Internal Champions Turn a Company Around


I’m going to introduce a case study in which an internal champion who became a COA practitioner generated significant turnaround for a company.

The problem started in 2000 with the loss of a customer bid that was determined to be due to some grave cross-cultural miscues grounded in communication style differences, un-honed negotiation practices, disconnected thinking patterns and an absence of appropriate common courtesies. The leaders of the company decided to launch a companywide global training program for its 3,900 employees in its offices in Australia, Hong Kong, China, Denmark, France, India, Korea, Russia, Spain, and Brazil, to name a few.

The organization believed that:

  1. It was necessary to establish excellent interpersonal relations with people
  2. The presence of cultural differences can interfere with effective communication
  3. People may be unaware of what is “correct and proper” when communicating across cultural differences
  4. Great customer service differs from providing the product the customer requests – it is the method, or approach that is used that creates a positive feeling or experience for the customer, both internally and externally

The project was given the approval to include key human resource and training professionals around the regions. These individuals were deemed the “internal champions” and were certified in the Cultural Orientations Approach so that they could conduct Cultural Orientations Indicator assessments of employees and debrief them in each of the company’s locations. Some COA practitioners were master certified and could train future internal champions, and create and conduct cultural awareness courses.

The company now had a global group of trainers who worked together across national, linguistic and cultural boundaries to teach employees about the importance of culture in communication, teamwork and interacting on all levels of an enterprise. This led to increases in effective communication, negotiation and follow up, which benefitted the company immensely.

The fact that the top management was on board with the training program and made great effort to involve all of its employees and promote internal champions was what helped the initiative succeed.

Cheryl Williams