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Transforming organizations

Transforming organizations


Wassim Karkabi, Managing Partner at Hofstede Insights MENA explains how to transform a dysfunctional organization infected with internal competition to an aligned organization that rallies to cooperate and compete against external forces.

Wassim Karkabi, Managing Partner at Hofstede Insights MENA

Some competition within organizations is always healthy. But, when competition becomes a continuously raging challenge and the source of constant cross-group criticism within the organization, in which case, we have ourselves a potential cultural setback. This is a key signal to the business that your organizational culture may be what is holding the business back from delivering on its strategies that require collaboration across teams and groups within the business.

If your internal competition becomes a heavier burden on the organization than the competition that you are getting from your actual market competitors, you can rest assured that your business may be about to devour itself, slowly, but surely. You may not feel it at the beginning, but over time the symptoms of this sick culture will become apparent.

It is like a cancer that spreads slowly, and you may not discover it until it has become too late, and that “bad culture” has metastasized across the whole business. CEOs, HR Officers, and Organizational Development officers must keep their eyes and ears to the ground, listening carefully to the heartbeat of their business. Listening to its culture.

Organisational Culture is defined by Geert Hofstede, the co-founder of Hofstede Insights as the way in which members of an organization relate to each other, their work and the outside world in comparison to other organizations. It can either enable or hinder an organization’s strategy, its overall effectiveness, its employee attrition and turnover rates, its bias to action, and over forty other areas of the business structure.

Being the Cultural Expert at your organization is no easy task, even in relatively mono-cultured nations. In the Middle East, the challenge in designing and practicing an optimal organizational culture is compounded and made even more complex by the multicultural environment which is rich in diversity across all its facets. Over 150 nationalities can co-exist under one organizational roof, taking complexity in delivering on the organization culture challenge to a much higher level.

Add to these two components of culture, the challenge of organizational grouping.  When we conduct an Organizational Culture Scan inside large companies, our first task is always to cluster the organization into meaningful groups. What we have found is that different groups within organizations may have their own subculture which is either slightly different from the overall organizational culture, or on the other extreme, may have a complete set of opposite positioning on any one of the six organizational culture dimensions, as well as the two also very important sub dimensions. If sub-groups within the same organization fundamentally differ in their collective programming, cross team collaboration and effectiveness is then made even more complex and may be hindered. In such cases we see these groups competing on ideas, each trying to sell their own and negating ideas presented by others. They will come to problem solving with different values and different methodologies. This diversity in some instances may be useful if understood and utilized with purpose and by design. But if left uncontrolled it more often than not will lead to conflict, miscommunication, and stagnation.

The answer is in a scientific methodology of combining Intercultural Management dimensions with Organizational Culture dimensions in order to:

  1. Identify a company’s current organizational culture
  2. Measure it against an optimal culture which is purposefully designed and required to enable positive strategic and operational outcomes of the business.
  3. Identify the gaps that need to be bridged between the Optimal Culture, and the Actual Culture.
  4. Identify the levers for change that need to be addressed.
  5. Identify the internal influencers (people) that can either enable and drive the change as well as those who can disable or inhibit the needed change.

Hofstede Insights’ Multi-Focus Organizational Culture Model integrates seamlessly with its 6D Intercultural Management Model to enable organizations to solve Intercultural and Organizational Culture challenges by utilizing our effective and internationally proven, empirical framework based on Geert Hofstede’s work.

The Organizational Culture Multi-Focus Model covers Six Dimensions of Organizational Culture in addition to two sub-dimensions that interconnect. These are 1) Organizational Effectiveness, 2) Customer Orientation, 3) Level of Control & Structure, 4) local versus Professional Focus, 5) Approachability or being a closed organization versus and open organization, 6) Management Philosophy, being work oriented versus being employee oriented.  The additional two sub-dimensions that also interconnect with one or more of the six main organizational culture dimension should also be take with serious consideration as organization then assess how sub-groups relate to each other, and those are 1) the degree of acceptance of the leadership style, and 2) the degree to which employees and sub-groups identify with the overall organization.

As for the Intercultural Management Model Hofstede Insights works with Six Dimensions of National Culture which include 1) Power Distance, 2) Individualism, 3) Masculinity, 4) Uncertainty Avoidance, 5) Long Term Orientation, and 6) Indulgence.

Working with culture is not a to be treated lightly. It is complex and requires a certain degree of expertise in understanding the method by which you can measure actual culture and drive a transformation program to shift its dimensions towards a more intended and on-purpose optimal culture that can enable strategy delivery, organizational alignment and effectiveness, and minimize internal organizational conflicts across teams, subgroups and individuals. Only then can an organization transform from internal competition to external “coopetition”, where teams and groups align and cooperate to compete with the external market.