The Buy-In: Working Cross-Functionally as a Loc Manager
Being a localization manager is tricky for many reasons. The role involves wearing many hats, yet often struggling to find a place within an organization. While localization managers aren’t responsible for owning product development or content and marketing strategy, they heavily influence all of these things and more.
When discussing the impact on stakeholders and getting buy-in for projects, it’s often assumed that this is limited to leadership or executives. It’s also assumed that once a VP or a CXO supports localization, all our problems will be solved. Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple.
Raising awareness and getting buy-in needs to happen at all levels of the organization, across all disciplines, and at all times. This is one of the reasons being a localization manager can be a challenge.
So, the localization career coach Hristina Racheva is back with workshop part 2, “The Buy-In: Working Cross-Functionally as a Loc Manager.” During this session, we looked at ways to strategically get your entire organization on board for your localization initiatives.
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The buy-in is not simply about getting one-off support from the leadership. It should take on the “Horizontal Buy-In” approach, which considers how you can engage with various levels and disciplines you work with on a daily basis.
Today’s workplace culture doesn’t look so much like the traditional top-down management anymore, where decisions were made primarily by the senior-level leaders. A wide range of team members in various teams needs to incorporate localization into their strategy and vision and adhere to localization processes.
Tips for Buy-In
- Build strategic and intentional relationships with your stakeholders. Informal and personal relationships often lead to strong connections, which are great for when you need collaboration with people from other disciplines.
- Talk about your purpose, what you wish to get out of your buy-in pitch, why they should care, what the outcome will be, and what they can do for you.
- When presenting to your stakeholders to ask for their support, be extremely concise and to the point. They don’t need/want all the little details.
- Be prepared for pushback, but don’t be discouraged if there is one because it’s not always that they disagree with you or don’t trust you – it might be that they are trying to understand because they don’t know how to help.
Focusing on the Impact of Localization
When presenting the localization strategy to leadership for buy-in, one of the biggest mistakes localization teams make is only focusing on localization tools, processes, setup, etc. Why is that a problem? This only shows your stakeholders how you do what you do and not why you do it.
What matters to your leadership team is the outcome of the localization. What kind of impact will your localization efforts have on the international customer experience? That’s what they will care about. Remember, localization itself isn’t your end goal but a means to reach the goals. So always tie your strategy into the company’s overarching goals, vision, and strategy.
Present-Forward vs. Future-Back Approach
The Present-forward approach looks at what is not working right now, current challenges, and strategies to fix it. The future-back approach is more about thinking of the future and painting the big picture. Think about what would be the ideal state of localization for the organization and what you want your localization strategy to look like X years from now. Start from those big picture goals and walk your way backward to build a process to achieve them. This way of thinking allows your team to break free from the limitations you are facing right now and open up your mind to what is possible.
Influence Without Authority
“Influence without authority” refers to the ability to make others act, behave, or think without having any power or right over them. Doesn’t this sound like what localization managers do? We don’t own any products, content, or marketing, yet we have to get others who own that to make a decision and to act.
Here are three “plays” coined by Matt Tse of Atlassian, which localization managers can take on at different times for different ways of collaboration to interact with others and influence without authority.
- Purpose: Understanding the motivations and context of who you are trying to influence and collaborate with.
- New situations: Newly hired at a company, new team, new projects, change of stakeholders
- Times of conflict: Misalignment in a project or friction between team members
- Build trust and discuss ideas in a safe environment through one-on-one meetings
- Get to know your stakeholders better and learn why they do what they do through background reading. It could be reading blog posts or Slack conversations of your stakeholders, etc.
- Get social with your team and stakeholders to build a personal relationship with them.
- Purpose: Constantly exploring and trying different ways of framing ideas.
- Communicating ideas and finding the right frame: Refine your ideas and generate excitement and interest for your ideas
- Use interactive and informal visuals such as whiteboards, posters, workshops, screenshots, or wireframes to present the ideas their potential.
- Brand your approach by putting a name on it so others can reference back to it.
- Use an elevator pitch, which is a very concise and powerful way to share ideas.
- Purpose: Creating large movements by regularly sharing stories, perspectives, and facts.
- Driving significant change: Cultural change, new product, new industry trend
- Working company-wide: Collaborating with teams outside your immediate team
- Be relevant. What’s in it for them? Repeat and apply to their context.
- Paint a vision of what the future could look like. You could partner with your design team to help you present your thoughts visually.
- Generate energy and excitement around you, but remember to approach with patience as this isn’t an overnight process.
Change the Narrative
Getting the buy-in is not just about putting your presentation or strategy forward and getting support from leadership. It’s about how you position yourself and how you talk about yourself. It’s about educating your stakeholders on how they see you and how they talk about you.
What does this mean?
Oftentimes, the organization’s focus is on what the localization team does and how they’re responsible for the localization of their product or service. But in fact, everyone plays a role in providing the best international user experience. Localization is “how,” and the experience is “what,” which is the ultimate outcome everyone is working toward.
At its core, localization is about enabling users from different countries with language and cultural barriers to use your product the same way your English-speaking users do. So before asking for buy-in, help your stakeholders change their perspective – they are not supporting the localization team for the sake of helping the team; they are ultimately doing it for the end-user. Everyone is doing it together, not just the localization team.
Make Localization Fun
Localization is such a fun, fascinating topic. It has to do with a rich diversity of nationalities, cultures, traditions, behaviors, and more. But we often forget about that and only focus on the processes, tools, budgets – the boring stuff!
So how can we use the fun side of localization to increase support for buy-in?
Don’t make your conversation about what you need from the stakeholders at the moment. Instead of trying to make people take specific actions, build curiosity and engagement. Get them to think in the back of the mind about what localization is, how challenging it is, and the fact that there is a team working hard with a purpose.
One of the effective ways you can do that is by hosting fun organization-wide activities. Maybe you could create and share a pop quiz about your company’s localization team. Or make it a tradition to share blog posts or quick interesting facts about other countries and their traditions. You will be surprised by how many people will appreciate those efforts and even find them eye-opening.
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