Robust corporate culture mantra for success in GCC

There is a strong need for GCC companies to use corporate culture to reap more powerful business results and to win the battle against their competitors in Europe, North America, and the Far East. In a recently concluded Strategy& survey, nearly 84 percent of respondents expressed confidence in culture and termed it as an important element in the achievement of organisational goals. (The Gulf Time article)

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12 The gulf Time

feature

Robust coRpoRate cultuRe

mantRa foR success
There is a strong need for GCC companies to use corporate culture in best possible mechanism to reap more powerful business results and to win the battle against their competitors in Europe, North America, and the Far East. In a recently concluded survey, nearly 84 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in culture and termed it as an important element in the achievement of organisational goals
ALKESH SHARMA

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here is a strong need for GCC Companies to use corporate culture in best possible mechanism to reap more powerful business results and to win the battle against their competitors in Europe, North America, and the Far East. In a recently concluded survey, nearly 84 percent of respondents expressed confidence in culture and termed it as an important element in the achievement of organisational goals. We are living in the 21st century that is marked by an unprecedented growth in various industrial sectors and there has been a cut-throat competition in the corporate world. Every blue-chip company is making sustainable efforts to beat its competitors and to remain ahead of in all fields. Companies have also started thinking unconventionally and are pumping in a lot of resources to improve the ‘organisational culture’. Apparently, there has been a lot of competition between the companies of GCC and rest of the world and notably both parties are adopting cutting-edge technology and a well-rounded approach to beat the mounting pressure and to emerge as winner. In a recently concluded survey, done by reputed consultant firm, nearly 84 percent of respondents expressed a strong conviction in enhancing organisational culture to reap better yields in future. They stated that organisational culture is a critically important element in the achievement of set goals of any company. It should be noted that the development and enrichment of a culture of success is especially relevant to the leaders of large companies in the GCC. These corporate magnates have ambitious goals. They are setting in motion plans to expand and compete against best-in-class companies from around the world at a time when the corporate landscape is becoming ever more complex, connected, and competitive. They are also seeking to attract, develop and retain the best and the brightest employees at a time of considerable turnover in their staff. That’s right. Many of their most experienced people are retiring and growing numbers of young people with non-traditional attitudes and motivations are entering the job market. Still, most leaders of GCC companies have already begun the work needed to achieve their goals. However, as some have already discovered, their strategic initiatives are not always sufficient to bridge the competitive gap between GCC companies and other international competitors. According to management consulting firm Strategy&, a critical missing element is a rigorous approach to harnessing the ‘emotional energy’ of their organizational culture. cultuRe — an undeRexploited tool Culture plays an equally important role – along with strategy and operating model – in determining a

company’s outcomes; finding ways to capture and use the motivating energy that culture can generate is therefore essential. “Organisational culture is a powerful force that influences and drives the collective norms of the people who work within a company,” said Per-Ola Karlsson, senior partner with Strategy&. “And, although it is slow to change, it has enormous impact. Culture must not be mistaken for a company’s values – these aspirational statements that appear on posters and screensavers, but often bear little relation to how employees feel or act on a day-today basis,” pointed out Karlsson. He added, “Depending on how culture is wielded, it can enhance or hamper employees behaviour that are critical to any company’s success, such as accountability, creativity, and customer-centricity. It can also enhance or undermine a leader’s ability to create change and make it stick.”

egy& based in Dubai and is the Middle East lead for the Katzenbach Center. He is a specialist in capabilities driven business transformation with significant experience in the oil and gas industry. cultuRe challenge As per the survey findings, working with culture is challenging, but it is both possible and profitable. Every company has a culture, whether it is by design or happenstance. In the GCC, many corporate cultures evolved in the latter fashion and their cultural traits derive from the national and regional societal cultures that have shaped them. No culture is all good or all bad; indeed the most visible positive and negative manifestations are often the two sides of the trait cultuRal diagnosis There are few key principles that are needed to keep in mind while conducting a culture diagnosis. They are as follow. nn Seek fresh input from across the company. A company’s culture is the aggregate of the behaviours and mind-sets of all employees, not just those of senior management or just a few functions, no matter how strategically essential they may be. nn Focus on a critical few behaviours. Leaders will be frustrated if they try to address more than three or four behaviours at one time. nn Recognize that the existing culture continually directs and affects behaviour. The chosen behaviours should reflect and resonate with the cultural forces already at work within the company, otherwise the risk that they will be rejected increases dramatically. nn Critical behaviours must be practiced to some degree in the company today. Leaders should depend less on lofty, aspirational statements and instead, seek out models of desired behaviours that they can point to as exemplary. nn Quickly get to a working answer and iterate. You will not arrive at the best answer or most resonant wording at the first attempt. challenging woRk nn Using culture and changing employee behaviour across large organizations is challenging work that offers attractive rewards. Leaders of GCC companies who use their cultures to spread behaviours that support their strategic goals will obtain an advantage in the race with their global competitors. nn Moreover, they will fully realize the benefits of their previous investments in structure, business processes, technology, and talent. By taking some simple steps to understand and work with their organizational cultures, GCC leaders will gain the key to unlocking the emotional commitment of their employees and greatly accelerating the behavioural changes needed to achieve and sustain world-class results.

James Thomas

Per-Ola Karlsson

Jon Katzenbach

What is strategy&

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trategy& is a global team of practical strategists committed to helping you seize essential advantage. They solve the toughest problems and help to capture greatest opportunities. These are complex and high-stakes undertakings—often game-changing transformations. They bring 100 years of strategy consulting experience and the unrivaled industry and functional capabilities of the PwC network to the task. Whether you are charting your corporate strategy, transforming a function or business unit, or building critical capabilities, Strategy& will help you to create the value you are looking for with speed, confidence, and impact. It is the member of the PwC network of firms in 157 countries with more than 184,000 people committed to delivering quality in assurance, tax, and advisory services. In effect, the 2013 Global Culture and Change Management Survey of 2,219 executives, managers, and employees – conducted by the Katzenbach Center at Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company – revealed that 84 percent of the respondents believe that culture is a critically important element in the achievement of organizational goals. The survey also found that culture is a force that is significantly underexploited. Less than half of the survey’s respondents reported that their companies did a good job of utilizing culture in the achievement of organizational goals. Furthermore, respondents that reported unsuccessful change initiatives also noted that cultural considerations had not been a priority in those efforts. These findings suggest that GCC leaders who deliberately consider and proactively use their organization’s culture can improve the results of their strategic initiatives and raise performance levels. They can also gain a step in the race to close the

performance gap with their local, regional, and global competitors. Karlsson is a senior partner with Strategy& based in Dubai. During the course of his career he has been the firm’s European managing partner and has led the organization, change and leadership practice in Europe. He has worked across industries with numerous large clients in the Middle East on projects focused on organization design, culture and behaviors and capabilities driven strategy. an enableR of change Organisational culture is a doubleedged sword. Therefore it should be dealt in a cautious manner and stakeholders should ensure that desired goals are achieved. As experts admitted that there are instances where a long established culture could pose an obstacle in company’s improvement and in achieving the desired goals. “A culture that is well aligned with a company’s strategy and the employees behaviour it requires can generate feelings of pride in the workplace and a genuine desire to achieve peak performance,” said Jon Katzenbach, senior executive advisor with Strategy&. “However, a misaligned culture, especially one that is long-established, can feel like an overwhelming obstacle to change – amplifying deepseated but counter-productive beliefs and behaviour that are not consistent with the company’s current or future interests,” stated Katzenbach. Therefore, to create the kind of lasting behavioural change needed to achieve strategic goals, leaders must examine the culture within their organizations and identify which of its traits can be used to accelerate and sustain change, and which cannot. Katzenbach is a senior executive advisor with Strategy& based in New York, where he leads the Katzenbach Center, which develops practical new approaches to leadership, culture, and organizational performance. Prior to joining the company, he was a founder of Katzenbach Partners LLC. He is the author of several books, including best sellers such as ‘The Wisdom of Teams’ and ‘Why

Pride Matters More than Money’. stRuctuRed diagnosis “Although it can be difficult for companies to clearly define ‘how we do things around here’ but it is possible to conduct a structured diagnosis of an organizational culture,” said James Thomas, principal with Strategy&. “When properly conducted, such a diagnostic holds up a mirror to the company. It illuminates the cultural traits that characterize the company and rigorously determines the critical few behaviors needed to deliver on the company’s strategic goals.” Thomas said that the choice of words in how you articulate the critical behaviors is very crucial. “Leaders should seek to describe their ‘critical few behaviors’ in ways that employees will acknowledge and want to emulate because of the results they imply and the positive feelings they generate. The description of behaviour should be worded in a way that resonates across the company and with employees at all levels,” mentioned Thomas. sustaining change Once the critical behaviour has been identified, the real challenge begins. It is to get more employees to exhibit more of those behaviors, more often. To achieve this, leaders of behavioural efforts often must work in unfamiliar ways. “First, the change cannot be imposed from the top down only; it also needs to bubble up from within the organization and spread across it through informal and social networks,” said Thomas. “Second, behaviour change requires willingness on the part of the leadership team to experiment, which also assumes a willingness to accept and correct missteps when they occur. There are too many unknowns in behaviour change to expect a flawless implementation of a fixed plan,” he stated To create and institutionalize behavioral change, leaders must use a combination of programmatic, interactive, and sustaining mechanisms:

pRogRammatic mechanisms nn These are operational tactics that create the formal infrastructure that supports new behaviours. They include process redesign, revamped policies, and training, among other “hard” tactics. inteRactive mechanisms nn These are soft tactics that depend on informal and social interactions within an organization. Although the emotional component is sometimes more daunting to leaders, it is typically the most powerful and effective means of implanting new behaviours within a culture. sustaining mechanisms nn Finally, to reinforce desired behaviors and help establish them permanently, sustaining mechanisms – such as measurement and feedback systems, ongoing communications, and sound program management systems and skills – are needed. nn Existing cultures can exert a strong pull back to old behavioral norms. Sustaining mechanisms counter this force by showing that progress is being made and that new behaviors are having a positive impact on performance and results, and by continually reminding employees of what they should be doing and why. “Using culture and changing employee behaviour across large organizations is challenging work that offers attractive rewards. Leaders of GCC companies who use their cultures to spread behaviors that support their strategic goals will obtain an advantage in the race with their global competitors”, concluded Thomas. “More importantly, they will fully realize the benefits of their previous investments in structure, business processes, technology, and talent. By taking some simple steps to understand and work with their organizational cultures, GCC leaders will gain the key to unlocking the emotional commitment of their employees and greatly accelerating the behavioral changes needed to achieve and sustain world-class results.” Thomas is a principal with Strat-