A couple of years ago, one of the large trading houses in the Gulf region spent 10s of millions of dollars more than they needed to on a SAP implementation. This happened because their initial blueprinting process couldn’t handle inter-cultural diversity, and put out a totally inaccurate view of the company’s workflows and processes. They had to backtrack, modify, and walk away from a standard implementation, and a project like that not only becomes difficult to manage from a change and user acceptance point of view, it also becomes extremely costly. It can easily hike up the cost 3-4-5-fold.
Your Technical Consultants Have to be Inter-Culturally Intelligent Too
We worked with one of the large multinational firms in the same region on the change management side of a similar IT implementation, i.e.: one that would impact thousands of people and cost a lot of money. Now, the classical methodology that technical consultants like SAP and Oracle use is to first map out the processes that the company already uses to get things done through interviews, work-flow diagrams, group discussions, etc.
What the technical teams didn’t know is that the amount of variety in the answers received goes up when the environment is more honor / shame or more power/fear oriented, because the “right” answer might be the most honorable answer, or the answer that will enhance a person’s power base, depending on the culture of the people involved. We warned that they could not assume that the information they obtained using their classical methodology was correct.
Culturally Complex Situations Need Extra Verification and Modified Logic Processes
It turned out the technical consultants had never thought about that, so we designed a new project phase that would trip additional verification processes if certain conditions were met. We also developed a system to ensure that interviewers could navigate responses that were coming from different points on the Three Colors of Worldview scale, and verify that the five steps that someone reported were necessary to complete a task were the actual five steps that everybody else who did that task would follow.
The difference between the answers that they got using their original system, and the answers they got using our inter-culturally intelligent system was a shock for the technical team. They had assumed that the people involved in the process would want to volunteer the right answer, but they didn’t realize that there can be a big difference between the right answer from an IT implementation point of view, and the most honorable answer, or the answer that will enhance their power base.
Extra Verification Led to Cost Savings and Smoother Transitions
If we had gone into blueprinting without designing those extra verification stages, we never would have obtained a vanilla implementation or as close as possible to a vanilla implementation of the project. Because of the inter-culturally intelligent logic we put into the information gathering processes, the technical consultants were able to get to a set of workflow diagrams that represented what actually went on in the organization. That led to big cost savings verses the many companies in the region who did not integrate inter-cultural intelligence into their IT projects.
If you are about to run a big IT implementation in a complex intercultural environment, make sure that you know where your corporate culture stands on the Three Colors of Worldview and 12 Dimensions of Culture inventories. To begin your culture learning journey, Contact us or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.