In Part 1 we have thawed the resistance to change by respecting different cultural thought processes. Now we can go forward with rolling out the product. The components that require our attention include team organization, decision making, action plans, stakeholder involvement and communicating information.
Leaders in Contest cultures may assume that all regions embrace cross-departmental team membership as the most cost-effective and efficient implementation methodology. For these cultures, avoiding burdening existing teams or creating entirely new teams are important components to delivering projects on time. The cross-departmental team can leverage the mandates of the represented teams to cut through red tape and the strategy increases individual motivation through potential career opportunities and gains consensus among stakeholders.
In many ways, cross-department teams epitomize corporate cultural values. Unfortunately, this type of project model is not prized equally across the globe. Many cultures actually prefer a clear chain of command. Teams structured outside of formal organizational boundaries may be less effective and even disruptive. The cultural dynamic is the distance to authority and accepting unevenly distributed power. A cross-departmental strategy can still be effective in regions with High Power Distance (Wursten, 2014), as illustrated in chart 3. The most effective approach for our project team will be to socialize the cross-reporting structure in a clearly defined matrix that spans the life of the project.
The decision making process does not run evenly along power distance preferences. Contest cultures prefer ambiguity, while other cultures prefer a very clear process for reaching decisions. As illustrated in chart 4, other cultures prefer an opportunity to change decisions as new information emerges during the life of the project.
Contest cultures tend to focus on defining expected results and letting the project team establish the process and fill in the details. The problem with decisions based on targets is that it favors heuristics, and rule-of-thumb behavior can lead to false-positives. For example, once reaching the determined quota the process typically stops. In contrast, most High Power Distance cultures prefer establishing a clear sequence, and Well-Oiled Machines (even though low power) also value systematic approaches. These cultures are more likely to question how much time is worth the effort in the initiative and apply sophisticated algorithms to maximize efficiency. Instead of stopping when a target number is reached it may be more advantageous to plan the timing.
For example, say our deployment strategy focuses on a goal of 1,000 installations in a month, establishing a set number per day and work straight through until the process is complete. Labor rates and office availability may impact the cost and time required to perform this task on certain days and times. Other cultures embrace this type of systematic analysis to improve cost and efficiency. Our technology project team will need to establish a loose decision framework based on target deliverables for Contest cultures, a systematic processes that provides for greater governance for High Power Distance and Well-Oiled Machine cultures, and allow room for reconsideration of targets as the product is deployed for Network cultures.
Determining what should be done (and when) on a global scale is not a straightforward process. Each culture approaches the objective differently. For Contest Cultures, the imperative is to stick to the established project schedule because it provides a method for meeting deliverables on time and emphasizes personal accountability. As illustrated in chart 5, Well Oiled machines embrace schedules because they provide structure. Network cultures prefer flexible schedules that allow for deviations that may not become apparent until the project is in flight. We start to see a theme emerge in our cultural analysis: common tools like project schedules can be effective across all regions. Only slight changes are needed to harness the power of regional cultures.
A common Contest culture assumption is that change is best implemented in phases. Low Power distance cultures prefer greater self-determination and see sequential rollouts as more effective because they provide an assessment opportunity after each phase. In High Power Distance cultures, such as China, France and Russia, the preference is for leadership pre-determining the priority. These teams prefer to carry out a unified implementation strategy. Our project team can achieve greater success in a phased roll out across the globe if they incorporate an over-arching integrated strategy with clear directive based on preference and priority.
The way each culture prefers to receive direction from their leaders is an interesting cultural dynamic. There are differences in the amount of stakeholder involvement and authorization across the Low Power Distance cultures, and a top down approach is preferred in Pyramid and other High Power Distance cultures.
Chart 6 outlines strategies for addressing these variations. Our global roll out strategy should include opportunities for employees in specific cultures to contribute, including some level of negotiation.
In other regions, there should be no employee negotiation. Instead, senior managers must be seen reinforcing their rank and privilege. In Contest countries, the roll out can target teams that will derive the greatest benefit. In Pyramid and Family cultures, senior managers must be the first to receive the product and in turn socialize the deployment strategy for their region. The project team will have to pay close attention to messaging in order to keep the different regional methods of involving stakeholders from conflicting.
Managing Conflict and Coalitions
Some cultures prefer managing disagreement through engagement whereas others prefer to avoid confrontations. Project leaders may falsely assume there is no disagreement if no one directly challenges their actions. When rolling out the collaboration technology, the team needs to bear in mind that the way cultures express dissention may be very subtle, even on what may be appear to be the most unthreatening concept. The project may gain valuable time by not stumbling into passive-aggressive situations that can block progress.
When conflict is apparent, a common strategy is to leverage alliances and push through despite disagreement. One who proposes this approach needs to consider that high uncertainty avoidance cultures are more likely to be concerned about being on the losing side of important arguments and will tend to form a greater number alliances than cultures with high individualism, as illustrated in chart 7.
For our project team, the strategy is to avoid pushing. A more effective approach to conflict is to demonstrate concern and work out why a certain approach is necessary, exploiting the sense of commitment that transcends cultural values.
We can now appreciate that organizing an information meeting with stakeholders is not going to be sufficient for product adoption, particularly for low power distance cultures. How many times have we seen leaders ask for questions at the end of a town hall and practically no one raises their hand?
Leaders may be disappointed because they left plenty time and expected more comments because the topic is important and affects everyone in the room. Low Power Distance cultures differ in the way they engage after receiving information. The best strategy for our project team is to include a second session specifically for feedback. Managers and employees in these regions need time to digest the objectives and will be more comfortable sharing their concerns in a separately designated follow up session.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions are a useful resource for applying successful change management strategies across multinational organizations. When organizing cross-departmental teams, socializing a defined reporting structure will get much better reception from international recipients. A decision-making framework that includes target deliverables, clear methodology and room for flexibility will be effective across all cultures. Similarly, implementation schedules should include a blueprint, a phased approach and in some cultures local leadership needs to determine preference and priority. Consequently, stakeholder contribution varies from artfully negotiating with employees to acknowledging that regional senior managers must be seen calling the shots.
Cultural dynamics continue to evolve. While there is no single solution that spans all scenarios or timeframes, only slight corrections are needed to hit the right cultural pressure points. When faced with the uncertainty and conflict, the best strategy is to avoid pushing the agenda, and start to listen. Appreciate that despite cultures variances, all cultures value commitment, particularly to the company’s culture and its success.
In the next installment of Turning Point, we will apply these cultural variables to the design and installation of collaboration spaces in ways that will maximize product adoption across the globe.
TURNING POINT is Mark Peterson's personal take on innovation and collaboration influencing today's corporate strategy. To have a conversion about what takes to implement collaborative solutions efficiently and at enterprise scale, contact Mark Peterson
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