Lessons Dun & Bradstreet learned in making the major transition from an international company to a truly global organization.
Dun & Bradstreet may have an earlier claim to the term "international" than many other companies. We celebrated our 150th anniversary in the U.S. in 1991, and we opened our first overseas office in London in 1857, just 16 years after the company was founded in 1841. Today, our 16 divisions, including such familiar names as Dun & Bradstreet Information Services, A.C. Nielsen, IMS International, Dun & Bradstreet Software, Moody's Investors Service, and Reuben H. Donnelley, operate in more than 60 countries. More than half of our 58,000 associates work outside of the U.S. Non-U.S. operations generate roughly 40% of our total $4.6 billion in annual revenue.
But, there is a major transition required to get from being an international company to becoming a global company. Frankly, at Dun & Bradstreet we are in the midst of that transition.
There are many differences between an international company and one that is truly global. For example:
* An international company manages segregated markets; a global company manages integrated markets.
* An international company consists of colonies managed from the home office; a global company is a federation of equal partners.
* In an international company, ideas, people, and other resources are often isolated behind the nationalistic walls of "not invented here." In a global company, the walls come down and resources have no boundaries.
For many companies, including Dun & Bradstreet, the need to become a global organization is driven by irreversible market forces. Change is everywhere, in every country, every culture, every corporation. There are more demanding customers with a greater choice of suppliers, reduced regulations, new technologies. These and other factors have forged an increasingly integrated global marketplace. It is a marketplace full of both opportunity and risk. And in this environment, adapting to the forces of globalization is no longer an option. The rules of the game have changed, and many organizations must change in order to operate effectively, if not simply survive.
At Dun & Bradstreet, we have underway today many actions to become a truly global organization. At the same time, we view globalization as a continuing, constant, and challenging undertaking - a journey, not a destination. Achieving success on this journey requires a firm commitment to removing the internal barriers to change. Success requires a willingness to think and act creatively an in new ways; to use advanced technology to open new markets and improve internal processes; to invest in different skill sets; to hire develop, and retain the best people; and, in short, to rethink and reorient one's corporate culture.
Kenichi Ohmae, author of the best-seller The Borderless World, has noted that, "If a company wants to operate globally, it has to think and act globally, and that means challenging entrenched systems that work against collaborative efforts."
In my opinion, this means you can't have a corporate or operating-unit-headquarters mentality that reinforces outdated organizational structures, attitudes, and behaviors if you're going to be a successful global company. In other words, a company must think and act in ways that break through the legacy of tradition even if that tradition has been one of success. Related to this, barriers to effective communication must be removed. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a challenging endeavor.
For example, we recently developed and communicated throughout the worldwide Dun & Bradstreet organization a "Statement of Values," a straightforward declaration of the values we share regarding ethics, our customers, ourselves, and our shareowners. In the course of introducing the values...