Understanding cultural coding saves career and helps improve internal communication (international pharmaceutical company)
Newly promoted European executive at global pharma company was facing “career limiting” challenges managing Asian subsidiaries, while reporting to American bosses. We applied a simplified cultural coding model to bring out the different communication styles needed to manage the situation. The Executive’s ‘Hi Context / Active’ style was a good match to his European peers’ similar style before. But it fit neither with the Japanese ‘Hi Context / Reactive’, nor with the American ‘Lo Context / Active’ approach.
“Hi Context” is a communication style where you assume the other person has the needed background (high level of context) to understand your messages. It is typical of cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. “Lo Context” makes no such assumptions. It is more of a “Nordic style”, prevalent in Germanic, Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon cultures. These cultures make no assumptions about your understanding of the background to the messages you are sending.
“Active” style means focusing on the messages you send. “Reactive” means focusing on messages you receive. Eastern cultures are strong in the reactive domain, while Western cultures focus on “pushing” their messages out - ‘active’ style. To note, lo context and reactive styles can accommodate hi context and active styles - but not the other way around.
In our discussions we designed a ‘Lo Context Reactive’ communication approach for the Executive, which would accommodate both the Japanese and American styles, while keeping his own management approach consistent.
Within one month all issues about his ‘management efficiency’ disappeared and career progression resumed. Based on his success, the Executive was asked to share his cultural insights with his peers internationally, to improve the Company’s internal efficiencies.