It's those cultural differences that I can't stop thinking about in considering the challenges IT leaders face as they build the platforms that this global economy runs on, making it ever easier for teams around the world to collaborate. A promise of the Internet has long been to make this a smaller world, bridging commercial and cultural links. A comforting notion, until I read the reports of a handful of bossnappings this week, where French workers at plants run by 3M, Caterpillar, and others held managers hostage in hopes of avoiding layoffs or improving severance. It's a phenomenon of which I'll admit I was wholly ignorant. As the Guardian describes it:
The tactic, which became popular during the tumultuous days of 1968, of taking managers hostage is an extreme yet common measure beloved of the French worker. Reserved for when other, more orthodox, forms of protest are going nowhere, bossnapping is the ace card played by a workforce at the end of its tether.
Contrast that tactic with plants closing in my home state, Wisconsin. At plants that in some case provided decades of employment to generations of families, workers packed their boxes and left. Taking the plant manager hostage would've been greeted by SWAT teams, not pledges by the president to try to save the plant.
For any IT professional charged with making globalization work at a company, there's never a shortage of reminders of how hard that process is, no matter how sophisticated the technology gets.