The change behind, and the change ahead of Saudi Arabia

Ever since the Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 was announced, we, project and change management practitioners, and management consultants saw some real imminent change coming…

What we haven’t seen coming, and I exclusively speak for my own self, is the speed at which this immense national change is happening

While it is overwhelmingly impressive to see the sociocultural scene changing, such in women being allowed to drive, cinemas and musical entertainment access, this is merely scratching the surface of what we call the effective national change

The Inner Change

In one of these large organizational meetings that I attended few months ago in Riyadh, which involved a Minister and many Deputy-ship heads,

His excellency was asked for an intervention to eliminate some obstructing procedures delaying the progress of a vital organization wide process,

The Minister’s answer was:

“I’m behind everyone of you, and here to help in anyway possible and anyway legal, I will get back to the internal policies, and if your request is not conflicting with any regulations, then be sure that I will do it without any delay”

Given this was a minister who at any other Middle Eastern country, would’ve perhaps promised you a small planet and couple of small moons around its orbit, in a way to attract some spotlights, and in order to keep you quiet, this specific gentleman was giving a lesson in compliance, adherence and respect, and a reference in adopting the right mindset

However my article today isn’t about compliance, it is more about the change management in Saudi Arabia, required to make this national reform and transformation storm settles into something beautiful

Through the different engagements I’ve had the chance to manage in the many national transformation programs serving multiple government entities, it has been so clear to me, is that one major challenge is presenting itself across-the-board for the whole public sector: “mindsets”

Niccolo Machiavelli once said:
” There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”

Leading the change

Taking the lead in such a storming transformation is, other than tricky at times, defying logic at others, challenging to say the least, it requires a certain extent of change management in Saudi Arabia, serious skills, that at times are not taught in classes, in books, or through obtaining a pret-a-porter certificate, rather it requires innate, born-with, natural skills in leaders, paving way to efficient resistance mitigation and facilitation

And as I have always believed, that before even the Gantt chart was created, even before the inception of PMI. Project management was, is and will always be mainly about:

1- Proper Planning
2- Problem Solving

While you can teach leaders the first, (ie how to properly define, formulate and plan their programs & portfolios) the latter is a different ball game all-together. It requires a certain type of skills that are either there or not, it is another aspect of an art and science mix

It has to start by the ability to accept change, the flexibility to adopt it, and the gift of conveying it to every branch of the tree

And as it’s always true that you can’t give what you don’t have, the change acceptance shall start within the change sponsors themselves

A traditional narrow minded leader can him/herself become the first risk of a successful transformation, for example, a PMO Director, or a VRO (Vision Realization Office) Head, simply cannot hold stakeholders at gunpoint, asking them to do or die

In simpler words, the change must start at the top of each transformation organization, and more to come in next articles

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