Yemen LNG (YLNG) is a Joint Venture Company formed by the Government of Yemen and private-sector shareholders to construct, commission and operate a Liquefied Natural Gas plant to refine, market and export LNG. The Project Leader and Lead Shareholder is the French oil and gas company, Total. YLNG is the nation’s largest-ever industrial investment, budgeted at around US$ 4 billion, targeted to contribute upwards of US$ 30 billion over its planned 20 years of production, and intended as the major contributor to the macro-economic growth and industrial development of Yemen in the coming years. It will also provide the opportunity for Yemenis to develop a range of engineering and business skills and experience for expansion and competition in global markets.
As the phases of YLNG moved from Construction into Commissioning, Start-up, Go-live and Operation there was an increasing need for Ex-pats to let go and move on, and for Yemenis to step-up, lead, operate and deliver.
Fundamental to the success of YLNG’s targeted Yemenisation of its operational workforce is the requirement:
- To determine and establish clear international performance and behavioural standards for all functions at all levels
- To build and sustain competence, commitment and confidence within a culturally diverse, regularly changing and continuously forming operational workforce, and to promote and sustain a cohesive and self-reinforcing team spirit
- To address and manage professional and ethnic cultural differences through the development of a shared YLNG corporate culture that can capitalise on the strengths of its diversity.
The solution constraints:
External factors included:
- Exceptional professional, ethnic, faith and gender cultural complexity
- Language difficulties, despite the working language of YLNG being English
- Considerable physical challenges of site location, environment and fierce climate
- Varying intensity of heightened security alertness.
Internal factors included:
- At the corporate HQ, the cultural diversity of working with 27 nationalities of Ex-pat and Yemeni managers was further compounded by the need for additional respect for, and adherence to, the social and religious norms of working with Ex-pat and Yemeni women in one of the most devoutly Muslim nations in the Middle East
- At the LNG plant, the cultural diversity was differently compounded by the 4-week-on-4-week-off staggered rotation of managers
- Go-live was over a year late, and all managers were under very considerable pressure to complete Start-up operations
- Several of the Ex-pat members of the Executive and Senior Management Team, originally intended to be in post for up to a year of Operation, reached the end of their contracts and were replaced by Ex-pat colleagues with no shared experience of the progress and development towards sustainable Yemenisation.
The design and facilitation of a £1.3m management development and cultural change programme — Project Excellence — to work towards the sustainable operation of the LNG plant by the Yemenised workforce.
- Inquiry with the Executive and Senior Management Team (E&SMT) to understand more about the unique cultural context, the business and performance drivers and imperatives, the current presenting issues and the underlying attitudes and behaviours, and how they were expressed in communication, interaction and professional relationships at YLNG
- Strategic reviews with the E&SMT to clarify the Company’s Mission and Values in relation to their experience of the reality of working at YLNG, and to develop and articulate the Vision of Delivering Excellence Together as the basis for individual behavioural and organisational cultural change
- Introducing and piloting key leadership and management theories and practical tools and techniques with the E&SMT for discussion on their relevance and applicability at senior, middle and supervisory management levels within the Corporate HQ
- Facilitating the E&SMT to define Excellence, and engage with its performance and behavioural implications as the basis for a Competency Framework
- Designing and developing the pilots into a Leading Behavioural Change programme for delivery and roll-out to senior managers throughout the Corporate HQ
- Adapting the format, content and style of Leading Behavioural Change into Managing Behavioural Change for middle managers, and Delivering Behavioural Change for first-level team supervisors in the corporate HQ; and further adapting the content for senior, middle and first-level managers at the plant
- Facilitating the set-up of a self-managing Staff Consultative Committee for Project Excellence in the corporate HQ
- Liaising with the UK Institute for Leadership and Management to accredit participation in the Behavioural Change programmes.
- Reinforcing the practical application of the learning in 1:1 performance coaching with 44 key and influential managers over a six- to nine-month period
- Developing and introducing a new Team Briefing process throughout the Company as an outcome of the application of communication skills topics from the Behavioural Change trainings
- Developing and piloting a Behavioural Competency Framework to guide performance management, feedback and measurement of YLNG values in action, and consequent development planning
- Facilitating vertical and cross-functional team development workshops, focusing on workflow and internal customer care, and building cooperation between Commissioning and Operation teams at the plant
- Providing interpersonal skills induction training to newly qualified Yemeni technical operators and their Ex-pat supervisors on communication, relationship building, cultural awareness and personal effectiveness
- Identifying, developing and supporting kidwa (Arabic for ‘beacons’) as influential behavioural change role-models of excellence throughout YLNG
- Facilitating cross-cultural inquiries for Ex-pat men and Yemeni men and women at the corporate HQ
- Developing Coaching Master Classes for senior managers in Sana’a and Balhaf to reflect on their own experience of being coached within Project Excellence, to provide basic coaching skills training and supervised practice in coaching, and to support the set-up and experience of their own coaching of their middle managers and teams
- Delivering a key interpersonal and administrative skills programme for female secretaries and administrators in the corporate HQ and their male counterparts at the plant
- Collaborating with Corporate Affairs and Public Relations departments on Project Excellence communications, large-group interventions and whole-company and conference presentations.
- Drafting and preparing a Staff Opinion Survey questionnaire
- Transferring internal consultancy and facilitation skills knowledge and training to senior Yemeni managers.
Project Excellence was researched, designed and delivered entirely in Yemen by a team of 7 UK-based Associate Consultants, plus a project manager from the principal contractor, working in 4-week rotations either at the corporate HQ or at the LNG plant over 15-months from December 2007 to February 2009, and with reducing presence in Yemen and increasing support from the UK from March 2009. The project was also supported and scrutinised by a Steering Group, comprising Ex-pat and Yemeni senior managers and the consultant-trainer-facilitators.
By the end of the contract, Project Excellence had:
- Been rolled out in Leading, Managing and Delivering Behavioural Change programmes to 360 participants
- Achieved 100% pass rate among those participants who submitted case studies providing evidence of the practical application of their learning for accreditation by the ILM
- Developed strategic Key Performance Indicators for Start-up, Go-Live and Operation, the priority interventions to support these KPIs in 2009, and the means and methods of measuring the business impact of Project Excellence
- Developed a Behavioural Competency Framework for 25 senior and middle management positions, forming the basis of performance indicators in appraisals linked to bonus pay awards
- Implemented a a Staff Opinion Survey to set Project Excellence benchmarks and identify priorities for future training and development interventions
- Reduced dependency on the consultant-trainer-facilitators, and supported the transition to YLNG-coordinated self-sufficiency in maintaining and developing Project Excellence.
“The consultants were selected by Yemen LNG following an exhaustive and international competitive tendering process. The company had clearly recognised the scale of the cross-cultural challenge which we faced, and demonstrated a strong and intuitive affinity with all our staff, of all nationalities, from the outset. In addition to delivering exceptionally well received team building training to our enormously diversified Operations teams, the consultants lived and worked with us, on site, in challenging conditions and delivered bespoke solutions to a wide range of social, behavioural and cultural issues.
“Yemen LNG has now matured to the stage where these lessons and values are being delivered by internal resources and this is directly due to the quality of coaching, training, guidance and facilitation which was delivered by the consultants’ multi-talented and highly versatile team. We continue to apply the lessons learned, and are a stronger organisation as a result.”
Phil Campbell, YLNG HR Director