There are many challenges when managing international R&D, some of these are similar to those of international management in general but some elements come into sharper focus due to the concentrated nature of the knowledge assets.
The best advice I was given when starting out was:
- Get to know your people, as the approach you take will depend on their location.
- Realize the power of the collective wisdom of your team, they can provide different perspectives and insights.
- Be prepared to be flexible with your time in order to work effectively across time zones. The day can get long….
- Different types of management have different requirements. Supervision needs close daily interaction with the team, so this is best conducted on a local basis but strategic management can be remotely located.
We have identified three strands within the theme of Managing International R&D. These are:
Strand 1: Culture
- Translation across regions, cultures – even sites in the same country have individual cultures.
- Long term approach is required to forge and maintain working relationships.
- Global vs. local issues, corporate or centralized R&D vs. decentralized R&D – all complicate management
- M &A integration – this can create a range of new challenges, for example there may be a requirement to consolidate on fewer sites, so balancing the strategic need without destroying value by losing knowledge is a challenge. It is easy to move lab equipment, but lab equipment does not make a lab.
- Understand the level of autonomy given to regional parts of the business, as this will influence the execution of the R and D strategy.
Strand 2: Category
Different R&D categories pose different international needs:
- Regional new product development to address local markets
- Centralised R and D and corporate centres of excellence
- R&D product support for regional needs
- Service models e.g. contract research R&D organizations.
- Disruptive innovation focus.
Strand 3: Communication
Effective communication plays a major factor in success and language is only one small part of this.
- Mode of communication – this is often by phone and it poses a different dynamic in meetings and increases communication difficulty in some respect. There may be more or less of a propensity to comment or ask questions especially using this mode of communication. Particularly for meeting more than 1 to 1.
- Time zones – these restrict the window of opportunity for personal contact in person, it can be expensive to travel and limited numbers can join the meeting. Often it is the same people that are permitted to travel due to budget constraints – these are not always the people at the grass roots of a project.
- Hierarchy – the strength of hierarchy in different companies and cultures must be understood to create a smooth working environment. There may be protocols to be addressed.
These are some of the subjects we will be covering – if you would like to contribute resource that you have found helpful please let us know using the contact form.