When I think about my days, decades ago, as an executive in a foreign country where I was managing as a CEO, I laugh at how we communicated. In those days, things moved much slower, perhaps because there were fewer challenges, but mostly because we could not communicate as we do now.
I remember dictating to a secretary some type of communication that was important to me. The secretary would draft the letter and bring it to me for review. I’d make some comments and changes, sometimes dictating these using a recording device that the secretary typed from. After an hour, a finished copy of a typed letter was produced, brought to me for signature, and sent out in the mail. Of course, it took a couple of days for the letter to be delivered, perhaps a week in some foreign locations. A reply came back in a similar manner, and actions were then taken. This process now seems absurd to me because of the glacial pace when key decisions needed to be made.
In contrast, now I can be in Jakarta and receive a text message at 3 a.m. saying that a client in London needs to talk immediately because of something crucial that’s come up and he requests a video call. So I get my phone turned to FaceTime, call a client halfway around the world, and seconds later the client is on the phone. I can see and hear him or her, and we start having an important conversation. Sometimes I communicate outwards to one or more other persons, and they do the same. The situation is completed in a few minutes. we are in different parts of the world, different time zones, and yet this is the new normal, the new expectation and the new necessity. If we were not so hyper-connected, my client could not discuss with me their urgent and important issues and decisions.
Before global enterprises evolved, more communication went out from central headquarters. Now management and personnel are matrixed, and information flows not just back and forth between the center and outlying areas or operations, but rather in a matrix throughout the organization. That has many advantages–the biggest to me being that people can communicate directly with each other, not just through the center of the organization.