Q: We're growing quickly internationally, but aligning our marketing activity is a nightmare. Not only do we have the cultural differences one would expect of different nationalities working together, but we have a host of different corporate backgrounds. How can I straighten out this chaos?
A: Even in the smallest companies, chaos can spread quickly when major organisational change or international growth is embarked upon. Order can be successfully restored, however, when you put leaders in charge who can inspire their team to engage in a vision for success, supported by a fail-safe implementation plan.
A crucial first step is the appointment of a global marketing leadership team to orchestrate change, with the active sponsorship of the chief marketing officer and chief executive. They all need to be in the same boat to bring clarity and direction.
The leadership team must meet regularly. Its first job is to develop an inspirational vision of success, and to agree on a strategy to deliver it.
It should work through core issues such as where the key capability gaps lie; whether breadth or depth of impact is more important; identifying where the business excels or fails, and what resources and budgets are needed to deliver the vision. Practical issues such as which business units have best practice to share or need a kick up the pants also need to be addressed.
Deciding who should lead the various work-streams is a fine art and you may have to manage a mix of politics and cultural differences.
In a multinational business the leadership team will usually consist of the senior marketing directors from the top five or six markets and representatives from some of the smaller ones. It will also include some of the business-unit heads as well as representatives from HR and learning and development. When the right people are in the room, I've seen six months' worth of work done in a day. Forcing people to take time out and focus on the big picture can deliver amazing things. Get them talking about why they care, and what their personal commitment will be.
The desired outcome is an inspiring vision and a practical plan to deliver excellence - nothing less will do.
Mhairi McEwan is the co-founder and chief executive of Brand Learning and co-author of The Growth Drivers. She is also a fellow of The Marketing Society.