My observations from the AGMS (Association of Global Management Studies) conference in Oxford continue and the next topic in the list is The rise of the Arab states and the modifications we need to make to management approaches.

Now, it’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it? I won’t linger with long and circuitous description and explanation on this one…. and I remember all too well the conversations around doing business in Asia when we were coming to grips with that. Remind me one day to tell you my disaster story about how I got it really wrong in Asia one time – I used my western driver – driver cultural approach – oops.

Anyway, back to the conference, and the subject of managing in the Arab culture.

There are three things we need to ‘get’:

1. In the Arab culture priorities drive time – meaning it doesn’t matter what you plan for they will decide what is important at the moment and will act on that. There were stories of western dignitaries being kept waiting for long periods and being baffled that anyone would think they could have expected a plan made before the actual time to reflect anything like what would happen. There was a story about an Arab leader declaring a Western Leader very rude as he wouldn’t come unless timed appointments could be kept; and another where a project team in an Arab culture found a project manager very entertaining – how on earth could the PM predict of know what any of them would be doing at any time beyond this moment… it was a fascinating insight.

2. Loyalty rules. Employers and employees are loyal and family trumps everything. People will be, and will remain, employed because it’s the right thing to do – regardless of contribution. There was a story about an organisation that has two people for every job. One person with the title and one to do the work. The success of organisations is judged by how many people they can support not by profit. The outcome as westerners understand it is very much secondary to doing the right thing by family and employees. Sanctions are around shame rather than removal of employment or salary.

Accommodating these drivers is something business schools are struggling to understand and be in a position to teach. But what a challenge, and how exciting to bend the mind to blending the definitions of success and accommodating the cultures (them accommodating ours and vice versa).

Hope you find these updates interesting – I can’t tell you how much pleasure I get out of sharing them. And your comments or feedback are most welcome.