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Creating a Third Cultural Space

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

Part 2 of 3, Corporate Cultural Space Series

How to overcome the challenges of creating a global corporate culture.

The challenges of creating a global corporate culture: The third cultural space

Global corporate culture requires the creation of a third cultural space that is independent of local cultural variations, where employees feel a sense of belonging and are able to live in harmony separate from their own culture or the local culture that surrounds them. To create this type of environment individuals need to know what this space looks like and what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not. For it to succeed individuals need to be included in the initial creation of this third space.

One of the most important objectives is that the global entity maintains a recognizable look and feel in their brand, while being agile enough and flexible enough to locally adapt. For that to happen, the head office must learn to let go of a tight hold on policy, procedure and behavior.

Global leaders need to invest energy in a process that will allow the head office to be in control of the journey, but not in control of the local implementation of policy and procedure. This means that the amount of pre defined policy and procedure that comes from the head office shrinks, and the volume that is produced locally goes up.

By investing more energy assisting the local entities to produce their own policy & procedural content, the organization can maintain its global branding and identity while at the same time being locally relevant. It can help local entities create their own cultural space without violating how they fit into the larger global entity.

Tips for developing a global corporate culture

For corporate culture to provide the basis of successful strategy execution it needs to sit at the heart of a business. Corporate culture development starts with understanding the full diversity of the organization. People need to know what is inside and they can do this using the following steps:

  • Self-Cultural Diversity (Cultural Mapping)

  • Personal Diversity (e.g. Myers Briggs & DiSC)

  • Existing Corporate Cultural Identity

  • Acceptance and appreciation of one another and our differences

  • Discovering how to achieve synergy on personal and self-cultural level

We need to be aware of how we view the world; aware of how different cultures view good leadership how they view a good team contributor, or an appropriate way to solve a conflict. All those things are culturally defined, and once we have identified these you will find a multitude of local corporate culture hidden within departments, across organizations, or in individual offices.

When it comes to Corporate Culture development, the organization needs to put mechanisms in place to create it from the ground up, whilst at the same time having mechanisms in place to nurture it, feed it, celebrate it, correct it and multiply it. What is often misunderstood is that Corporate Culture development within the organization is all about behaviors and the articulation of what is accepted and what is unacceptable. Nurturing and building on those behaviors will provide the foundation for creating a corporate culture in Multi-Cultural Environments. Starting from the bottom up, the words that are being used to describe behaviors and action need to have a written meaning, which is culturally defined. These definitions must include clarity and examples linked to acceptable and not acceptable behavior.

For instance, if integrity is one of the acceptable behaviors and I were to follow an employee around for a week, I would need to understand what demonstrable acts I am looking for in their behavior that shows that integrity is part of their values. They would also need to be able to explain to me using examples what is positive and what is negative related to integrity.

Once this has been done for all of the behaviors, positive and negative, these behaviors can be embedded into teams and can then be relied upon to drive a global corporate culture leading to:

  • Improved recruitment techniques and better candidates

  • Faster integration of new employees and increased retention

  • Improved decision making

Corporate Culture has gained increasing attention over the years, mostly because it is seen as the Social Capital, which retains high performers. Without corporate culture there is no sense of belonging, no glue to bind multiple locations to a single purpose and hold them together. A well-developed Corporate Culture IS the glue that will ensure your organization succeeds where others fail.

Other articles in this Corporate Culture Series:

To begin your culture learning journey, Contact us or get our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.



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