General Manager, External Relations of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, who is regarded as the face of culture alignment journey in the company, in an interview in the company's in-house magazine Charles Okonji, reports.
Nigeria LNG Limited is on culture alignment. What is culture alignment journey?
Culture alignment presupposes the pre-existence of different cultures within a milieu. The journey to align is then an effort to ensure a rallying around central values and behaviours upon which a single culture can then be erected. You could say that indeed our company was accommodating various cultures. Some would usually identify about four, others even more. They would cite, for instance, the various cultures resulting from the shareholder companies whose staffs serve in the company as secondees. These companies are Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPQ, Shell, Total and ENL We also have direct NLNG staff. You could, therefore, say mat these are children from five different homes, but who have to function together as one single organism in NLNG, are on culture alignment
So how do they do so effectively?
Obviously, cultural alignment is where the group is welded together by a band of common values and behaviours, distinct and distinguished. The process of welding the various cultures into one, around common values and ethos is what we refer to as culture alignment The secondee effect besides, we also found deep systemic issues in the organization, which balkanised it into silos, brimming with divisive tendencies that militated against the formation of one NLNG. Studies revealed that these were propensities not in the interest of the company and needed to be corrected to enhance the company's survival into the future. These corrections required culture alignment so that all can take their bearing from a common set of values and behaviours to build a strong and resilient company.
In fad, the buffeting winds of an ever more challenging competitive and most unpredictable business environment made the case for culture alignment even more imperative. If the company was systemically sick, unfit to respond to the changing world with agility, then the business was bound to die sooner or later. Of course, there are countless local and international examples of companies who simply could not survive because they had inappropriate culture(s).
What has it been like for you as a person being the driver of this project in the company; what has been your experience so far?
If s a very humbling experience, but I would quickly add that it has been the effort of collective leadership driving the journey. I just happen to be, if you like, the figure head The culture alignment journey is actually a mass movement spearheaded by the leadership and the leadership here, of course, means the executive management the senior management team, the ex-tended management team, the line heads and the staff members who, at various levels, have taken it upon themselves to own this journey. The leadership behind the journey is thus across the whole spectrum of the organisation. It is the company's journey, and company, by definition, is plural, not singular. So it is not about me, but truly about us, and our collective resolve to make our change as an organisation.
What is the profit power of corporate culture; why would any company want to embark on something as intangible as culture alignment? What has culture got to do with any company's bottom line?
That is an interesting question. As we have seen across the world, people can get all the elements for the success of an organisation right but once the culture is inappropriate, as one author puts it "it just eats up the company's strategy." But I mink inappropriate culture does far more damage than negating corporate strategy. It in fad eats up the company itself. I had named a few well known victim companies earlier and I daresay many more are walking corpses just waiting to be buried due to unwholesome cultural practices within the organisations. Indeed, any organisation with the wrong culture, in a manner of speaking, is simply like a patient on life support -on the verge of true existence. Really, it doesn't matter how much we labour to build organisations, it doesn't matter how much money we put in them, it doesn't matter how much dose of science we inject in them, at the end of the day these organisations survive or die based on whether the culture is right or wrong for its continued survival and prosperity. Culture should thus be primary in every organisation's agenda for sustainability and for survival If s either the culture is right or the organisation might as well consider itself dead in the near future. I would even go as far as to suggest that the love of any leader for any organisation can best be measured by how much positive impact he makes on the culture of the organisation. This would remain his or her longest lasting legacy - be that leader a manager, a parent, or a choir master.
With specific reference to NLNG, what do we envision to be the benefits of this journey?
It will help us to survive external pressures that we face and there are many of them. I do not want to get into enumerating them. Of course, you know how the market is changing, with huge sections disappearing literally overnight The United States, for example, a few months back, was a net importer of LNG, and now a net exporter. That is how dramatic the market can get Also, every year more and more volumes are being offloaded in the market place; our market share is continuously coming under strain and dwindling. Margins are becoming slimmer by the day; survival ever more precarious. Locally here, the sea is getting rough with unpredictability of regulatory conditions. We are living witnesses to the blatant disregard of law which we witnessed last year as a company, not to mention the obvious.
When you match all those against the harsh and whimsical socio political environment in which we operate, complacency can only be a self-imposed death sentence. To survive, we must align our culture tightly to render the company more responsive and competitive, delivering speedily and efficiently, and making the most of the least investment none of these can be done without the enabling culture.
For many, the culture journey will result in greater value for shareholder. True. For others, the culture will create more profit and sustained salaries. Also true. But more importantly, the culture journey is fundamental for survival. It is either we adapt to necessary culture, or accept an imminent demise as a company.