Looking for patterns using a fresh cultural lens
Untangling organizational culture and local cultural influences proved to be the key to a CEO’s attempts to drive organizational change.
The regional Swedish branch of a global company in the food and beverage industry was assigned a new CEO, who was known for his talent with successful change management. His mission was to identify the factors behind the poor results that the Swedish branch had been showing for the previous three years and drive changes that would reverse the trend. It soon became apparent that the effectiveness of this regional branch was impaired by its work culture which was stiff, impersonal, and hindering creativity. The CEO, originally from southern Europe, had never before lived in Sweden. After several months in the country, he became convinced that the behavior and communication patterns of the Swedish national culture could be accentuating the organizational culture. He asked Aperian Global to help him identify in what ways the organizational culture was influenced by national culture. He also wanted to know how he could effectively build relationships with his senior leadership team members, the majority of whom were Swedes, in order to gain their support for driving needed changes in the existing corporate communicational style.
Individual coaching gave this CEO a deeper understanding of the local culture and values. Further interviews with employees allowed him to discover what was behind the stiffness, impersonal communication, and lack of creativity. Having acquired a new level of cultural competence, the CEO was able to interpret the interview results not only through his extensive professional experience in the industry, but also through the local cultural lens. A number of strategies were developed for implementing communication style changes. Further team-building sessions with the senior leadership team allowed the CEO to align his ideas with those of his team members. With newly won trust and additional feedback, the team came together to initiate and quickly drive the necessary changes.
After a long discovery path, the CEO, his leadership team members, and company employees learned that effective communication can influence work effectiveness in quite dramatic ways. The organization successfully reversed its poor financial performance and showed a 15% growth rate after 18 months.