Where does a Localization Team belong in an organization? Is it a part of Global Marketing? Is it a part of Product? After-sales or go-to-market?
Localization teams land in so many different parts of an organization, both big and small. Regardless of where it lands, Localization can be managed with very different flavors and personalities. Here are 4 localization archetypes and the impact their management styles have in the end results they are able to achieve:
The Jelly Localizer
The jelly localizer is above and foremost a pleaser. They have no vision of their own as far as how they want things to get done. The main goal is to avoid taking the blame for their choices while not displeasing as many people as possible in the process. So they consistently choose the route that least burdens them with decision accountability:
1) Choose the largest and most well-known providers.
2) Not fight internal battles allowing the internal clients to have the final say on what is good and not good, works and does not work
3) Trying to accommodate everything under the sun, crazy turn around times, insane change management, and quality requirements that are all over the place and difficult to standardize.
By trying to avoid problems at all costs, the jelly localizer will actually get themselves in the thick of it very quickly. Part of the pain of being a good localization manager is that you have to set clear boundaries and expectations around the work in its entirety. If the jelly localizer does not feel comfortable telling their boss that something cannot be done, or that doing something a certain way will severely compromise the process as a whole, the jelly localizer will simply push the problem down the localization supply chain. As the jelly localizer does not push back, the pressure will, in the end, reside on the project management that will either fragment the job in order to make ends meet, pressure translators into working unreasonable hours or skip steps in order to meet requirements.
The Dictator Localizer
The dictator localizer is the arch-nemesis of the jelly localizer. The dictator is all about lecturing people about what can and what cannot be done. The SLA says that localization is responsible for 2000 words per day per language and if the request needs 2001 words, the answer is no. No to change management. No to rush. Things are either done in the dictator’s way or no way at all. The dictator will consistently:
1) Choose to work with people who only say yes to them
2) Fight over everything, even unnecessary things
3) Consider themselves to be the only person able to evaluate their own performance and distinguish right from wrong
The dictator will also find themselves in hot waters because their focus is not in finding mutually agreeable solutions, compromises, and flexibility. The dictator will rely on their own expertise and the lack of this same expertise from other company peers to impose their point of view to a fault. The dictator localizer will be quick to blame and establish a strict chain of accountability but have a harder time looking at things from a systemic perspective and shape the evolution of the localization practices in that company in a more sustainable way.
The Archaic Localizer
The Archaic localizer is stuck somewhere in time. They think the cloud is scary, that the only way to ensure quality is by having in-house linguists and that forward facing practices are for others. By relying on proven solutions from the past, the archaic localizer denies the possibility of exploring the cutting edge, positively exploiting the best that the most modern tools and practices have to offer. The archaic localizer looks backward rather than forward and is conservative to a fault. The archaic localizer will:
1) Favor well established legacy tools over better cutting edge tools available
2) Resist change as much as possible
3) Favor manual work over automation, technology and lighter overhead
The Too Cool for School Localizer
The Too Cool for School Localizer is so stuck on the idea of being cutting edge that the emphasis is no longer on the robustness of the delivery model. The emphasis is on using the latest and greatest and keeping up with the fashion trends in localization. The Too Cool for School Localizer is concerned about being perceived as cool and forward facing. The Too Cool for School Localizer will:
1) Be overly concerned with how others perceive their work
2) Favor tools that make them look sharp and bold even if they may compromise the effectiveness of the localization process
3) Build teams that emphasize their feeling of importance regardless of functionality
This narcissistic tendency will compromise the ability to prioritize effective results over the sophistication of the means. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes the simplest, least elegant solution is also the best and the Too Cool for School Localizer will overlook that entirely.
People do not necessarily fall into any of these caricatures, but people typically do have some of these characteristics emphasized in their personalities and work styles. The value of over-exaggerating certain traits is that it is easier to pinpoint them and to recognize how they causally contribute to the outcome of any given situation.
Take my story for instance, I began as a Localizer Jelly. I wanted to please everyone and found myself in a miserable and deplorable state after a few years. In an effort to counter-balance, I heightened the dictator in me which also carried along with some problems. I want to be perceived as cool and smart and but I value effectiveness over hype. Different moments and situations call for different things. To me, the important part is being aware of how my behavior is impacting my decisions and how these decisions ripple throughout our organization. It does not cure anything or everything, but awareness is the first step that we should take if we want to gain control over something. Rather than being subject to these different modalities of being, awareness allows me to transit through these as necessary and convenient and to emphasize different aspects of my work ethic as needed.
Localization as I know it is a multi-disciplinary and complex field. Consequently, it demands a sophisticated skill set and requires people to think and act wearing multiple hats and perspectives. What other caricatures do you think are worth noting?
Written by Gabriel Fairman
Gabriel is the founder and CEO of Bureau Works. He loves change—and eating grass.
May 24, 2019