Movement up the LMM scale is often not a linear process.
As we explore each stage of Rotary International’s progress along the continuum toward Level 5, Transparency, I overlay our intake framework to show how they evolved. When a prospect asks us about doing a new project, we assess their LMM stage by asking them about the following: Strategy, Process, Technology, and Quality. This lets us understand where on the Localization Maturity Model they fall, what they want to accomplish and helps us guide them toward a more proactive level to simplify future needs.
At Level 1, Reactive, companies are not proactive.
Since Rotary operates internationally, they already had some procedures in place for translation, they did not start at Level 1, in a completely reactive position. Companies new to translation start by scrambling to get translation done – there is no strategy or technology, and typically, the person responsible for procuring translation has no understanding about the different levels of quality, they just aim to get it done.
At Level 2, Repeatable, a process starts to evolve.
In 2009, Patrick observed that this is where Rotary started.
Strategy – At this point, management knew that Rotary needed to communicate globally. Yet, there was no defined global communications strategy. The Translations Department did the best they could to provide translation of English materials.
Process - the marketing team considered themselves as “creative rule breakers,” that deadlines were optional, and did not screen creative agencies for experience with cross cultural and language work. Marketing would create content, tag lines and images and then send it over to the translation department. When the language team brought back issues with the initiatives, marketing pushed back on the translation team to “make it work”. They had no understanding of global marketing.
The issues showed in written and visual initiatives. Remember the example above when the words the marketing team chose to describe Rotary as an organization that inspires, empowers, and mentors, yet in Japanese, they translated into one word? The feel and impact of the message was completely lost. Another example was an image used on marketing campaigns that showed hands holding a globe. While in the US this relays a feeling of caring for the world together, it didn’t work globally since it was found to be offensive in some cultures.
Even with these issues, the translation team worked to adapt the US-centric campaigns without including the local, in-country teams. By the time the local teams got the materials, they looked at them with dismay because they still didn’t work, so the local teams created their own campaigns saying the materials provided were just “not right in our culture.”
These disconnections led to an inconsistent global message, fractured communication, and nothing tested and appropriate.
As this disjointed process grew, the translation department also jumped around to fulfill requests for translation and interpretation services. This led to a convoluted structure built out around languages.
For some languages, an internal team with a supervisor and translators provided the translation. For others, there was an individual tasked with the projects. And for the remaining languages, and to supplement internal staff, the team would outsource to freelancers. The manager (Patrick Nunes) had 30 people in the department, with some inconsistent processes, reporting hierarchy, and few controls.
Technology – The company did not use any technology for translation memory, leading to inconsistency of voice and message. Individuals retained completed projects because there were no document management, resource management, or organizational programs or procedures. This led to issues with version control and no central location for completed projects/documents.
Quality – As you can imagine from the process described above, quality suffered. At Level 2, Rotary understood the importance of quality and hired experts to provide quality translation, yet the convoluted process left many opportunities for error and areas for improvement.
At Level 3, Managed, companies optimize and centralize processes.
At this stage Rotary’s “Language Services” became the “Global Communications Department.”
Strategy - The team recognized that changing the name to the Global Communications Department helped position the department as the group to consult with on global communications rather than as a support function. This started to set a vision for the value the department could offer with communications around the world. Slowly, they started to get involved with marketing initiatives at the start instead of as an afterthought. In addition, Rotary identified and agreed upon their nine official languages.
Process – Once they clarified their official languages, the Global Communications Department knew that streamlining operations to have a consistent process would benefit them all. Instead of having a different process for each language, Patrick established units organized by geography – Latin America, APAC, Africa, and copy editing. This change allowed for easier management and internal service delivery.
Technology – The team still did not leverage any platforms besides an internal server to assist with translation management.
Quality – By streamlining the internal department processes, consistency of delivery improved. Yet, the department still struggled with the marketing department working alone in their silo and the global communications department not including the local, in-country teams.
The process of setting the vision and making departmental changes took time and buy in from organization and department leaders.
At Level 4, Optimized, companies introduce technology and track results.
To reach Level 4, the team recognized that they would benefit from a translation management platform.
Strategy - To move to the next level, the Global Communications Department needed to optimize their delivery. They set a goal to find a translation platform that could develop glossaries for consistent terminology usage, manage documents, accept requests, and be used by all.
Process – The work that they did in the prior two stages of developing consistent processes across languages helped them as they looked at technology platforms. To fully transition to using a platform, they had to formalize processes for: requests, review, quality assurance, and communication between marketing, local markets, and the Global Communications Team. With clear, written, and agreed upon processes, they could look for a platform that met their needs.
Technology – After reviewing multiple platforms, they picked a platform to meet their needs. The platform became the repository for their global communications, a streamlined way to manage global communications, and a contributing factor to managing consistency of voice in their work.
Quality – With a standardized way to manage global communications across the organization, quality improved again. Once a translator used terminology, the translation management platform captured that translation and suggested the same wording for that translation on all future matching content. Speed and consistency of delivery also increased.
Again, this process was not simple or quick. To successfully implement the right technology platform, the team had to clarify and document internal processes and then find the right platform for Rotary.
At Level 5, Transparent, companies have a truly global process across all departments.
To reach this level, it took everyone asking, “Is it truly global?”
In 2018, after three years of working through the prior stages, Patrick understood that achieving Level 5 would be the biggest challenge. Success at this level meant that everyone from the start to delivery of an initiative needed to think about global communications. Together the marketing group, global communications representatives, and local team members needed to work together on each initiative from the start. Projects would take longer and may be more expensive, but the return would far outweigh not doing this.
Reorganizing the department and renaming the language services department to Global Communications and Design contributed to increased communication and enhanced process improvements. Instead of the language services department being an afterthought and reactive, the Chief Communications Officer recognized that by elevating global communications to be equal to marketing, communication and visibility would improve. The new department structure became the following:
Rather than marketing being the lead to work with other areas of the organization like membership, fundraising, and training, now the whole department would have access and relationships with each area of Rotary that needed global communications.
Now let’s look at how Rotary improved in each area as a global company.
Strategy – At level 5, strategy guides actions, and the team works together with a global vision. All messages and graphics are vetted in key countries before launch. Representatives from each group participate on choosing vendors so that they are screened for global capabilities and experience. Instead of outsourcing all projects, the team talks about available in-market resources to fulfill some needs, like testing messages. With involvement from people all over the organization in developing marketing initiatives, each group feels a sense of ownership over the messaging, stories, tag lines, and communications.
The closer communication between teams also gives the marketing and global communications members current insight on happenings and successes in each country.
Process – With the work in the earlier levels on process and with a clear strategy on what Rotary wants to accomplish, people understand how to get things done. The communications department now includes global communications earlier in the process so that global messages get included in the creative, testing, and launch phases. The shared goal of global communications gives understanding of who to include at each step. The company has eight action words that work in their priority markets, and an agreement that if a specific campaign does not work in a market for any reason, that campaign can be dropped. When campaigns need modification, people involved have guidelines for the modifications and approval of the changes. Establish brand standards exist for people to access logos, taglines, and approved assets. Local market voices are heard in the creative and testing phases, so they cannot say “it doesn’t work in our market” and change it on a whim.
And, with clarity on the process, if local team members want to create an initiative, they know where to go for support on local materials and campaigns; they have guidance on creating messaging; clarity on who creates, translates, pays for formatting and printing (the corporate office pays for formatting and printing) and performs final reviews.
The process is clear, consistent, and communicated.
Technology – The platform that the team chose in level 4, supports their strategy and process rather than adding a challenge or forcing them to adapt their vision. Approved employees and volunteers can access both original content and translations through one global portal. This allows for consistent usage and adherence to brand standards. Updates can be done immediately across the globe from one place.
Quality – All this thoughtful work contributes to their consistent and clear global communications. By including the right people, at the right time, in the right way, they developed messages that global Rotarians embrace. For example, Rotarians around the world consider themselves people who take action to do good in the world. After lots of research and testing, the English slogan became “People of Action.”. The concept worked across all countries, yet the translations had to capture the meaning.
Back translated into English, the slogans are:
- German – We do something
- French – Make way for action
- Italian – Ready to act
- Portuguese – People in action
- Japan – People of action who change the world
- Korean – People who step up to take action
- Chinese - We act actively
- Spanish – People of Action
In addition to the slogans, the global communications team developed verbs that local teams could use consistently to keep the global messaging intact. Here are examples of verbs that can work across the different regions:
- Together, we connect
- Together, we transform
- Together, we end polio
- Together, we inspire
As the group built the process for flexibility, quality became consistent with variations for different countries. For example, in Brazil, they launched a campaign geared to women, while the U.S. launched one against bullying. With guidelines and flexibility, the countries can vary yet keep consistent across images, verbs, messages, and visuals.