Organisational Culture Success Story - Noor Bank

With profits declining in 2017, Noor Bank’s newly appointed Management Committee designed a 3-year turnaround strategy underpinned by a culture transformation plan.

In 2018 the bank reported an 18.9% increase in total assets and a 62% increase in net profit, the highest of all banks in the GCC.

In 2019 the success story continued with the bank increasing its net profit further, winning the ‘Best Transformation and Strategy 2019’ award, as well as CEO John Iossifidis being named ‘Best Transformational Leader 2019’ at the Global Islamic Finance Awards.

All this was made possible by creating an Organisational Culture that supported the bank’s strategy. As said by Gerhard Strydom, the Senior Vice President of Noor Bank at the time, “You can’t separate strategy and culture, you need to bring the two together.”

This article will describe the process, and go through the concrete steps it took to change the culture successfully.

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Enabling Change

When the Management Committee took over in 2017, the newly appointed CEO, John Iossifidis, decided that a culture transformation process would be crucial to turn the company around. Senior Vice President Gerhard Strydom was brought in to lead it. The leadership team had already decided on the strategy and understood that the only way to be successful would be to ensure that the bank’s Organisational Culture would enable it.

The bank wanted a methodical transformation process, working both from the bottom up, as well as from the top down. This meant a clinical approach that would allow them to easily measure their current culture, and overlay their strategy with the culture throughout the transformation process. “You don’t change a culture in a week or two weeks. It is a two year, three year journey,” said Gerhard Strydom. Of the five short-listed frameworks, only Hofstede Insights’ (now The Culture Factor Group) Multi-Focus Model matched their needs.

Noor Bank contacted Hofstede Insights and the project got started by simply running the Organisational Culture Scan, which is part of our Organisational Culture Transformation Package.

Aligning Strategy and Culture

The first physical meeting got the project on its way very much like most Organisational Culture transformation projects: The bank Management Committee had a defined strategy, so what was left to do was to define the Organisational Culture that best supported the strategy. This is where the Hofstede Insights (now The Culture Factor Group) facilitators stepped in.

As experts of the Multi-Focus Model, the facilitators have years of experience in advising leadership teams on how to connect strategy and culture and make a choice on setting the optimal culture. This is what the Management Team together with the facilitators did as the first step in the meeting.

Then, the group focused on the report from the Organisational Culture Scan that had already been completed throughout the company. This report described the actual culture of the company.

In practice this allowed the Management Committee to look at the culture that they currently have, and compare it to the culture that would best support their organisational strategy. We call the comparison between where an organisation's culture is and where they would like their organisation to be the 'Gap Analysis.'

The Gap Analysis is an automated part of the report where the system compares the optimal culture and actual culture scores. It highlights the dimensions of the Multi-Focus Model where the gap between where you are and where you want to go is significant. The system then generates a table of concrete changes which can be translated to real life actions, tailored to each specific situation.

This report allowed the Committee to see the overall situation and decide on the most crucial areas to start improving first in order to get closer to the culture that best supported their strategy.

The Transformation Process

noor-b-1The objective of the next meeting was to find the dimensions that were most crucial for change, and decide on work activities or policies that would bring the Organisational Culture towards the optimal direction. Noor Bank wanted to prepare for this thoroughly, so the Management Committee had a separate preparation meeting.

Perhaps the most important action coming from the preparation meeting was the decision to create three groups working on the project. Each group consisted of members of the Management Committee, and members of the newly formed Culture Squad.

This strengthened the overall process by ensuring that all levels of the organisation, from top to bottom, were invested in the transformation process.

Action Plan for Change

Following the preparation meeting, the three teams presented their recommendations. Each team shared concrete actions that they believed would progress the Culture Transformation process within the bank. Together a consensus was reached regarding the steps that would be taken into action.

Concrete actions included:

  • Breaking down office walls to create a more accessible and transparency driven approach between units.

  • Creating break areas to ensure the availability of “chill-down” areas where people could mingle with other units.

  • Implementing a “suitable” dress code, empowering employees to dress to the occasion, rather than to a formal dress code.

Additional focus points that were agreed upon included:

  • To become an organisation where colleagues are encouraged to expand their knowledge base and are provided with a safe environment to experiment and innovate.

  • To emphasise building meaningful relationships rather than merely selling to the customer.

  • To focus on creating efficiencies through automation.

  • To design a workplace where colleagues look forward to coming every day and allow for flexible working, therefore creating a better work/life balance.

Implementing the Change

Through these projects, the company was now ready to begin implementing the new culture. In addition to the projects agreed in the meetings, the new culture was launched company-wide through the new toolkits designed for the managers and the employees of the company. These toolkits acted as handbooks for employees on how to take the new culture into account in their everyday work, and a kind of a blueprint for the managers on what was expected of them in terms of their managerial practices and interactions. The results speak for themselves.