A unifying experience

John
Lee, executive vice president human resources at the Standard Chartered
Nakornthon Bank in Thailand, describes how an intensive weekend training course
helped mesh two very different cultures together

Standard
Chartered Bank joined forces with Nakornthon Bank in September 1999. The
acquisition of Nakornthon was one of several around the world designed to
assert Standard Chartered’s position as the leading emerging markets bank and a
formidable player in the Thailand banking scene. Having successfully right-sized
Nakornthon and implemented Standard Chartered’s performance culture and reward
principles, the bank was ready to accelerate its mission of generating
extraordinary shareholders’ value.

However,
this ambitious goal would only be attainable if we created a single strong team
with a common set of values and a clear direction. As the integration involved
three distinct organisations, each with its own unique culture, the challenge
was to build seamlessly one unified, winning culture. To speed up the homogenisation
of the cultures we used a number of different coaching and communication
methods.

In
February, the top 100 managers were invited to join the Thailand Leadership
Team. A workshop-type event was organised, following the theme "one
family, one team", to bring people closer together, to cascade the CEO’s
vision, priorities and strategies for success, and to develop a behavioural
leadership approach that would enable us to achieve our goals.

The
overall theme for the event was cultural homogeneity, and we wanted to achieve
this through a medium of fun, openness and enjoyment. We wanted our thinking
and mind-sets to be challenged, to strengthen relationships within the bank,
and to create an understanding and acceptance of the new CEO’s corporate
vision. It was vitally important to establish this vision and to set in motion
the new bank’s values and culture, and to do so in an atmosphere free of
hierarchical constraints.

To
help us achieve this, we enlisted the support of UK-based Impact Development
Training Group. Impact has a wealth of experience in helping organisations
develop by uniting cultures, encouraging appropriate behaviours and driving
towards challenging business goals. Its international background and experience
led us to choose Impact over our local providers.

Impact
used an exciting and engaging programme of experiential tasks that were
sequenced around a number of more formal presentation sessions. These exercises
enabled us to examine our working practices and allowed staff from each
business area to compare their respective cultures, taking note of the
similarities and differences between them. Impact’s staff then helped us to
work towards ways of combining these historical cultures and mind-sets into a
shared, forward-looking ethos for the new joint venture.

On
the first evening, in a room on the ninth floor of the bank, Impact organised a
series of 15-minute, problem-solving challenges. The emphasis was on
high-energy activity, networking and raising the ante for the main meeting. The
following day saw us at the Royal Orchid Sheraton, where people had worked
through the night to prepare staging, audiovisual and theming for the room.

Following
the CEO’s keynote speech, giving clarity to the job in hand and the goals for
2001, Impact took us through a project that helped us understand the problems
with territorialism and identify the barriers that could prevent us from being
successful in our mission. Ten teams created launching and catching devices to
move ping-pong balls between teams. No one team could be successful without
co-operation from other teams – a good recreation of our real-life situation.

The
final part of the programme involved all the bank staff working on a project to
design and create two full-size model cars, completely out of paper, in only
two hours. These cars were themed to represent the culture of the new bank in
their appearance and performance.

We
were formed into seven subdivisions, with an overall management team to direct
the whole operation. When it was first introduced, this challenge appeared
impossible, but it proved that the seemingly impossible is achievable with a
committed, well-focused, unified team.

The
exercises were great fun and, on a learning level, enabled us to build our
communication skills and wrangle with the skills involved with the "right
hand knowing what the left hand is doing". This is vitally important in
the new Standard Chartered Nakornthon Bank, where it is crucial to avoid falling
into mutually exclusive cultural enclaves.

The
final result was a great success. We had re-established order out of
uncertainty, produced an end result that we were proud of and had applied in
practice a whole range of behavioural expectations. We felt that we had brought
the cultures together in an exciting, creative way and established an informal
atmosphere in which the new leadership style could be understood and accepted.

The
various exercises reinforced the team concept and the behaviours necessary to
drive results, while adding a real "buzz" and excitement to the whole
meeting. And we are certainly now more ready to propel the bank forward as a
unified team.

The
feedback from participants has also been most encouraging. The comments
received included:


"Very inspirational weekend."


"This workshop is very useful. It brings all the leaders together and they
can learn from and understand each other better."


"A resounding success in my view. We all need to ensure the momentum is
continued."


"I usually do not like these kinds of workshop held at the weekend because
they take me away from my family. But this one was an exception. I liked it
because it was so useful and meaningful."

If
you are an HR director and would like to share your training experience or even
review a training course, then e-mail: globalhrmagazine@rbi.co.uk

Further
information…

For
more information on Impact Development Training Group, see www.impact-dtg.com

Impact
is organising its fourth annual conference, ‘The Edge – In search of
competitive advantage’, in Windermere, UK, on 20 and 21 June this year.

The
conference has several high-profile speakers, including Warren Bennis, John
Adair, Mike Kinski and Eddie Obeng. For further details, visit the Web site, www.impact-dtg.com/conference2001

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