PMI Congress London 2015: my comments on “Culturally Intelligent Change Management”

As I mentioned in a previous post, I committed to comment on specific presentations I found useful and trigerring some comments or questions. So let’s start with the topic in subject…

This sounds like an obvious subject but so complex and always current. The caveat of this session is that they related it to change management only while I think nowadays it should be applied to all aspects of the enterprise. I really think that this topic has to be extended and based on the current teams set-up used in major corporations I.e. highly virtualised and flat governance how to integrate vertically and horizontally including the diversity of cultures in one single team. Working in such an environment for two decades now, I will try to bring my two cents to this presentation that was current, interesting and fun!

Muhammad Ilyas and Mohamed Khalifa Hassan started with Change Management models and their challenges with relevance but this topic could have been looked at with more depth. There are different change typologies e.g. Grundy (1993), Tushman et al (1986), Dunphy & Stace (1993) or Burnes (2004 p.323) “Incremental or fine-tuning forms of change are geared more to changing the activities, performance, behaviour, attitudes of individuals and groups, whereas transformational change is geared towards the processes, structures and culture of the entire organisation”.
Nadler et al. (1995) also defined 4 types of changes that are somehow similar to the three already described; Tuning (incremental and proactive), Adaptation (incremental and reactive), Re-orientation (transformational and proactive) and Re-creation (transformational and reactive). This lead to defining your strategy at a higher level than local cultures that I think has to be applied at implementation phase.

They did indeed mention the main challenges to implement change management approaches:

  • process maturity
  • change scope
  • demographics
  • vision (lack of)
  • commitment
  • structure
  • communication

but interestingly enough, they did not spend time on resistance to change which is key to overcome to be successful and so whatever the culture you work in.As  per Mullins (2005) and Buchanan & Huczynski (2004) change is generating resistance and that can be attributed to different factors as e.g. misunderstanding, fear of the unknown etc… What is important is how we handle and overcome the resistance to change in order to deliver the change itself. We also have to recognise that at the same time different parts of the same organisation can be at different stages of the change. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross demonstrated in 1969 the main steps individuals go through when there is a change:

• Denial
• Anger
• Bargaining
• Depression
• Acceptance

We also have to realise that even if we go through these stages, it may take more or less time to go through these. If you read the chapters of my blog related to my leukaemia, you will quickly realise that whatever happens you will be going through these stages.

I will not comment on Richard D. Lewis Cultural Classes Model as it is clear and based on my experience correct as archetypes as long as you use these in a change management perspective and nothing else! Being Belgian i.e. from a country where you have clearly 3 different cultures… I can say that some refinement will be needed here (Swiss colleagues would agree with that I guess :-)) but in the context of global change management, this is really ok to do a classification country by country.

I can only concur with their conclusion: Change managers must use Cultural Intelligence when working with a diverse set of stakeholders who come from different cultures and nationalities.


Cultural Intelligence has to be extended to all parts of the business and functions in a company. It is key in a large global organisation that there is a focus on diversity and inclusiveness as part of the mind-set and ways of working… I am not a quota fan and so having this anchored in people’s mind will enable easier overall capability to deliver and so without have hard KPIs on this but monitoring embedment of the concept and measuring success. This is a rather long journey to get all on board and is a change endeavour in itself!

Reference and bibliography can be found at the bottom of the following post

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