Cultural Change Case Study – Yemen LNG Company Ltd

Working in association

On occasions The Brafferton Group works as an associate of another consultancy. One consultancy we have an established working relationship with is The Taylor Clarke Partnership (TCP), a leadership and organisational development organisation, based in Glasgow.

It was through this connection that David Smith began working for TCP in Yemen and later became part of a team of 7 consultants who worked on a major multi-cultural project.

Prior to the tendering process for this major project David Smith designed and ran two events for TCP. The first was a two day workshop for a newly established Yemeni Staff Consultative Committee. The programme aimed to develop the skills and confidence of the elected Staff Consultative Committee Representatives and their deputies so that they could make an effective contribution to the regular meeting with senior management. It was designed to help participants understand the purpose of the Committee, it’s constitution and the nature of their role in it; to develop effective communication skills and styles of influencing in a multi-cultural setting; and understand what makes for an effective meeting – including preparation, prioritising agenda’s, group dynamics, problem solving, managing the expectations of constituent groups, follow-up and delivery.

The second event was a Team Building ‘taster day’ for ninety senior expatriate and Yemeni operational staff. This event was designed to help those attending to; understand and align with Project Excellence’s key purpose, learn about, and start to feel more comfortable with each other, feel at ease in their new location and build relationships with colleagues, feel that Project Excellence will be an interesting, worthwhile and energising place to work Participants said it had been; “memorable”, “motivating”, “provided a common vision”, and been “the best day I’ve had in 30 years working in this sector”.

Project Background

Yemen LNG (YLNG) is a multi-shareholder company formed by the Yemen Government and a group of five different private shareholders to design, construct and operate a Liquefied Natural Gas plant to extract, refine, market and export the LNG produced. The lead shareholder is the French company Total Oil.

As the country’s largest-ever industrial investment (budgeted at around US$ 4 billion), the decision to launch the Yemen LNG project in August 2005 was an important milestone for both the Government of Yemen and the Yemen LNG shareholders. This complex and ambitious project, which is 40 times greater than the average Yemeni large-scale investment, will be one of the top contributors to the macro-economic growth and industrial development of Yemen over the coming years. Conservative estimates suggest revenues for the Government up to US$30-50 billion over the 20 years of production, thereby providing the financial catalyst for future economic growth and modernisation.

In addition to the macro-level financial benefits, it will provide an opportunity for Yemeni citizens to develop a range of specialised skills in engineering and business disciplines enhancing opportunities for local investors to expand and compete at an international level. The Company is providing several thousand job opportunities during the construction phase with around 700 permanent posts and an additional 700 for contracted service providers over the lifespan of the project.

Scope of the Project

Late 2007, following a rigorous tender process, Yemen LNG appointed TCP to work with them in implementing a ground breaking, company wide management and cultural development programme. In essence the challenge was to prepare the organisation to evolve from a construction phase company currently managed largely by a diverse team of expatriate managers recruited from different countries, to an operating company able to compete in a global market with 90% of its employees drawn from the local Yemen community by end of 2015.

Our principal role was to work with Yemen LNG’s management team and workforce to help the existing multi cultural managers and their staff work cohesively to develop and transfer their knowledge, skills and tools to facilitate the creation of a common culture and capitalize on their diversity to achieve the international management standards required for success in their highly competitive global markets.

Consultant Team Contribution

The project was researched, designed and delivered locally in Yemen by a team of 7 UK based TCP consultants working in 2-4 week rotational secondments in Yemen, with a virtually permanent presence over a 13 month period.

Project Excellence was an enlightened and ambitious response to the challenges of cultural diversity in a developing country with 3 key aims –

  • to create a cohesive team spirit and clear behavioural performance standards at all levels
  • to build and sustain competence, commitment and confidence within a culturally diverse and forming workforce
  • to address and manage cultural differences through creation of a shared Yemen LNG culture for the workplace that would capitalize on the strengths in diversity

The key challenge for the managers, expatriates from 27 different countries, was to work in a culturally aware way to transfer their skills to locally recruited Yemeni staff. We worked with both expatriate contracted staff and local Yemeni employees, from Senior management to front line operators and met with the Executive team monthly to jointly steer the priorities and support their key leadership role. The prime focus was around changing attitudes and behaviour to improve cultural awareness, commitment to personal change, collaborative team working and helping managers embed the knowledge, skills and tools to empower the workforce and build their confidence to take greater ownership for project delivery and their performance. This was achieved using a mix of small group training workshops, team development days and 1:1 coaching and mentoring support.

The project, branded Project Excellence, had 3 distinct phases, the first two of which were supported by TCP before handing over to an internal project co-ordination team led by a Senior Yemeni manager. A jointly constituted TCP/ Yemen LNG senior management steering group, supported by working parties focused on cultural awareness, behavioural competency and project communication were set up to guide the project implementation.

Client Feedback

“We helped YLNG during Phases 1 and 2 to begin establishing the corporate culture in a constantly changing corporate environment. Workshops and sessions were successfully implemented introducing the concepts of change and adaptation to one corporate culture to hundreds of staff at different levels of the organisation. The consultants also helped put the basic piloted model for developing a behavioural competency-based framework—a step which is currently being further developed and is increasingly becoming an area of focus for Project Excellence Phase 3 and beyond. They also helped many staff during one-to-one coaching sessions with independent support become more effective in their jobs.”
Khaled Ishaq, Project Excellence Coordination Manager, Yemen LNG Company

For more detailed information about this project see the full case study on the TCP website: www.taylorclarke.co.uk

Working Across Cultures

Since concluding the work in Yemen David has become accredited in The International Profiler, a questionnaire and feedback process that has been developed to help managers and professionals reflect on where their skills are (and where they may be lacking skills) in working internationally. It also helps raise awareness of potential areas in which they may require future development, and suggest actions they can take to fill the gaps.

For more information see The International Profiler on our resources page.