FedEx Blog

FedEx Blog

The Big Orchestration

August 9, 2011

GCR Local Mgmt

Isn’t it great how different people are? Do we not all enjoy our uniqueness?

I will admit, it also feels good to meet another human being with whom you have many things in common, you like the same activities, and you think alike without even talking. However, if it were this way with all people, life would become boring, causing at least me to become lazy in my social interactions and in my mind. That is why I enjoy spending time with people with a both differences and commonalities. I find it is one great adventure to exchange with people.

Now what does this have to do with FedEx? Think about an organization like FedEx…

– 290,000 employees around the world working in…
– 12 different operating companies….serving customers in
– 220 countries and territories

Multiply this by the difference of people you would find within your own community, city, state, or country – you will definitely get a complex world to operate a business.  

FedEx has learned how to leverage the differences of people and cultures around the world. In order to run a sustainable business and deliver service to global customers, FedEx strives for congruence. We work hard to be “one FedEx” around the world by integrating people from around the globe into the corporate culture, inviting them to contribute their uniqueness and local culture

Studies show how people perform better in environments where they feel valued and appreciated. They want their contribution to be valued and their culture respected. However, how does a business like FedEx achieve the required integration of all these different cultures without ignoring the local people and their mentalities? How do you overcome misunderstandings rooting in cultural differences and tension that could keep a part of your organizations from performing?    

When FedEx decided to go International in 1984, I was fortunate to get a job as data entry clerk at its Hamburg (Germany) Airport Office, earning funds to attend university. Immediately, I was fascinated by the task this great U.S. company now had to tackle: find ways how to embed its strong own values and culture into very different social and cultural environments around the world.

This line of thinking led me into a leadership role very early in my career at FedEx. While every one of us contributes to “the big orchestration” each day, those of us in leadership roles have an even greater responsibility to actively design, facilitate, and ensure positive cultural exchanges. Just as a matter of daily business. We must appreciate the various individual and cultural differences and – like conductors of a symphony orchestra – make us all “play together” to bring out the most beautiful sound of this great polyphony.

In my initial management positions, I was busy building bridges between the American way of doing business and the German workforce and environment. As I’ve progressed, I‘ve learned from and about people in India, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and many more. Leadership in different cultural environments means you constantly have to reflect on your own values, how they were formed, and the history of your country and your society – always in relation to the people in the country that you are dealing with.

My experience has taught me never to think of changing the values and norms of the people I meet in different countries. It simply will not work and can result in malfunction of the local organization. What I have seen work is inviting individuals and teams to adopt a universal framework for designing collective, supra-cultural processes, structures and systems. We must place people of any culture in the center of consideration and leadership by embracing and understanding where they are coming from.

FedEx had done this through our People – Service – Profit philosophy, a superb universal framework for a successful organization and leadership. Taking care of our people independent of their cultural environment and background; they, in turn, will deliver the impeccable service demanded by our customers, who will reward us with the profitability necessary to secure our future. This is the very foundation of FedEx.

PSP provides managers around the globe the ability to develop consciousness of cultural differences and then openness to find practices of cooperation. Managers and their people can bridge between the local mentalities and the organization’s sets of values and its strategic goals. It is the single one reason why I am convinced that FedEx is one of the best companies for people: its core philosophy is perfectly fitted to respect another nation’s culture and to match the needs of the people in these cultures and the business

Don’t be mistaken: PSP doesn’t happen by itself. It requires energy, direction, communication, and leadership. Because so many people and managers at FedEx do this every day, I believe FedEx has become a best place to work in over 21 nations around the world. It is great to belong to such a global community!

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