But…we are IT…and we
Not quite…let’s see some more
Quicken was #1 tax and accounting software in the US. It
was followed by successful expansion into Canada and UK.
In 1993-94, it was launched in Japan, Mexico, South
America, and several European countries
After the initial press, etc., the product tanked! It was
simply the language translation of the American product,
and the the users didn’t like the product!
It wasn’t an execution problem. The product was simply
based on “what we had in US” and had no international
Walmart acquired two companies, Wertkauf and Interspar.
Precise reasons are still argued, but most agree that culture
played a big role in US $1 Billion losses!
Some internal practices and management styles did not ﬁt
the German workforce, such as
Chanting the company name every morning
The autocratic nature of management
Encouragement of spying on co-workers and
Dismissive attitude to employees
Entered Canada in 2013 by buying 220 leases of Zellers, a
defunct discount chain.
After realising that stores won’t be proﬁtable until 2021, it shut
down 133 stores in 2015. Laid off 17,000 and wrote off over US$
Canadians had similar lifestyle as Americans, but very different
Other examples from retail: Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores in the
U.S. went bankrupt; Best Buy closed its stores in the UK after
less than two years; Wal-Mart pulled out of Germany and South
Korea; and Carrefour left Algeria and Thailand.
Mergers & Acquisitions
83% fail to create a sustainable competitive advantage
66% fail to add shareholder value (Harvard)
60% destroy company value (Deloitte)
91% mergers fail due to culture shock (Hay, 2007)
“Intercultural dissoance” is a major indicator of why
international M&As fail
Examples: New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad (1968),
Daimler and Chrysler (1990s), Novell and Wordperfect (1994),
AOL and Time Warner (2000), Sprint and Nextel (2008),
What do all these
examples tell us?
Despite similar appearances, we are all
What works here might quite possibly not
Adapting to the other cultures might be
key to operate better.
So, what is Culture?
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in
the soul of its people. Mahatma Gandhi
The way we do things around here. Marvin
Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Peter
The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture
is everything. Louis Gerstner
Edger Schein’s Levels of
Visible organisational structures and
processes (hard to decipher)
Strategies, goals, philosophies
Unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs,
perceptions, thoughts and feelings…
(ultimate source of values and action)
Hofstede’s Dimensions of
Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive
studies of how values in the workplace are inﬂuenced by culture. He
deﬁnes culture as “the collective programming of the mind
distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from
Power Distance Index (PDI)
Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
Masculanity vs. Feminity (MAS)
Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Tern Normative Orientation (LTO)
Indulgence vs. Restraint (IND)
Hofstede’s Dimensions of
Organisational Culture is deﬁned as the way in which members of an
organisation relate to each other, their work and the outside world in
comparison to other organisations. It can enable or hinder an organisation's
Means-oriented vs Goals-oriented
Internally-driven vs Externally-driven
Easygoing work discipline vs. Strict work discipline
Local vs. Professional
Open system vs. Closed system
Employee-oriented vs. Work-oriented
Degree of acceptance of leadership style
Degree of identiﬁcation with your organisation
The ability to understand multiple local
contexts and work within them to obtain
consistent business results. Financial
The mega-competency which enables
professionals to perform successfully in
cross-cultural situations. Dr. Paula
Why Cultural Agility?
For today’s global organisations, cultural
agility is the new competitive edge. Financial
Culturally agile professionals succeed in
contexts where the successful outcome of
their jobs, roles, positions, or tasks depends
on dealing with an unfamiliar set of cultural
norms—or multiple sets of them. Dr. Paula
How people become
Culturally agile professionals achieve success in multicultural,
international, and cross-cultural situations by leveraging three
different cultural responses. Dr. Paula Cailguiri
Cultural Adaptation: adaptation of one’e behaviour to the norms of
Cultural Minimization: supersede the cultural expectations of
others by one’s own cultural norms
Cultural Integration: ﬁnding a compromise is important and well
worth the effort
Successful professionals are adept at toggling between them.
Competencies aﬀecting Behavioral
Individuals’ Psychological Ease
Tolerance of Ambiguity
Cultural Curiosity and Desire to
Ability to form Relationships
Competencies aﬀecting Decisions
in a Cross-Cultural Context
Knowledge and Integration of
Receptivity to Adopting Diverse
Divergent Thinkng and Creativity
How to build it?
…often includes making structural changes as
an organisation moves from active operations
in a few countries to multiple continents. This
brings about diversity of experience and
thinking and this usually results in better
business decisions. Financial Times
Cultural agility is a practice, not an
achievement, and building it is a process, not
an event. Dr. Paula Cailguiri
Cultural Agility for IT
Agile Manifesto provides one path to agility for software
Agile methods are largely “culture-neutral”. This could be
utopian at best, and a daily chaos at worst.
A “horses for courses” approach is much better than a “one
size ﬁt all” one!
However, applying agile principles with a cultural context
could amplify the results.
Face-to-face communication is best? Think again in multi-cultural
A team where power distance is high might have challenges
accepting the notion of leaderless teams
People who look for instructions might face challenges in cultures
that value individualism
Team members from very high and very low long-term orientation
working together might have conﬂicts
A customer comfortable with high uncertainty avoidance working
with a team with low uncertainty avoidance
Culture is the collective mindset of a social group. While it provides a “way” for a group
to survive and grow, it could also become its weakness, especially if is too rigid to
adapt to new situations.
Cultures that treat people as mere machine parts and adopt a one-size approach
eventually perish, or the people desert them. However, cultures that continuously adapt
not only survive, but even prosper and thrive.
Cultural Agility is a people-ﬁrst mindset that unconditionally respects people as equals
ﬁrst and foremost, and always. It is nurtured by being open to different cultures
without being judgmental.
While agile methods provide great framework for solving problems, they are “culture-
neutral”. Unfortunately, processes are never agile. However, people almost always are!
A team can signiﬁcantly improve its problem-solving abilities and its business
outcomes by acquiring the mindset of cultural agility and focusing on adapting the
solutions per the context.