From major energy companies accessing oil and gas deposits to global companies with international subsidiaries to SMEs seeking to outsource manufacturing or access new markets, companies of all sizes and industries must venture beyond the familiarity of their domestic markets and compete at the global level. However, “crossing international borders can be a messy business,” says Dennis Baltzley, Senior Vice President of Executive Education at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Baltzley, who was once the global head of leadership development for Royal Dutch Shell, says the challenges with going global fall into three general categories.
The first category of challenges involves Western companies that are forced to enter emerging markets in order to compete, but are not quite ready to operate in those markets. It is difficult to resist “the lure of double-digit growth in emerging markets,” he says, “but do the companies have the capabilities and resources to manage globally?” Leaders in these companies must learn how to manage a diverse, multicultural workforce, for example, and also navigate the complexity of managing global projects.
The second category of challenges, according to Baltzley, “is how to accelerate the building of talent in emerging markets.” Looking for much more than just cheap blue-collar labour, and unable or refusing to count solely on expatriates to take leadership roles, today’s global companies recognize the need for more sophisticated skills and knowledge from their international workforce. “There’s a resurgence of foundational skills such as critical thinking, and more effective judgment skills required,” Baltzley says. The development of local talent also includes instilling new mindsets, such as a comfort with ambiguity. In many cultures, there are gaps in leadership learning on issues such as these, and companies realize that they have to take the initiative and fill these gaps, he says.
Baltzley’s third set of challenges involves the leadership at corporate headquarters. These leaders often require “refreshers” to update their global skills, such as international negotiating.
To help companies address these challenges, the Thunderbird executive education department has been offering a semi-custom International Consortia program that brings together a small group of leaders and managers from five to six companies for two weeks of learning and conversation. The Consortia program is based on a broad range of topics developed in part from a pre-meeting feedback survey sent to participants, Baltzley says. The 25-30 Consortia participants also engage in numerous group discussions — a great opportunity, he says, for leaders to learn from each other. “A large proportion of the value of the International Consortia,” Baltzley notes, “are the conversations across companies, and even within companies.” These conversations are enhanced by the cross-functional backgrounds of the participants.
Thunderbird has been conducting the International Consortia for more than a decade, Baltzley says, and today wants to help companies not only fill the gap in their international skills, but also to “think the next frontier in global business.” For example, he says, it is no longer Fortune 500 companies that can disrupt industries with new technology or new products; surprisingly, much of that disruption now appears from countries such as India, where companies are succeeding without the western models of business. Thought leadership organizations such as Alliance India are helping their domestic companies compete globally.
Baltzley believes that through learning and networking opportunities, not only with Thunderbird faculty but also leaders from other global companies, the International Consortia help leaders build the mindset, skills and networks required to meet these new global challenges.
Dennis Baltzley is Senior Vice President of Executive Education at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Dr. Baltzley works to help Thunderbird clients deliver their strategy through a range of executive education options targeted at the client’s global challenges. In this role, Dennis plays a critical role in helping Thunderbird expand its impact and reputation as one of the leading global providers of executive education. Prior to joining Thunderbird, Dr. Baltzley was an executive director at Duke Corporate Education (Duke CE), and prior to that served as global head of leadership development for Royal Dutch Shell and managed all Shell Learning staff, as well as the company's Learning Centre in The Hague. Dr. Baltzley personally led Shell’s C-suite development programs, and helped the global oil and gas leader create an enterprise-wide corporate learning architecture to build highly effective leaders across all levels of the organization. Dr. Baltzley holds a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Tulane University.