Culture : A Fading Western Skill
25th October 2019
Guest Blog by Jan H de Haldevang, Senior Partner at International Culture Pilot.
Amongst the many casualties of our high-speed communications, technology, travel and 24/7 availability, it would seem that the word ‘just’ has become the excuse, or even introduction, for a dismissal of the human sensitivities. Therefore, in that pursuit of a quick answer, a rapid solution or even conscious over-riding of important personal plans, we hear and use the following:
‘Just send him an email’
‘Just ring her on her mobile – she never turns it off’
‘… but there’s been a family bereavement – lets just call and see if they answer’
‘… he’s on holiday – Oh, just call him anyway’
This attitude begs important questions about if we really care, whether we understand or if our own priorities give us the right to impose our will or expectations (culture) on others.
In parallel, our commercial attitudes have hardened even further, reducing our perceived parameters of success to the apparent critical two: technology and price. Following a now established science of SWAT analysis, Western management and bid teams spend many hours in a series of coloured reviews, assessing in great detail the strengths and weaknesses of the commercial and technical offer. Have we not lost or forgotten the importance of a ‘human SWAT’? Who precisely is the person receiving or reading our proposal ? What are his/her personal priorities? Have we even tried to understand, for instance, why timing/delay or the time of year matter ?
Not so in the Middle East, where relationship and a finely tuned sense of personal feelings dominate even the oldest friendships; business is done only after mutual trust and respect is established and for good, wise reasons. To quote a wise, senior Saudi friend, ‘we remember your name on the business card, the company logo will change’. Even in the more clinical West, is it not the loyal mechanic you have known for years, whose Christmas present you may have remembered, who will take greater care of your car then perhaps another’s ?
As such, in this more sensitive society, offence can be caused easily and harm, even and usually through ignorance, can be done. Indeed, so wide is the gap, as the West races to keep up with self-imposed diary and travel schedules, commercial targets or technical advancement that we appear to have forgotten the human being. This culture of human sensitivity and genuine care is almost dismissed as a ‘nice to have’ or ‘wonderful, if you can afford it’ while companies continue to list ethical values amidst mission statements to satisfy the HR department, setting some human parameters for the (30% score) annual staff assessment.
And therefore, the motivation to the approach led by International Culture Pilot, a company guiding the West’s aspirants to the Middle East market. Seeking to redress the balances and priorities, Gateway Group’s partner on the journey into MENA, we begin with that first re-awakening of our sensitivity to our fellow human beings(!) If scientific ‘check-lists’ are the only way forward then we apply ours, listing the key requirements (from ‘Country’ to ‘Etiquette’). Once and only when attuned can we begin the journey into MENA, so call before you ‘……………. just book a flight’
International Culture Pilot: a Middle East focused, multi-sector business consultancy, navigating and supporting Western Companies through the cultural, ethical, political and process challenges into the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region. Aiming to apply the best business development, sales and training practices – uniquely under the banner ‘from qahwa (Arabic coffee) to contract’ – the multi-skilled team and its associates embeds as the cultural champion in the leadership, sales, bid or operational teams from initial cultural wisdom transfer & training - throughout the life-cycle of a regional campaign, major project, programme or tender bid – to the establishment of a regional presence or contract delivery.