Understanding Cultural Imperatives


By Ian Sampson

This post comes from Incheon, South Korea where I am working for a week using the Process Enneagram as a basis for consulting on a seemingly intractable problem.

One of the key elements in the Process Enneagram, which underpins our Powerful Leadership in Action Program,  is to uncover and understand contextual, structural and culture aspects that are shaping and influencing an issue.

As I work through the issue that brought me here I am often catching snippets of Korean TV and following how the ferry disaster off the coast of South Korea is unfolding.

As the death toll has risen from 33 the day I arrived to over 200 today the focus is turning more and more to leadership issues. “How could the leadership of the transport company allow such a disaster to occur,” the Korean people are asking?

The answers will be a long time coming but in the meantime Korean culture demands that responsibility be accepted by all the various employees, executives and leaders involved. It’s not exactly hari kari but close to it, especially amongst the lower ranks. As seniority increases the ultra imperative of saving face becomes increasingly important.

As a western observer it is hard to make sense of all the cultural nuances and how the expectations of accountability blur as one ascends the chain of command. One thing is clear though:

Unless you understand the cultural imperatives you cannot understand either the issue or the eventual outcomes.

CEOs and senior executives in organisations around the world struggle to understand both what the cultural factors are that need to be paid attention to and also what they actually mean for the process of solving complex issues.

This is where the elegance of the Process Enneagram comes into its own.

I have used the Process Enneagram several times this week to work through the main issue and various sub issues with the person to whom I am consulting. Its capacity to be useful in all types of organisational and cultural settings is being confirmed again and again.

If you would like more information on how the Process Enneagram might be used to help you with your complex problems please contact us here.

About Ian:  Ian Sampson (B.Comm., LLB., FAICD, FAIM)  is a Cause & Effective Associate. He is a Strategic Advisor to Boards and Executive Leadership Teams, an Executive Coach and a Facilitator of our Powerful Leadership in Action Program


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