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The eclipse of regional management?

2Against this geographic expansion, there will also be a need to develop more sensitive, local organisations that respond to national opportunities and challenges more readily. The past 10 to 15 years have seen, quite rightly, a diminution of power of country managers, as companies sought to reduce needless duplication and stimulate the sharing of knowledge. Eradicating geographic silos and fiefdoms made sense. But as country-based organisations have become more complex and sizeable, there may be a need to develop more focus at a country level.

Several clients have started to re-build country organisations and re-appoint country managers or ambassadors, particularly as their organisations become more complex at a country level and they need to build governmental or academic influence.

As a result, regional management has been scrutinised. With the development of technology and communications, organisational span-breakers may not be so necessary. In addition, given the complexity of regional tasks, regional managers become glorified financial directors. The average advertising agency regional director in Europe, for example, may have to cover 100 offices in a 250-day working year. It is difficult to add significant value while spending an average of one to two days in each office a year, even if he or she travelled all year.

At WPP, we are experimenting with two new organisational responses. First, Global Client Leaders to manage big clients across WPP on a worldwide basis. Second, WPP Country Managers focusing on three key issues – people, local clients and acquisitions. Both responses cause angst to our operating company or tribal leaders who continue to have primary organisational control. Both cut across the traditional organisational structures. Both demand new ways of working together, denying turf, territory and ego. Both raise questions about motives, methods and values. But both are necessary, responding to client needs and developments.

Top Advertising categories 2006  Top Advertising categories 2006
Top Advertising categories 2006  Top Advertising categories 2006
Top Advertising categories 2006  Top Advertising categories 2006

Source: GroupM 'This Year, Next Year' forecasts December 2006
1 UK data is October 2006 to November 2007; all other data is for 2006 calendar year

Organisations are becoming more and more networked, less and less pyramidic. Perhaps the 21st century is not for tidy minds. Furthermore, as the balance of economic power shifts back to the East, from where it came, and Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe become more and more important, there will have to be similar shifts in power within corporations. Salary increases, benefits, STIPs, LTIPs, share options, restricted stock allocations, capital expenditure, for example, will have to be allocated more fairly, as growth favours these faster-growing markets. This will mean that Anglo-American or American-Western European management cliques will have to open up, as, for example, Unilever has done, with over 400 Indian managers already exported around the world in senior positions.