Sue’s Contribution to Dutch Magazine: “insights On Topic”

Azure’s Sue Alderson recently contributed her thoughts regarding organisational change to a magazine from the Netherlands, “insights On Topic” (inset). The translation of the full article is provided below, and makes interesting reading with regards to how different Western European nations approach change!

insights on topic article

One Europe? No, not really!

Tackling organisational change is probably most effective if we take account of all the individual preferences of those involved. There are good examples of this, but unfortunately we hardly ever have the luxury of such differentiation. We are often involved with large groups of people at the same time, with their own preferences, organisational culture and national culture. In Europe we tend to underestimate those national culture differences. Is that justified? A tour of a few Western European countries:

Germany – quality engineer and craftsman

In Germany, it is the formality that we notice first of all: the titles, the surnames and everything organised to perfection. This gives the impression of aloofness and plenty of hierarchical power. If the boss says it, then we’ll do it. Nothing could be further from the truth! With history in the back of his head, the average German is careful not to simply follow. They want to know what, they want to know why, they want to participate and more than anything, they want to be in the know. Don’t portray things better than they are and certainly don’t leave them guessing. Once they have given their commitment, they will make it happen. Most Germans don’t like uncertainty, so make sure you have a meticulous risk analysis and as complete a plan as possible. The more professional your approach, the more chance there will be of success. And don’t forget: they love quality. So whatever you do, do it properly!

With thanks to Maria Hoppen (Personalentwicklung) and Ute Clement (Ute Clement Consulting).

England – palace guard and scientist

In England it starts and ends with respect for the past. In the past centuries a lot has been achieved and whatever you do, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Change can be managed top-down or implemented bottom-up, but in all cases the change must be properly considered. Give people that chance to pass a judgement on the analysis of the current situation and the solutions for the future. Is there really enough usefulness and necessity, or do we stand to lose too much? If you are able to convince people, then implement the changes in small steps and with sufficient time and process controls, then it will succeed. If not, then they will probably say ‘yes’ but do ‘no’.

With thanks to Brad Gentry (IBT UK) and Sue Alderson (Azure Consulting).

Flanders (the Dutch speaking portion of northern Belgium) – carer and sommelier

In Flanders they love to see which way the wind is blowing first. First of all, one has to gain the confidence of the employees. What is going to happen to me and my colleagues? Have the desired future and the personal consequences been given due consideration? And are we able to implement this change? Give the Fleming time, personal attention, a visual story and trust, then it will succeed. You can do this best with a series of personal interviews or in small group meetings. And certainly no ‘big kick-off’! As soon as you have their confidence, you can set out the broad view and present a plan of action. Don’t expect any immediate comments or initiatives. Choose a few people who will represent the interests of the others and give them a taste of the changes. And very important too: keep your word! If you continue to work as a team, then you will have a good change of success.

With thanks to Johan Buysse (Better Using Your Six Senses’ Energy) and Siegfried de Cuyper (Quest 2 Coach)

The Netherlands – market vendor and preacher

And then in the Netherlands, how do they fare? Every Netherlander has an opinion on everything and is also keen to ventilate it. Netherlanders are fairly insensitive to authority and are keen to sit on each other’s chair. They want participation, equivalence, to be seen and heard! There is always somebody who will open his mouth. So it helps if you really do give people participation,m but preferably within a clearly defined framework. Indicate what has to be changed and why, but leave the people themselves to decide how. Point out their role and their playing field, so that they can retain a focus on their own share in the change. It also helps if you map out the spheres of influence beforehand. Who are affected, who are the stakeholders and who are the (informal) leaders. If you are able to involve them and can meet their needs, then you will come a long way.

With thanks to Ben Tomesen (Change)

Author: Juul Mulder (Juul Unlimited)