Sipping some brandy by the fire. Fire crackling in the fire place and the cozy embrace of a winter cabin. Peace…that’s how I think people envision localization maturity: Some kind of heaven or ultimate place that people get to when they do everything right in their localization departments. All processes and responsibilities are clear, tools work seamlessly, the delivery model is flawless and any wrinkles are quickly and effortlessly ironed out. As tempting as this sounds, striving for this will ultimately create more problems than it will solve.
1) The Holy Grail
Salvation and eternal life. Most of us would take it if given the opportunity. No more pain or worries that stem from our frail and ephemeral existence. The same principle applies to the chaotic space of localization. Localization is fueled by international growth and growth is inherently messy, If you are growing that means you are pushing the boundaries. If you are pushing the boundaries that means you need new processes and new roles in order to fulfill those requirements. The ultimate dream for anyone involved in localization is to get rid of the mess. While things can and should get more organized and more predictable, it is unreasonable to have a romanticized ideal of what maturity looks like. Maturity is still messy. I would argue that maturity is messier. Maturity means you have the strength to address the harder questions. And as soon as you address those, there are harder questions waiting just around the corner. It’s a process with no beginning and no end. The Holy Grail archetype where we somehow reach the localization promised land just adds confusion to our search.
2) Self-fulfilling Paradigms
When you have a hypothesis, you seek to prove or disprove it through testing. If you have biases however, you will try to conduct testing in ways that further consolidate these biases. So if your bias is that you have reached maturity and that maturity means that there is no more chaos, that means that you are more likely to disregard chaotic data points as disregardable or dismissable outliers rather than things that should actually be addressed. So as an example, let’s say that we have a preconcpetion that our localization practices are mature. Elements that point otherwise such as extended time to market, high over head costs, lack of opportunities to improve, are more likely to get brushed off rather than addressed full on.
3) Maturity implies lack of humility
If you consider yourself to be mature, that probably means you are not that mature to begin with. Same thing with humility. Most humble people I have met will seldom describe themselves as humble. Rather, they will be humble or act in a humble way. When maturity becomes a romanticized concept that we strive to achieve, we lose sight that the very essence of maturity is the appreciation that there is so much more to be learned and accomplished. There is no localization nirvana, no place where all the problems have been solved. There are places where a state of equilibrium has been reached and the market/company demands are properly met by the solutions offered by localization. But more often than not, this is just because the demands are not growing or changing fast enough.
4) Maturity can be a sign of getting old
In that sense, reaching localization maturity, or any kind of maturity for that matter can be a clear sign of getting old. Not old in the traditional age sense, but old in the sense that no new learnings or challenges are introduced into a given system. Romanticized maturity can just mean that the ecosystem in which you are engaged in is not growing fast enough, is not evolving fast enough or that someone is artificially setting the bar lower than it could be set.
Think about it. We are nowhere near understanding how pay linguists fairly for their work. Nowhere near towards really being able to scale service without some impact in responsiveness, knowledge sharing or other items impacted by a larger team. We are nowhere near defacto solutions for Translation Memory and terminology management, Sure we have translation memories and glossaries, but I am talking about managing them so that they are always fresh and up to date within the context of large global teams with hundreds of participants taking on different roles. Seriously, when you consider all the challenges that we have not been able to even begin to address as an industry, labeling your localization model as mature is borderline ludicrous. And even it is true and accurate it is not healthy or conducive to furthering learning and development which is in the end what keeps us ticking anyway. So go ahead! Don’t be afraid to embrace your own immaturity because that’s what will make the room for furthering your expertise and growth!
Written by Gabriel Fairman
Gabriel is the founder and CEO of Bureau Works. He loves change—and eating grass.