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This article gives an example of how agile management practices can add substantial value, also in contexts of multi-nationality and multi-culturality. Problems and potential solutions are presented, implications discussed.


Introduction

The outbreak of the Corona virus (MERS-CoV) shed light on significant deficiencies within the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Saudi Arabia. In the waves of this emerging crisis, His Excellency, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabiah, the Minister of Health of Saudi Arabia had been relieved of his duties with effect of 11 May 2015. His preliminary successor was H.E. Adel Fakieh, who at the time in parallel headed the Ministry of Labor. Like other politicians, H.E., the Minister was willing to obtain a quick yet valid overview over the situation of the Ministry of Health and, in this specific case, the current state of the healthcare system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To gain both, a quick and holistic overview, a 100-days program comprising eight streams was set up with the help of many external consultants focussing on the following key-aspects:

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This chapter focusses on the agile handling of the Performance Management Stream and highlights inter-cultural problems that the project team encountered throughout the project.

 Scope and Objectives of the engagement

The authors’ employing company was engaged for assistance throughout these first 100 days of the new minister’s reign, specifically responsible for the performance management workstream. This workstream consisted of four consultants in addition to the two authors and one managing partner. It had the main objective to install a monthly performance reporting. The exact scope of the performance management was undefined in the beginning. The minister himself shaped and amended the scope continuously as he obtained more information about low performance of either the healthcare system or the ministry.

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In the following, we explain the project environment in detail, emphasizing the context of Middle Eastern culture, which was new to the whole team of consultants. The subsequent chapter explains the specifics of our approach to agile management within the project. Lastly, we summarize our findings and derive recommendations for future agile practitioners in multi-cultural contexts.

 Environment

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The project was embedded into a very specific and challenging environment. This is true for both, the macro-environment (Saudi Arabia and Islamic culture) and the micro-environment (MoH organizational structure and team composition).

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We structure our experiences along the scrum process. For each of its steps we point out noteworthy situations for each of the dimensions identity, Values and Basic Assumptions, Competencies and Behavior.

 The Agile Setup

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    1. Sprints

After the delivery of a concept which demonstrated our approach to performance management, we received challenging feedback. It was believed that we would not deliver to our committed approach.

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The decisive factor for using tools in an agile project setup is a continuous reflection of the team regarding the necessity and the expected value of a certain tool. A truly agile team will stop using a tool once it comes to the conclusion that the expected value cannot be realized.

 Conclusion

During the described 100 days initiative, the Performance Management stream continuously enthused the client. The main reason behind this was the choice of agile methods in order to enable quick, early and continuous delivery of a product, in this case a management report. This clearly underlines the ability of methodologies like Scrum to support in non-software-development projects. Beyond this, the project team identified several key success factors for the successful delivery of the project.

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