Cultural agility is the ability to understand multiple local contexts and work within them to obtain consistent business results. For today’s global organisations, cultural agility is the new competitive edge.
While individual capacities are important, successful organisations build an institutional level of a global mindset and skills for effectively coordinating, negotiating and influencing across boundaries.
Building cultural agility often includes making structural changes as an organisation moves from active operations in a few countries to multiple continents. This brings about diversity of experience and thinking and this usually results in better business decisions.
Crucial changes may include:
While emerging markets multinationals often have an inherently better understanding of the contexts of other dynamic markets, they also struggle with building cultural agility. For example, Chinese firms going global are challenged by needing to adapt their hierarchical style that centralises decision and holds onto information in markets where employees expect to be granted responsibility, autonomy and trust.