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Are our learned biases playing a part in our ability to guide customer success with ServiceNow? 
According to one man, the answer is yes. 
The ability to challenge is essential in ServiceNow implementation. 
As I wrote in my last piece, ServiceNow implementation has evolved to being more about Adoption than Configuration, because it is founded on sound industry practices and frameworks which are constantly evolving and improving. 
It is crucial that partners build client trust in the platform and encourage them to accept it largely as is it, to avoid technical deviations that will haunt the organisation for years to come. 
We have witnessed a high number of clients who have suffered from over complicated and avoidable customisation to ServiceNow, which aside from the excessive time and cost this had added to their project, has long since hampered their ability to upgrade or to optimise value from their investment. They now drag their customisation baggage with them through each lengthy and problematic release, desperate to reimplement out of the box in order to regain service agility. 
Early research suggests this trend is highly prominent in Australia. Is this a coincidence, or could PDI have a bearing on these outcomes? 
Back in the 1970’s, Geert Hofstede, a Dutch sociologist, defined six cultural dimensions or metrics he applied to countries. 
The six cultural dimensions (which rate 0-100) Geert defined are: 
1. PDI (Power Distance Index). The extent that people in a particular culture accept that power is distributed unequally. 
2. IvC (Individualism vs. Collectivism). The extent to which people value individual achievement versus group or community achievement. 
3. MvF (Masculinity vs. Femininity). The extent to which a culture is characterized by traditional masculine values (such as assertiveness and competition) versus traditional feminine values (such as cooperation and caring). 
4. UA (Uncertainty Avoidance). The extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity. 
5. LSO (Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation. The extent to which a culture values long-term planning and investment versus short-term gains. 
6. IvR (Indulgence vs. Restraint). The extent to which a culture allows for freedom of expression and gratification of desires versus discourages such behaviour. 
It needs stating clearly that no individual is the product of their culture. We are moulded by many other factors; our parents, religion, where we were educated, the organisations in which we work. Characterising cultural behaviour in isolation (and in the way Hofstede suggests) is problematic on a number of levels, not least ethically.  
In view of this, we must never lose sight of the fact that these metrics highlight what can only be defined as highly generic risk factors. 
However, to ignore environmental influences may be reckless, for they highlight an elevated risk in the presence of certain behavioural biases which may cause deep discomfort to some of our colleagues, which unchecked could have significant consequences on both them and on customer outcomes. 
So which of Hofstede's cultural dimensions highlight an increased risk? 
The Power Distance Index (PDI) helps us understand how a culture typically views power and authority. It has been used extensively in the aviation industry to help organisations adopt procedures which have led to dramatic improvements in passenger safety. 
Prior to the availability of PDI insight, Pilot Monitoring (PM) was traditionally handled by the First Officer (FO). In aviation, there is a recognised power distance between the Captain and crewmembers. 
A U.S. study found found Captains placed in the PM role were more than twice as likely to trap pilot deviations than FOs when the roles were reversed (27.9 percent vs. 12.1 percent); a finding which is consistent with the 1994 NTSB study of accidents attributed to crew error. 
Tragically, history is littered with countless disasters that have since been attributed to PDI. Crash investigators who studied recordings of final interactions have attributed thousands of deaths to PDI. 
Simulation studies also revealed captains were more likely to use commands whereas first officers use hints in relation to errors. First Officers were far less likely to challenge an error if the error involved a loss of “face” for the captain. 
Almost all airlines now adopt this role reversal as a standard measure. 
Hofstede’s assertion is that a high PDI score (common in cultures, countries and organisations based throughout SE Asia) suggests a more hierarchical power structure. Those of us brought up in, or educated in, or who have worked in organisations that operate such environments, are more likely to perceive ourselves as subordinates who expect (and are expected to) defer to our superiors. 
Conversely a low PDI score (more typical throughout the US, Australia and Europe) suggest environmental conditions within which people operate a more egalitarian power structure, meaning those of us who surround ourselves with low PDI influences will more often perceive ourselves as equals. Those of us that do are more likely to question our superiors and participate more freely in decision-making. 
PDI merely attempts to benchmark how those who operate within a given construct are more likely to behave. It’s important to recognise that organisations will reflect different PDI scores based on how they are structured. Organisations with a hierarchical bias are more likely to reflect a high PDI. 
PDI may therefore have a significant impact on how IT consultants interact with clients, because clients would likely be considered superiors to those of use with higher PDI influences. Consultants may therefore behave more deferential toward clients and may feel they should avoid saying anything that could be construed as a challenge to their authority. 
Similarly, in high PDI organisations, consultants may feel unable to challenge leaders when identifying issues in delivery. 
Here are some tips for partners who recognise a high PDI exists within their organisation, or who employ colleagues influenced by high PDI environments, particularly those who deliver services into low PDI organisations or cultures. 
1. Decision Making. Be aware that your colleague may feel pressured to accept client requirements or decisions, even if those decisions are not in their organisation’s best interests. They may feel uncomfortable or unable to challenge or offer alternative solutions. Lower PDI culture organisations may be more willing to challenge or question things, and can defend their thinking, often very robustly. Colleagues may need specific training on overcoming their discomfort and resolutely upholding best practice in order to protect the client from making poor decisions. 
2. Communication. Colleagues with high PDI tendencies may feel the need to use more formal language and titles when communicating with their clients which may jar with your client's less traditional ways of working. By encouraging consultants to employ simple tactics such as using first names once introduced, you can help colleagues form relationships faster and more confidently. 
3. Relationship-building. In high PDI cultures, consultants may feel they need to spend more time building relationships with their clients before getting down to business. In the fast-paced world of IT, such luxury is rarely afforded. Encouraging colleagues to focus on building the relationship through the delivery cycle can help them adapt and can reduce the lead time on your projects. 
4. Processes. In those with high PDI influences there is an emphasis on following process, regardless of the situation. For highly repetitive work, this can be an enormous asset, however in IT implementation projects such inflexibility fails in situations where creativity is required. Knowing when the process is wrong, or when the process needs to be adapted to fit a certain set of circumstances, is key. Colleagues should be encouraged to consider whether a process is delivering the right or best outcomes in every scenario and should be trained to speak up and challenge the process when they feel it is impeding the right outcome. 
Scarce is a UK and Australia based ServiceNow Premier partner in the Implementation & Consulting and Reseller categories. Our European delivery centre is highly skilled in helping customers navigate the implementation journey smoothly and informatively. Our implementers will protect your best interests by steering you through each and every core decision to ensure you achieve the very best outcomes.  
Our mission is to make ServiceNow a success within your organisation and establish it as the enabling technology around which you can develop a culture of collaboration that delivers faster, more rewarding and more connected experiences for colleagues, customers and partners. 
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