Anil is the head of his company's Commercial Banking business in India. His company has five global business units, all of which operate in India. He is the country chair because his business unit is India's largest. Other leaders have a solid reporting line to those in the region or the company HQ in the US.
In the best of times, the business heads cooperate to address common employee issues or to facilitate cross-postings. In the worst of times, they compete with each other for business and withhold information from one another. When big conflicts arise, the BU heads escalate the issue and getting resolution is slow. Anil sees opportunity for growth in India if they can increase business unit cooperation, but he's also aware of upsetting global BU heads if he's seen to be pushing his own agenda.
Many global corporations configure themselves around global business units, which can create barriers to growth within markets. One solution is to implement practices that support growth within and across business units. I call this "enterprise growth". Enterprise growth requires new practices, focused collaboration, and a special mind-set that while a market might not be a single business unit, it is an enterprise whose growth can be optimised.
Enterprise growth can be hard to achieve when people are focused on achieving their own targets. If you want to drive enterprise growth in your company, consider the following tactics:
Grow Sales Together
Increasing sales with smart collaboration looks different for different companies. In a bank like Anil's, several business units sell products and services to the same customers, but the way they communicate with and gather intelligence about these customers is not linked. Some business units sell into large corporations, but each with sales reps or account managers calling on the same account.
By creating a common account management structure, it's easier to increase the total spending of the client. These sales tactics are easy to understand and hard to consistently do well. Anil can drive enterprise growth by helping to create a collaboration structure and a way to quickly resolve collaborative sales issues.
We've found that building relationships between sales and marketing staff, and between sales staff in multiple business units works. This is achieved by getting people to solve real problems together in workshops focused on increasing cross-business sales or improving account management practices.
Get Better, Faster, Cheaper together
In companies with a global business unit structure, efforts to cut costs, improve productivity, or increase speed are typically driven top down by the business unit. Anil can drive enterprise growth by helping the business unit heads agree where they can learn from one another, reduce cycle time, and share resources.
In an example from another industry, a large energy company with global business created governance teams in each market to drive decisions that would optimise margins across their value chain in each market. One tool they used was a common radar screen to monitor external activities or events (legislation, competitor activity, big tenders, etc.) that might impact their business. This forced them to look forward and anticipate issues that might impact different businesses, thus allowing the businesses to collaborate and resolve conflicts easier and faster.
Anil has no governance structure, so he must create a structure for business unit heads to figure out how to create practices and tools that will help them do things better, faster, and cheaper.
Build Capabilities for Enterprise Growth
As country chair for India, Anil sits on the country's HR committee, which has evolved from a purely administrative committee to one that moves employees across business units.
By focusing the committee on future people and organisation capabilities, he can help them think strategically about what experiences and capabilities their leaders and professionals need to support growth—both for the business units AND the enterprise. This makes movement of people more intentional and impactful. It is also a great retention tool in markets where there may be few opportunities for promotion.
In our work, we've found that putting together a cross-business unit team to solve a key growth problem in a market or region is a powerful way to build individual capabilities and more importantly, to build organisation capabilities for growth. Implementing these practices in a company like Anil's requires collaboration between the HR business unit partners and the country HR shared services.
Regardless of a company's size, when there are distinct business units operating, growth leaders can maximise corporate value by instilling practices and a mind-set for enterprise growth. Sometimes this will be welcomed and supported from above, other times it will require influencing big stakeholders.
If you want to pursue enterprise growth, discuss the following questions with your business counterparts:
- Do we have opportunities to achieve additional growth by cooperating across business units?
- Have we taken advantage of synergies, redundancies, or interdependencies to do things better, faster, and cheaper together?
- When we are meeting together, are we talking about the right things for growth (or looking backwards and solving problems)?
- What disciplines do we need to put in place to go beyond talking about collaboration?
Pursuing enterprise growth can benefit the company as well as employees who identify as part of the company or market (e.g. Elsevier Hong Kong, Shell Malaysia). This is good business that's also good for your people.