Big Themes

How do you apply one methodology to many cultures?

All over the world, change is generally perceived as an external force impacting all our plans. The difference lies in the way people react and in their cultural mindsets. So, how can you apply a standard methodology to different cultures?

Over the years, we’ve had the chance to work with many different cultures that taught us how different reactions and approaches to change can be. For example, American and German people may prefer procedures to manage major changes, they need rules to stick to, while in Italy, Spain and Turkey people need more awareness, they may prefer to know the purpose and motivations of change.

Perception of Change Management across regional cultures

Awareness Perception/Application

  • Latin America

    No broad awareness

    Optional or fluffy

  • Africa

    Emerging

    Optional

  • Europe

    Emerging

    Task-level activities
    (communications and training)

  • United States

    Emerging, with positive impact

    Task-level activities
    (communications and training)

  • Asia and the Pacific Islands

    Growing

    Task-level activities
    (communications and training)

  • Canada

    Accepted and understood

    Task-level activities
    (communications and training)

A common ground for change

So, how can a single methodology be applied to such antipodal cultures? We would love to say it just takes empathy and good will, but there’s obviously a lot more than that.

Let’s start with cross-culture factors

Prosci® Best Practices participants affirm there are some factors that motivated change management, regardless of the cultural region.

The first one is to motivate employees to adopt the change by helping them understand change. A proven approach is the second factor that makes organizations feel safe while bringing value. On the other hand, previous negative experiences with changes that didn’t employ change management often drive the adoption of a methodology

Preparing for the future and professional growth are the aspirational factors for both the organisation in its entirety and the single employee.

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others.”

Geert Hofstede, anthropologist and psychologist

Then develop culture-awareness

Prosci® has identified the 6 cultural dimensions that have the greatest impact on Change Management. As culture is such a complex subject, cultural dimensions are the result of a larger analysis, involving three main studies:

  • 2004

    GLOBE

    House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman & Gupta

  • 1980

    Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory

    Hofstede

  • 1997

    Trompenaar’s Seven Dimensions of Culture

    Trompenaar & Turner

Prosci® six cultural dimensions

Culture has a huge impact on every aspect of our lives and it also influences the nature of our work relationships. We usually take our culture for granted, but knowing exactly the cultural spectrum we belong can determine a customization of Change Management activities, trainings and communications.

  • Assertiveness

    The degree to which a person is expected and allowed to advocate for themselves

  • Individualism vs Collectivism

    The degree to which people act in ways that benefit themselves or the group

  • Emotional Expressiveness

    How much or how little people are expected to display their emotional state in a professional environment

  • Power Distance

    The degree to which power is distributed equally or unequally throughout a culture

  • Performance Orientation

    The degree to which high performance, standards and striving for excellence are rewarded

  • Uncertainty Avoidance

    How much a culture seeks to avoid and mitigate uncertainty

Being culture-aware can influence the success of a change initiative

  • A high level of Global Literacy gives you more opportunities for customization, taking into account values and beliefs
  • It gives you the confidence to make cultural-specific adaptations and increase your credibility. Knowing where you and the whole organization are on the cultural spectrum helps you avoid cultural-specific obstacles
  • Communication has to be customised for the specific cultural setting, so it really becomes the most valuable of tools in times of change

Impact of cultural awareness on CM

  • 56% Very important
  • 34% Important
  • 5% Slightly important
  • 4% Neither important or unimportant
  • 1% Not important

%: percent of respondents

Conclusions

Evaluating where an organisation falls on a spectrum for each dimension gives useful insight into its cultural context, that enables a better understanding and application of the methodology.

Takeaway

  1. What’s the context you’re managing change in? Try to understand each one of the cultures that will be impacted by the change initiative
  2. Project Management ensures initiatives are deployed on the technical side. Change Management ensures the people side is preserved. They both aim to reach outcomes and project ojectives.
  3. Adapt the approach and always take culture in consideration, communicate in a way that’s relevant to your audience’s culture (and attention!)

Solutions for Individuals and Teams

Index