Formal coursework in globalization as a profession is rare. There are a few graduate localization programs in the US at institutions such as the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), and several undergraduate minor programs such as the one at Brigham Young University (BYU), but not many exist beyond those. While these programs do largely have the benefit of being directed by practicing professionals, they all fit within the mold of traditional university degree programs. However, the rise of the masterclass in online learning has left something of a void for widely available, condensed expertise in the field of globalization. A recent publication seeks to fill that gap… and it happens to do that quite well.
One of the most striking characteristics of the Globalization Strategy Playbook — especially for a book written by 12 of the most seasoned globalization leaders in the industry — is that it is entirely unpretentious. The book is available for free to everyone in an understated GitHub repository, with minimal formatting and tastefully few graphics — only enough to illustrate particularly thought-provoking concepts. This is perhaps the first testament to the expertise of the book’s creators: In striving to keep their messages succinct and simple, they have also taken care to ensure the whole document could be easily localized for audiences beyond its original English.
If an anticipation of potential international audiences shows in the craft and form of the Globalization Strategy Playbook, so also shows in it an anticipation of audiences at many levels of seniority or experience throughout the localization sector. The chapters are divided into clear headers with only a handful of digestible paragraphs under each one, making it easy to navigate in its entirety. The main text is interspersed with concise graphics and short case studies for readers to consider. Although they regretfully do not appear in every chapter, the “Main Takeaways” portions of some sections offer helpful overviews of information that, if placed at the beginning, might be considered previews for busy readers. This overall structure lends itself well to selective, on-demand reading by those seeking advice on specific topics as they arise in their work.
The progression of content across chapters reflects a logical transition from fundamental explanations of the meaning of strategy to advanced considerations for data reporting and metrics, mirroring the needs many globalization leaders encounter as they grow within their careers and see their programs through to maturity. There are, nonetheless, useful reminders for even senior leaders distributed throughout the book. For instance, readers encounter this poignant message only a few paragraphs into the first chapter, which deals with the basics of purpose, vision, and strategy in an enterprise:
Your team needs to be the best collaborators and influencers in the company. They need to be the best listeners and even better advocates for the non-English speakers so that your company can realize goals in target international markets.
Who among us hasn’t been occasionally drawn so much into the details of our corner of the localization ecosystem that we haven’t been at risk of forgetting this essential principle?
Skillful organization of content like this results in a twofold experience for strategic thinkers: At once, they can glean valuable insights from any of part of the book, but they can also use the subjects in successive chapters as benchmarks in evaluating the situation on their current teams. As soon as the topics they encounter begin to diverge from what they are seeing in their organizations or from their present strategic considerations, they have an immediate indication of where to turn their attention.
Of course, any worthy publication must deliver value beyond a clever structure, and the Globalization Strategy Playbook does not disappoint in this area, either. The specific content of each chapter unfolds as follows:
- Chapter 1: Purpose and Vision. This section deals with the pillars of strategic thinking, which the book proposes as being people, processes, and infrastructure, in addition to mentioning of the importance of reporting tools and roadmaps in planning.
- Chapter 2: Strategy Overview. This section builds upon the concepts of the first chapter but situates readers more squarely within the context of strategy for globalization, presenting a hypothetical “Ideal Company” and exploring common business challenges related to localization.
- Chapter 3: Stakeholders — Strategic Engagement and Communication. This section describes relationships between globalization teams and other functions within typical companies and offers suggestions for approaching those relationships strategically, with an emphasis on expanding globalization leaders’ spheres of influence.
- Chapter 4: Language Strategy. This section expands upon the essential principle that language strategy is about connecting with diverse audiences and offers practical advice and reasoning for developing a cohesive strategy related to language.
- Chapter 5: Technology Strategy. This section introduces rationale for applying a technology maturity model to an organization’s globalization technology stack and invites readers to expand their view of the impact of globalization technology both on current teams and users and on the future development of an enterprise.
- Chapter 6: Data Analytics for Globalization Strategy. This section raises crucial questions related to the kind, quality, and volume of globalization data and insists upon ensuring shared understanding of the meaning of data and how it is represented in dashboards before using it to make decisions.
An intentional, overarching theme of strategy for go-to-market events creates a common objective for the whole book and connects the content between chapters. Understanding this objective is key to understanding why the topics in the individual sections are indispensable as a minimum for globalization strategy; whether for initializing the first go-to-market initiative at a startup or a major expansion at a mature enterprise, the fundamental principles remain the same.
Although it does become clear at times that the various chapters have been written by different authors (a fact openly acknowledged in the publication credits), variations in voice do not interrupt the flow. In fact, the tone remains substantially consistent throughout the book, resulting in a product that feels continually welcoming and supportive. One contextual element that helps in this regard is the frequent use of miniature case studies to illustrate applications of the abstract principles the authors have attempted to convey.
Among these brief case studies figure instances of globalization leaders negotiating with internal partners, staffing growing programs, responding to difficult feedback, demonstrating ROI for executive leadership, and event navigating mergers and acquisitions. Any globalization leader who stays in the business long enough will certainly encounter precisely these situations in their work and the Globalization Strategy Playbook offers help as though with the care of an experienced coach. In this way, it embodies much of what draws so many people from such diverse backgrounds to the globalization industry in the first place — the inborn desire to connect, to help, and to foster cultural growth in others without demographical bias.
For globalization leaders only starting their careers, this book can show them how to start on the right foot. For those in the middle of their careers, it can help them make press through strategic crossroads. For the most senior among us, it can help us reflect on worthwhile refinements to our programs and departments. Whereas there once was a void in publicly available expertise about globalization strategy, the Globalization Strategy Playbook truly has arrived as a masterclass, and it deserves the attention of leaders at all levels of the localization sector.