differ not only in where they operate, but also in the extent of their internationalisation. This will affect the role and requirements of their managers.

A simple categorisation of businesses is as follows: national - domestic operations in a single country only; extended national - based and headquartered in one country but with some limited operations in other countries; multinational - with operations in a minimum of 10 countries. Transnational - multinational organisations with internationally integrated activities and no dominant national base. In fact, there are very few transnationals.

Managers in transnationals may face similar situations and have similar needs since no substantial regional factors may apply. Multinationals may also have managerial similarities but the nature of management in extended nationals will probably depend on the nature of their international presence.

Of course, not all international organisations will seek to develop an international culture. Some will feel it more appropriate simply to export their original domestic business style, structure and culture in the other countries. In these the role of managers is likely to differ substantially from that required in a multicultural transnational.

As to the managers, the nature and extent of their responsibilities differ. A simple categorisation of such managers is as follows: natives - managing operations entirely within their own country; exiles - expatriates managing operations in a country foreign to them; explorers - individuals, based in one country with responsibilities for operations there, together with the development and management of similar operations in a limited number of other countries; cosmopolitans - managers responsible at a specific level or for a specific function.

Taking these two categorisations together gives us a simple map to help identify the basic types of international management circumstances. On this map natives will be common in nationals and extended nationals. Exiles and explorers may be found in extended nationals and multinationals, while cosmopolitans will be found mainly in multinationals and transnationals. The specific competence required by any international manager are additional. They must have those characteristics which are necessary for effectiveness in a national context, plus other characteristics.

Business schools can contribute to personal development by providing less threatening environments in which managers can be helped to diagnose and pursue their development needs. They can work with organisations to develop their international managers. This is vital since organisations - being the employers of their managers, with control over careers, status, and remuneration are not best-placed to provide and manage the processes needed to develop the characteristics required in managers.

Professor Ray Wild is Principal of the Henley Management College.