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What Went Wrong?

Updated: May 4, 2023

Learning from our own experience, Part 2 of 3

As we explained in Part 1, having engaged the services of a terrific web development company who mapped out and carefully documented all our requirements ahead of time according to our specifications, we were very hopeful until things unexpectedly fell apart, both transactionally and relationally.

Though our suspicions were that a strong Power-Fear dynamic was operating within their office – between the project manager on one side and his subordinates (supervisors and coders) on the other – our failure to pick up on that dynamic sooner led to the deterioration of our relationship with that company.

In retrospect, we realize that the project manager himself was comfortable to adapt in new situations. For those three weeks in Dubai with us, he was able to adjust his expectations and proved very agile in a multicultural situation. It was not stressful for him to communicate directly with us. According to the Three Colors of Worldview, he was Innocence-Guilt oriented and tended towards achieved status and individual accountability on the 12 Dimensions. His innovative outlook allowed him to visualize alongside us without factoring in the past too much.

However, when he went back to his team and their customary transactional and relational dynamics, he transformed into a very directed destiny, ascribed status, community accountable, Power-Fear oriented cultural paradigm and used primarily indirect communication. There was some rule based decision-making, but for the most part, the long standing relationships within their team and its hierarchy meant that their decision-making was much more relationship based and the way they did their work was characterized by tradition-respecting outlook.

We also realized that because of the Power-Fear dynamic so prevalent in their company, the project manager (who we thought was the optimal liaison by virtue of how well he had understood us) was not fully disclosing the whole picture to his colleagues or the programmers and was therefore either consciously or unconsciously not relaying our specifications and expectations to those most responsible for fulfilling them. In typical directed destiny style, he would say “do this” and “delegate tasks" with minimal instructions for what needed to be done.

Both he and his team believed that his three weeks with us had now given him the authority to speak for us. Because he desired to always be the source of insight and highest valued opinion, he ensured that he always held back some information to maintain his position of power. If the team were ever unsure of next steps, they would have to come back to him, and he would then vet the complaints or suggestions and determine what was relayed to us (the client).

Compounding the issue was the absence of a safe space for conversation within their company - they were not invited or encouraged to suggest different ideas or troubleshoot issues themselves. In his mind, creating a dialogue with us at KnowledgeWorkx to seek our opinion on potentially better alternatives was not a viable option.

Working in a directed destiny, Power-Fear oriented environment, these supervisors and coders were usually unwilling to stick their necks out or second-guess their manager, even if they had a better solution to propose. It was risky (or at least perceived as risky) to attempt to have a clarifying conversation. Instead—if there was push-back or a shut-down from the project manager about a particular issue—his subordinates would recoil and simply agree to everything, saying “yes”, walking away, and dealing with the issue as tangentially as possible, if at all. Even if the project manager were to ask, “Do you have any more questions?” they would likely say “no.” And then they would make their best guess and attempt to circumvent the problem in the hope that the client would end up being pleased with the outcome.

Understandably, more often than not, this disconnect would lead to frustration on our part and we would not approve the work being done, but the cultural climate of their workplace essentially ensured that this faulty mechanism was cemented in place. The supervisors and programmers preferred to gamble on the client’s settling for less than requested rather than risk incurring the wrath of someone with whom they were going to work for long-term and in close proximity to - someone who held their future careers in his hands.

Read part 3 of this series, "If we had the chance to do it over".


This series: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.



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