Recommended reading: International management

CBS Alumni has asked Flemming Poulfelt, Vice Dean of Research Communication and Professor at CBS, to recommend a book within his field of research; international management. Read what he recommends and find out what he is reading right now.


Flemming Poulfeldt
Photo: Bjarke MacCarthy

By: Jakob Vesterager

Flemming Poulfelt has worked at CBS for over 40 years.  During that time, management and development of businesses have been keywords for his research, and he has taught generations of CBS students, written a score of books and won several awards for his work.

Read his recommendations and learn more about his research:

”A highly relevant book for global managers”

Quest: Leading Global Transformations by N. Anand & Jean-Louis Barsoux. IMD International, 2014.

The global scene is challenging and complex. That is why the title alone is very interesting, for who would not be interested in gaining more insight into global transformation processes, especially as a player in a business operating globally?

The book is aimed at anyone who has something to do with global leadership. It is based on the extensive experiences that several professors at IMD (Swiss business school, ed.) and other researchers at IMD have collected through their research and collaborations with international businesses and their managers.

The book is an interesting study of which types of transformation processes that a global business has to deal with if they want to enter into the next decade.

Seven transformation processes
The book’s basic premise is that businesses which operate or wish to operate globally have to think actively in terms of how they want to develop and change.  In the book, this is designated as ’The business of transformation:  Selling change'.  And the authors’ perspective is that transformation is not a reactive process but rather a series of proactive actions that move the business from one level to the next.

The book outlines seven different transformation processes. These are:
    The quest for global presence
    The quest for global value generation
    The quest for global leadership development
    The quest for global solutions
    The quest for global agility
    The quest for global co-innovation
    The quest for global sustainability

These are seven fundamental transformation processes on the global scene.

The quest for global presence
The first – the quest for global presence – is about the businesses that are not particularly visible in the global arena today, but who wish to increase their international presence.

Among some of the advice listed is that the businesses need to focus on three basic elements:

  • Firstly, that the business carefully prioritises how much time and strength should to be allocated to different markets.  
  • Secondly, that the business carefully considers the existing global challenges and try to decode how others have overcome them.  
  • Thirdly, that it tries to interpret what the increased complexity means for its own business.  This includes, but is not limited to, understanding contexts, utilising diversity instead of perceiving it as a threat, and dealing with insecurity as well as perceiving the challenges that arise and which need to be dealt with as they occur.  

The section is concluded with seven questions about the individual business’s situation in terms of ’where do we stand’.  For example, about how global the business wants to be, and which new systems need to be adopted so the business can be managed globally.

Precise and instrumental
The six other transformation processes also focus on a number of particular conditions, and all are concluded with seven key questions for continued reflection.    

Finally, the books ends with a section of concluding comments.  Among these are that the managerial role in the global scene is to ‘create the conditions that support the employees in the front line, so that they become more knowledgeable, more attentive and create more value’.  Added to this, is that 'the global journey’ is identical to a conscious and life-long learning process.   

It is a highly relevant, well-written and useful book that is of great relevance to businesses which are considering strengthening their global presence, or which have already gone global.  The book’s strength is that it is both precise and instrumental to management.

Therefore, all managers who wish to be or are already operating on the global market can pick up the book for inspiration and knowledge.

”This is how the world is today”

How did you become interested in your field?
I have always been interested in the management and development of businesses. I even wrote a PhD thesis about the subject many years ago (1977, ed.). The global aspect has also been of interest to me for many years, in part because I have lived in the United States a couple of times and in Australia, and in part as a simple conclusion that this is how the world is today.  

The international aspect is also prevalent in my research. I am currently working on a large-scale project with the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) on the topic of global leadership, which we have called Global Leadership Academy, and in which both businesses, CBS and DI participate.  

I also have a Nordic project about Corporate Governance, and right now I am putting the finishing touches on a strategy project that will result in the publishing of a book next year.
What has your research contributed to the field?
One type of output from my projects take the shape of articles and books – I have produced quite a number of those. My latest book on strategy was Beyond Strategy in 2014, which was published by an American publisher. And speaking of the global aspect, I have written books that have not only been published in English but also in Korean and Chinese.
What are you reading right now?
Academically, I am always reading several books simultaneously.  Among the books that I have just finished are:

The Navy Seal Art of War by R. Roy. Crown Business. 2015.

Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to Choose and Execute the Right Approach by M. Reeves, K. Haanaes & J. Sinha. Harvard Business Review Press. 2015

Six Simple Rules. How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated by Y. Morieux & P. Tollman. Harvard Business Review Press. 2014.

Read more about Flemming Poulfelt on his research profile page

The page was last edited by: Alumni // 12/17/2017