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Managing Inter-Cultural Stakeholders

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

The key components of increasingly complex cross-cultural stakeholder management needs

Stakeholder management continues to gain momentum, with increased political and academic attention.

We all appreciate that other people may have an interest or concern in our projects and business and that they will have some sort of influence over things we are trying to achieve. It is also widely understood that there is a difference between the influence or impact that one individual may have.

The executive secretary’s involvement in a project may be a direct role, where they influence day-to-day activities, but the impact on the success or failure of a project may be minimal. A chairman of the board, on the other hand, may have considerable impact on a project, may set a new strategic direction or even cancel the project, but would not necessarily have day-to-day influence.

These are our stakeholders and the concept of managing these stakeholders is nothing new to senior managers, with increased political and academic attention there has come the realization that there is a greater need for knowledge to manage stakeholders effectively.

Complex Inter-Cultural environments have led to a need for Inter-Cultural understanding if senior managers are to be able to manage stakeholders effectively.

Successful Inter-Cultural Stakeholder Management requires managers to understand how stakeholders are wired from a behavioral and cultural perspective.

If the mother of the director of the family business is a stakeholder that you need to deal with, you need to understand whom she is and how to deal with her.

Influencing her in a positive way so that she will become an advocate and support the success of a project can prove to be very difficult if you are from another culture. The only way to do this successfully in an Inter-Cultural environment is to read the environment correctly and understand her cultural and personality driven wiring.

KnowledgeWorkx has been extremely successful at understanding how stakeholders are wired.

We strongly advocate taking stakeholders seriously, learning to map them, and understanding who has direct and who has indirect influence or impact.

KnowledgeWorkx has created several tools that add further value to the traditional methodology of looking at key stakeholders using a nine-square key stakeholder map.

The Three Colors of Worldview and the 12 Dimensions of Culture have helped individuals and organization to read people through a personality behavior point of view as well as leveraging culture.

Person-to-Person stakeholder management is key

In order to achieve this we need to change from a functional to a Person-to-Person approach to stakeholder management.

A hotel director will have around 20-30 key stakeholders made up of people within the international head office, franchises, group level stakeholders, their management team, local owners and groups of key clients or accounts.

Traditional stakeholder management methodology will result in the identification of an IT services company as a key client, but Person-to-Person stakeholder management will take this one step further identifying the key senior manager who decides on the hotel budget and the event organizer that makes the hotel booking.

The identification of these individuals is essential if we are to be able to understand the impact and influence of the individuals using the more classical stakeholder management methodology.

More value still is added, as we are then able to ask how these individuals are wired from a personality and cultural point of view.

KnowledgeWorkx has taken the guesswork out of the cultural side

Historically, there is a lot of guess work in understanding another persons culture, often using country based stereotypes.

KnowledgeWorkx based tools such as the 3 Colors of Worldview enables senior managers to investigate what motivates and demotivates an individual and with the use of the 12 Dimensions senior managers are then able to start understanding how this person operates and what they prefer from a cultural point of view.

This forms the basis for a successful Inter-Cultural stakeholder relationship management system and when used as part of a systematic stakeholder management will allow senior managers to take their stakeholder management to a very powerful level.

Inter-Cultural Stakeholder Management in action

The following example demonstrates the additional value derived from including Inter-Cultural Intelligence in Stakeholder Management.

A key stakeholder of a Pharmaceutical company was a very influential individual and a key financial contributor to the project, but had taken a backseat and was disinterested in the project, negatively affecting the company.

The stakeholder had originally taken on the project, as there was significant power to be gained from the investment; Prestige and power being key factors in predominantly power/fear driven cultures. So when that power was threatened because of a disagreement with another investor, a disconnect was created and the investor was unwilling to actively participate in the business.

It was more advantageous for this individual to disconnect than to remain involved, which made the management of this stakeholder extremely challenging.

The cultural environment made it ineffective to talk to the stakeholder and give him all the reasons he should stay on board with the project, because the stakeholder felt that their power based has been attacked and undermined.

This posed an extremely difficult dilemma for those involved and required Inter-Cultural understanding and factoring the individual’s culture to come up with an approach that would re-engage them.

A communication strategy was set up that would give the individual a possible way out of the situation. It enabled them to re-engage on their own terms and was ultimately driven by them; given them back the power that had been taken.

The need to build cultural competence has never been greater or easier to achieve

For people coming from a more western oriented society where a guilt/innocence Worldview is prevalent, it is extremely difficult to deal with community accountability and cultures where Power/Fear and Honor/Shame Worldviews are the prime de-motivators and motivators.

The development of the Three Colors of Worldview and the 12 Dimensions are essential tools in helping senior managers understand these differences and then in building the right stakeholder management strategy.

It is at this point that stakeholder management becomes really interesting and challenging and is why there is a need to build cultural competence for people who come into a cultural setting that is completely foreign to them to then successfully manage stakeholders.

Marco Blankenburgh CEO, KnowledgeWorkx

Final thoughts

We no longer live in a monocultural society and the stakeholders we manage are not always obvious to us nor are they easy to manage when you are not aware of the motivations. If you want to be truly successful in stakeholder management you need to understand their personality and cultural points of view. Contact us to find out more.


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