Dig Deeper In This Field Cultural Studies Essay
During my experience as an expatriate, I realized a few things, regarding the everyday life as much as in the life at work. I get surprised when I progressively learnt that employees often go for some drinks after work. Contrary to the UK, it could sound strange in France if you ask your colleagues to have a drink after work. But I got even more surprised when I learn that in the UK it is really not that usual to invite friends and get some drinks at home. It is much more common to go to the pub.
Another thing that stunned me during my stay was their irreproachable capacity to queue up. Everywhere we can see queues, well organized, where everybody is patiently waiting for their turn without showing any signs of irritation. This obsession is not from yesterday and according to certain faiths, some will say that it come from the famous imperial bus that had only one entry, rather than others will say that it comes from the post-war years, when everything was rationed. According to D. Savage, a behavioral economist from Queensland’ University of Technology in Australia, it is an older phenomenon. He observed from a study made in 2009 about four maritime disasters, that the British passengers of the Titanic were overrepresented among the 1500 deaths of the wreck. Why? Because they politely queued up before embarking on lifeboats. That is what the study says.
To talk about business, the relation they have with time is also different, not to say opposite. I was doing business from London with both English and French people. I necessarily had to follow up and call back many times employees from the French office in order to get the information I needed, whereas my English colleagues provided me the information themselves in a short time period. Another amusing difference is in the way they conclude contracts. We can observe that in France, we will be more focusing on the relationships we have with our clients or customers. I mean, we are going to take them to the restaurant for lunch time, in a more comfortable and relaxing environment, to close the deal, whereas in the UK it is not common practice. They meet clients because their goal is to make business with them and so to sign contracts, and close the sale on the spot. It is not necessary to lose time with other kind of practices.
All these kind of experiences or anecdotes made me question myself a lot and aroused a growing awareness in the study of cultural differences.
(un paragraphe sur Cultural Intelligence ici en transition?)
Besides nowadays, with the undeniable phenomenon of globalization, culture is transmitted, through ideas, meanings and values, across national barriers. Technological advancement and new communication practices had helped to move culture beyond borders. This leads to an interconnection between various populations from diverse cultures. Cultures are shared, integrated or modified, and we assist to an incontestable cultural diversity. Nowadays, this diversity has reached companies and the business world too.(REF + Study) Indeed, companies tend to be formed with people from various and diverse nationalities more and more. Embracing cultural diversity is a reality that every manager should be able to deal with.
Now the question I would like to raise in this thesis is "How companies approach this problem of interculturality? And can they take benefit from it, as a competitive advantage, if they know how to manage it efficiently?
As I said previously, the presence of cultural differences in business relationships is not new, we can even say that it dates from more than thousands years, from the first commercial contact between persons who belonged to different cultures. We could take the example of Marco Polo, who was a Venetian merchant traveler who travelled through Asia, along the Silk Road. This network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass was connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa. The Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade that was occuring along it. This is how Marco Polo was confronted to cultural differences during his trip, deeply from the inside, while learning the mercantile trade, discovering different countries with specific cultures. His story is made of surprises about practices and trends that he has never seen before.
« La monnaie du Grand Khan n’est ni d’or, ni d’argent, ni d’autre métal. On se sert pour la faire de l’écorce intérieure (le liber) de l’arbre qu’on appelle mûrier, qui est celui dont les feuilles sont mangées par les vers qui font la soie. » (Le livre des Merveilles, M. Polo, Chap.21, Book 2) (Should I translate it into English ?)
This presence of cultural differences in business relationships has not been taken into account by the searchers for a long period of time, nor by consultants, managers or any persons involved in the business world. But nowadays, it does exist a greater and a constant growth interest in the study of the impact of cultural differences on businesses activity. This interest gave birth to a specific field of study: cross-cultural management. Moreover, globalization makes necessary a more systematic approach of these problems.
A first explanation would come from the change and evolution exercised in the conceptions of companies and from the individual as member of a company. Thus, the rational company and the individual viewed as homo oeconomicus have been replaced by the company build by individuals who became actors, by the company as a creator of social links and by the company as a place of cooperation learning. Also, we demonstrated that the company is creative of culture and identity, according to R. Sainsaulieu. This role of the company has generated an increasing interest in the Organizational Culture. This concept consists in the collective behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. It includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. The interest for Organizational Culture has to be understood in the specific economic and social context when the Organizational Culture notion emerged (Years 70’s and 80’s): the threat from Japanese competitors for American companies, the 80’s economic crisis, and the industrial reconstruction. All these factors raised the question of the necessity to rehabilitate the company image, for the management of companies, by a more individual-oriented approach and by finding a way to mobilize the staff employed. The Organizational Culture has been given as a solution. Cross-cultural management and Organizational Culture have to be seen as strongly linked together, as much as a managerial tool as a mean to create competitive advantage for the company.
The management universalism has been questioned by studies that demonstrated the impact of national cultural differences on companies’ activity. In the same time, companies started to consider more and more Human Resources, to then seen them as a factor of competitive advantage. Intellectual capital constitutes an essential resource. Then, to manage efficiently this resource, and to get competitive advantage from it, it is necessary to take into account the influence of culture on behaviors and values at work.
It is necessary to understand that intercultural problems can appear at first in the relation of a mono-cultural company with another company belonging to another culture (supplier, customer). These difficulties can appear then within a company itself: at first because the phenomena of migrations bring populations of diverse origins to work together within the same company, even local. Then companies grow up and become more and more multinational and are made of multiple organizations located in various regions of the world. We can say that companies have been driven to internationalization in order to stay competitive in a more and more competitive environment.
This initiative, to become more and more international, caused the confrontation between companies and the reality of the cultural difference. Thus, whatever the degrees of interaction, it is necessary to take into account and consider seriously the existence of cultural diversity, because minimizing or omitting its impact on companies ‘activity could generate real and serious problems for the management of international businesses. For example, one of the main reasons of failure or difficulty in the management of alliances, joint-ventures or international acquisitions is the mismanagement of the cultural difference.
The creation of Daimler Chrysler in 1998 is a typical example of merger failure mainly due to cultural issues. Indeed, the Daimler and Chrysler merger had all the supposed pre-requirements to make from their merger a case of success but they did not. Both parts were expected to take benefits from the other’s strengths and capabilities, regarding their "merger of equals". Reality was as different as the performance of the merger, particularly from the Chrysler division. They began to lose huge amount of money and were expected to continue to do so. Culture differences between the two companies started to become a clear key element. Operations and management were not successfully integrated as "equals", as the Germans and Americans operated in a totally different ways. (Weber and Camerer, Cultural Conﬂict and Merger Failure, Management Science, Vol. 49, No. 4, April 2003, pp. 400–415). Whereas Daimler-Benz’s culture stressed a more formal and structured management style, Chrysler preferred a more relaxed and freewheeling style. They had completely different views on key things like pay scales and travel expenses. Moreover, the German units stared to take dominance on the American units, and employee satisfaction at Chrysler decreased significantly. There were large numbers of departures among key Chrysler executives and engineers, while the German unit became increasingly dissatisﬁed with the performance of the Chrysler division. Chrysler employees, meanwhile, became extremely dissatisﬁed with what they perceived as the source of their division’s problems: Daimler’s attempts to take over the entire organization and impose their culture on the whole ﬁrm.
Through this example, we can see that cultural elements influence everyday life behaviors at work modifying interactions within the company by questioning the universalism received and supposed by the practices of management. A company can face a multicultural composition of the staff in its own original country, due to the workforce’s increasing mobility. And in order to stay competitive this company will need to take the cultural difference into account and so will necessitate competencies in cross-cultural management.
Another factor, which has to be taken into account to understand the effort made to understand the interest given to cultural difference and to its impact on companies’ activity, is the fact that the actual establishment of cultural diversity as positive values. Consequently, there is a general trend – especially in the UE and in the USA- of recognition and preservation of this cultural diversity.
In these conditions, multinational firms have adopted the discourse of the recognition of cultural diversity. But this recognition often stays at an official declarations level. Indeed, even if the formal discourse is about cultural diversity recognition and its positive impact on companies, the application of this principle often remains an inefficient intercultural varnish in practice, according to S. Chevrier.
Meanwhile, it exists international firms that do not only deal with cultural diversity’s recognition as an opportunity to give a good image to its stakeholders, but more as a key element for their business strategies, linking cross-cultural consciousness, strategy and performance. For example, it exists managerial practices within international firms such as cultural training programs before expatriations or for multicultural teams, internal newsletter in the languages of the countries where the company got subsidiaries, etc.. Nowadays, there are not much international firms left that stayed in an ethnocentric approach, because it could really affect their competitiveness.
Even if there is an increasing interest in intercultural management, cultural diversity and its impact on companies are not always recognized and taken into account. Indeed, the attitude most spread among the executives not to considerer the cultural diversity as a source of profits but as a source of problems. Thus multiculturalism can be considered more as a problem than a resource to exploit and this perception still persist. For example, some executives consider that international firms lose their coherence by becoming multicultural. Among other problems related to cultural diversity, there is the growth of the ambiguity, the complexity and the confusion in the company, the difficulty to obtain a consensus, disagreements in communication, etc... The attempts to define the intercultural management also deal with the necessity of overtaking the obstacles, the difficulties and the problems posed by the management of a culturally different human resource. This is why, intercultural management is can be dreadful.
Nevertheless, we can notice that progressively the idea that cultural diversity was a source of difficulties change into the idea that we could take benefits from it. Thus we can see a change in the academic community that define intercultural management as : "the questions to which it tries to get answers: which difficulties cultural differences bring into companies management and which are the possible manners to overcome these obstacles while taking advantages from this cultural diversity".
The perception of cultural diversity as a source of problems for companies only remains a possible approach. Another approach, an ideal approach, is the one that consider cultural diversity as a resource to use and exploit as a competitive advantage. In this approach, researchers mention cultural diversity as a source of the following potential advantages: multiple perspectives, a better degrees of acceptation of new ideas, an increasing creativity and flexibility, a better understanding of the local employees, a better capacity of interaction with local customers, etc..
The last approach about cultural diversity, which would be situated between the two previous ones, would be: the ignorance, the minimization or even the negation of cultural diversity and its impact on companies’ activity. This approach could be represented into businesses by general policies that do not take into account the fact that employees come from different cultures, for example, or the negation of cultural differences in case of mergers or acquisitions. The ignorance of cultural diversity can lead to serious different projects ‘failures. Meanwhile, this negation continues to exist, for various reasons: the management does not have the sufficient competencies to recognize cultural diversity; the management takes into account the cultural diversity but does not have the required competencies to deal with it, etc.. Minimizing the impact of cultural diversity on a company activity can reveal sometimes either a Universalist conception of the world or a weak importance granted to the cultural difference.
Another form of this minimization of the impact of cultural diversity can be the abandon of questions dealing with cultural diversity at the charge of the individuals implicated in the cultural interfaces (the expatriate, the member of a cross-cultural project). Consequently, the intercultural coordination will be reduced to a personal adjustment, interpersonal, as there is no official policy in this sense we kind of create in that way a cultural kaizen, which consists in graduating and continuing changes that can be effectuated by any employee of a company.
This minimization can also come from the hypothesis from the executives who think that considering cultural diversity will have a negative impact on the organization. Thus, this type of management will favor a strategy where the sources of cultural diversity and its impact on the organization will be minimized. To implement this strategy, managers will select a culturally homogenous workforce and or trying to socialize all the employees according to behaviors models of the dominant culture.
The "invisibility" of the culture could be an explanation of these different approaches about cultural diversity. Few managers are able to identify culture positive or negative impact on their everyday life companies’ activity.
To sum up, it exists three different approaches to deal with management strategies of cultural diversity:
- Ignoring cultural diversity (which comes from the perception of the absence of any cultural diversity impact on the organization)
- Minimizing cultural diversity (which see cultural diversity as a source of problems for the organization)
- Managing cultural diversity (which sees cultural diversity as a source of both problems and advantages for the organization. It supposes that managers should be prepared and trained in order for them to recognize, identify and use cultural differences as an advantage for the company.)
Intercultural management is linked, most often, with the idea of managing cultural diversity in order to assure organization competitiveness. This is why we can wonder which actions managers have to do in order to get efficient results in multinational and multicultural environments and to get economic profits due to an effective cultural diversity management. Thus, we can say that there is a link between an international firm’s success and the cultural consciousness and sensibility of its management. As a result, an appropriate definition of intercultural or cross-cultural management would be: an efficient management of the cultural differences or cultural diversity.
It is difficult to clearly define Intercultural Management’s field of research. Indeed, this discipline is still not clearly defined within Management. It generates debates about its framework, the manners of managing efficiently cultural diversity and about the notion of culture itself.
What is culture? And what are the differences between different cultures and the different theories that deals about it?
The notion of culture has been borrowed to various disciplines of social Sciences, such as anthropology, sociology and psychology, which modified its definition in order to be used in different orientations. Thus, the number of definitions given to culture in the management field is high and often gives two tendencies: a definition to narrow or on the contrary a definition too wide and not clear enough of culture.
According to G. Hofstede, a real pionner in the field of cross-cultural groups and organizational culture, culture can be defined in generic terms as shared mental programs that condition individuals’ responses to their environment. These individuals’ responses are basically the behaviors they will manifest. These behaviors are controlled by deeply embedded mental programs such as values, beliefs, norms, which are key elements of culture. Culture is also made by surfaces features that will characterize the way we speak, the way we dress, or even the way we greet people. But these features are manifestations of deep values and principles based on culture. The point that is interesting while studying Hofstede research about culture is that he focuses on the process, the manifestations and the consequences that culture will trigger off. Contrary to him, other authors will mainly concentrate on the set of elements that composed culture. Thus, authors like C. Levi Strauss will define culture as a set of institutions, faiths and aptitudes learnt by humans as members of a society. Indeed, this definition is much more descriptive than Hofstede’s.
To continue, according to this same author, there are three different level of mental programming. The first one, which is the deepest level, is Human nature and consists in biological reactions such as sleeping, eating, etc…The second and the shallowest one is Personality that mainly relies on personal experiences. Personality will explain why individuals will have different behaviors or understandings even if they are part of the same culture. It is this level that enables to underline that even if culture is shared and common to a certain group of persons, it can sometimes not be understood or integrated in the same way for people, leading to various different behaviors face to a specific situation. The last level of mental programming is Culture which is basically based on shared and common experiences. Culture has a specific characteristic. It is powerful. Indeed it can shape individuals values and actions. It is then necessary to understand what does it consist of, to know after that, how to deal with it.
To go further on the definition and analysis of what is culture, it is required to explain its basic characteristics.
First of all culture is shared because it is something that a group has in common. In addition, culture is not accessible to people not belonging to this group. This process of sharing is possible thanks to the interaction between each others within the group. For example, as an expatriate, you have to mix and exchange with people from the country you are in to get to understand pieces of their culture. Depending on the group of people you are going to mix with, while interacting with them, you will get some aspects of their culture.
Culture is learned through the interaction with the environment and between each other and built into institutions. Indeed, culture is not instinctive. We actually know nobody who is born with a particular language or a specific religion yet established.
Moreover, it is enduring as culture is passed through generations. Youngers follow the model or advices of their parents. For instance, in the movie L’Enfant Sauvage from F. Truffaut, the young child did not receive any education from his parents nor from anybody, he was isolated from Human. Thus, he is not able to speak nor to walk up, since nobody showed him the example. That reveal the not instinctive variable of what is culture.
One of the most important features is that culture leads to a powerful influence on behaviors. Indeed, we will all manifest a natural tendency to revert to cultural roots. This could be the result of an actual lack of rationality or absence of cultural flexibility.
For instance, let’s take the example of an International meeting with teams from various nationalities. We have Japanese, German, American, French and Italian employees. The Japanese will show more reluctance to manifest their disagreement about a specific point, whereas the French will probably disagree without any sign of embarrassment. Probably the German will participate only when they think it worth it and to add valuable suggestion or comments only. And to finish the Italian will cover the whole discussion. This can be a bit cliché, even stereotyped but this example clearly shows how culture can influence general behaviors. Moreover here, we did a brief insight of what is called national culture. But we will develop this point later on.
So basically the "best adaptation" consists of those who learn a new culture while still retaining valuable elements of their own original culture. It is called, cultural intelligence.
Then culture is systematic and organized. Indeed, culture relies on an organized system of values. Culture is not random, each culture will have its own logic and coherence and will still remain methodical, ordered and regular. For some, certain cultures could appear totally illogical but simply because it is different from the one we know and are used to. For instance, certain rites of passage are often seen as harmful even inhuman. The reason is that the system of values is different but still organized and coherent for both sides, even if their opinions are opposed.
It is essential to had that as culture is dynamic, it remains adaptive.
To finish, the less tangible characteristic of culture is that is mostly invisible. We often used the Iceberg Metaphor to present culture. The 10 per cent visible above the surface of the water are all the obvious physical symbols, all the living artifacts. And below the surface, deeper, you will find the most important values, where most of culture is, almost totally hidden.
Now we have define what is culture and all its characteristics, we can understand how complex is its construction and manifestation and how it could cause troubles within organizations if not well understood and not taken into account.
Is culture measurable? How can we measure it?
Now we have defined what culture is about and its main characteristics, we can ask ourselves if it is possible to measure it? If so, which criteria should we base on? It can be a useful tool to apply to organizations in order to manage efficiently and cleverly these cultural differences and to adapt the style of leadership.
To understand how it can be applied to organizations, we are going to see three approaches from different authors: Hofstede, Trompenaars and Huisjer.
Hofstede is recognized internationally for having developed the first empirical model of "dimensions" of national culture, thus establishing a new paradigm for taking account of cultural elements in international economics, communication and cooperation. He was interested in the influence of culture on people’s behaviors. His goal was to explain the origins of the differences in behaviors, differences that often tend to problems. To explain and solve these problems by people whether living or working together, he determined five factors of cultural differentiation. These factors were supposed to explain the disparities between nations and individual. He based his work on a study where he examined work related values in employees of IBM in the 1970’s.
Trompenaars is also one of the famous researchers in the field of cross-cultural communication. According to him, international companies tend to standardize their management functioning because of globalization. To him, these companies impose their way of thinking to their subsidiaries. And so, problems appear in these companies, as employees’ cultural differences are not taken into account. And certain way of managing are not appropriate to certain cultures.
Trompenaars’ definition of culture consists in the way a human group solves its problems. He took example on Hofstede while modifying his approach and created the seven dimensions of cultural differentiation. These dimensions directly impact on the management trends. His goal was to determinate how to reconcile cultural differences, that will lead to competitive advantage.
Hofstede’s 5 dimensions
His goal was to identify the major differences in mental programming. He identified five fundamental differences between cultures in order to understand and work more effectively with these differences.
Low Vs. High Power Distance (PDI) :
This dimension is defined by the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. (http://geert-hofstede.com)
Countries such as Malaysia will have a high power distance index, because they will be more likely not to allow significant ascension of mobility of its citizens, as they accept autocratic and paternalistic relations.
On the contrary, a low power distance index will characterize countries where differences between power and wealth are reduced. Let’s take the examples of Austria or Denmark. In these countries, people expect power relations to be democratic. They relate to others regardless of formal positions, such as if they were consulting them. Subordinates are more comfortable with contributing to and criticizing the decisions of those who are hierarchically higher.
(To illustrate with graphics, I will show countries with the most significant differences.)
Individualism Vs. Collectivism (IDV) :
This dimension is defined by the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members.
A High Individualism ranking indicates that people are expected to develop and to be proud of their personalities and their choices. For instance, the United States is a highly individualistic culture. The expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families. In the business world, employees are expected to be self-reliant and display initiative. Also, within the exchange-based world of work, hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do.
A Low Individualism ranking typifies societies where the individuals are more likely to act as a member of a group (ex: family, town, profession). For instance, China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves. In-group considerations affect hiring and promotions where closer in-groups are getting preferential treatment.
Masculanity Vs. Feminity (MAS) :
This dimension measures the degree the society reinforces the traditional masculine work role model (as understood in most Western countries) or not.
A High Masculinity ranking indicates a society that will be driven by competition, achievement and success. Those societies emphasize high gender differentiation. In these cultures, males dominate a significant portion of the society, while females are under domination. For instance, Japan is one of the most masculine societies in the world. There is a severe competition between groups. From very young age at kindergartens, children learn to compete on sports day for their groups. Notorious Japanese workaholism is another expression of their masculinity. It is still hard for women to climb up the corporate ladders in Japan with their masculine norm of hard and long working hours.
In the opposite case, a low score (feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. .the society de-emphasizes the gender differentiation. For instance, Sweden is a feminine society where it is important to keep the life/work balance. Decision making is achieved through involvement. Managers strive for consensus and people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation and Swedes are known for their long discussions until consensus has been reached.
Low vs. high Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)
This dimensions focuses on the level people try to cope with stress by fighting uncertainty and ambiguous situations within the society.
A high UAI indicates a rule-oriented society, where citizens prefer explicit laws, rules and controls, in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty (ex: religion, food industry). For example, Argentina scores high on UAI – and so do the majority of Latin American countries that belonged to the Spanish kingdom. These societies show a strong need for rules and elaborate legal systems in order to structure life. The individual’s need to obey these laws, however, is weak.
In societies exhibiting low UAI, people believe there should be no more rules than are necessary and if they are ambiguous or do not work they should be abandoned or changed. Schedules are flexible, hard work is undertaken when necessary but not for its own sake, precision and punctuality do not come naturally, innovation is not seen as threatening. For instance, Hong Kong has a low score on uncertainty avoidance. Adherence to laws and rules may be flexible to suit the actual situation and pragmatism is a fact of life. The people in Hong Kong are comfortable with ambiguity.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Orientation (LTO)
This dimension is defined by the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view.
A high LTO characterizes countries where people value the behaviors that affect the future, such as perseverance, thrift and shame. Those societies are often superstitious or based on many truths or faiths. For example, Taiwan has a long term oriented culture. They show an ability to adapt traditions to a modern context i.e. pragmatism, a strong propensity to save and invest, thriftiness, perseverance in achieving results and an overriding concern for respecting the demands of Virtue.
Cultures scoring low on this dimension believe in absolute truth. They have a short-term orientation and a concern for immediate stability. For instance, the German has a short term oriented culture. They exhibit great respect for traditions, a relatively small propensity to save, strong social pressure to "keep up with the Joneses", impatience for achieving quick results, and a strong concern with establishing the Truth.
According to him, culture only exists by comparison. This is why have chosen to give proper examples of comparison between countries and national culture to illustrate his dimensions.
As far as Trompenaars is concerned, he suggest a different approach from Hofstede. Indeed he does not only identify what cultural differences are. Obviously, the recognition and the respect for cultural differences within organizations are the two first steps of the process. But stopping at this level would generate the risk of supporting only stereotypical views on cultures. This is why to him, cross-cultural competence is the capacity to reconcile dilemmas to a higher level. As explained previously, culture is set of shared and common values but different depending on people. And it is these differences between values that lead to dilemmas. Being able to identify them is primordial, but Trompenaars goes deeper in his analysis by searching for solving problems solutions.
He defined seven different dimensions of culture to be able to quantify the generated dilemmas.
1) Universalism Vs. Particularism
In universalistic cultures, general rules, codes, values and standards prevail over relations or needs. It is considerate that a solution that solves a problem once should always be applied in the future. Thus, general rules should have global application. Universalism often enables clarity and a better-cost efficiency. Meanwhile, it can also lead to a severe inflexibility.
In particularistic culture, human relationships or family bonds are more important than rules and codes. They prefer to resolve failure privately. Particularism encourages innovation and learning. Meanwhile, it can be wasteful with employees reluctant to compete.
To illustrate these two different types of culture, lets take the example of the relations that maintains the head office of certain companies towards their subsidiaries. There are many groups at a global level that control their marketing or HR department and try to implant these same systems in all the subsidiaries. Subsidiaries implanted in countries favoring particularistic then tend to pretend to follow the directives of the head office while continuing their local practices in all the domains that are left without supervision.
A balanced approach would be to combine rules and exceptions to finally exercise what we call Management of exception. It would lead to new and improved rules rather than just general rules that could become with the time inefficient or unproductive.
2) Individualism Vs. Communitarianism
Individualism is defined as a fundamental orientation towards one proper self and communitarianism as a fundamental orientation towards common purposes and objectives.
In individualistic cultures, people tend to be more autonomous, independent and competing whereas in collectivistic cultures people will be more responsible for the good functioning of the society. They are looking for providing a nurturing learning environment. But limits could result in the fact that communitarianism could to one extend block individual creativity and prevent from personal excellence.
3) Neutral Vs. Affective relationships
This dimension characterizes how feelings and sentiments are expressed. In affective cultures, people can show up their emotions and feelings whereas in neutral cultures, it is totally not correct to show nor to manifest emotions. Feelings have to be controlled and hidden. Manifesting signs of emotions would be interpreted as a lack of control and objectivity.
These differences of behaviors are also expressed through the verbal communication. Humor can be a way to communicate emotional discharge and can might be not understood by persons from a different culture.
The styles of verbal communication and more particularly the rhythms of communications are representative too. A silence in communication would be interpreted as a failure for Westerners while it will be a simple break allowing the assimilation of the information for an Asian person.
Thus, taking into account and understanding all these subtleties are essential for global manager not to misinterpret employees or even clients’ behaviors.
4) Specific Vs Diffuse Relationships
This dimension describes how personality and private life will be revealed to the others. People who have specific relationships will change and adapt behaviors according to the context, whereas people with diffuse relationships will keep the same behaviors wherever they are. For instance, if an American manager meets an employee on a golf course, he will tend to treat him more according to his level of game rather than to his hierarchical level within the company. On the contrary, the Diffuse will not mark borders. For example, the use of titles outside the professional context is common practice in Germany: "Herr Doktor" is used at the office as well as at the supermarket doing shopping. This anecdote shows that the diffuse cultures consider private life connected and directly linked with professional life. This can carry on confusion. And thus a professional criticism, made in a work-environment context, could be interpreted as a personal one.
5) Achievement Vs. Ascription
This cultural dimension is similar to the power distance dimension of Hofstede.
This dimension characterized the nature of social position. Status is acquired by achievement, performance and action, in achievement cultures. On the contrary, status is attributed to age, origins, profession or diplomas in ascription cultures. Employees from achievement cultures express a lot of personal initiative. They might take responsibility of their actions and inform their boss later. On the contrary employees from ascriptive cultures avoid taking risks and responsibilities for actions. They will probably inform their boss first for taking actions, and let him take the responsibility.
Status’ recognition is determining in negotiation. Trompenaars suggests an example: What happens if interlocutors from acquired status cultures meet with interlocutors from attributed status cultures? Lets take the case of a negotiation between Dutch and Japanese. The Dutch company sends its specialists, 30-year-old, skillful and decided. The Japanese are less specialized on the subject. However, they are older and have a higher hierarchical status. The communication is going to be complicated: The Dutch think the Japanese are not qualified enough for this topic and the Japanese are not convinced of the young Dutch ‘s legitimacy and doubt about their authority.
6) Time orientation: Sequential Vs. Synchronic
This dimension describes the relationship that cultures have in regards to time. It is a dimension to particularly take into account as it masters business relationships.
The sequential cultures schedule time. Activities are organized by sequences. On the contrary, in synchronic cultures, events follow a cycle. Activities will be adapted according to the context and different tasks can be carried out at the same time, in parallel.
While the Anglo-Saxon countries are more sequential, the Southern countries are more synchronous. In general, people from synchronous cultures think that the sequentials lack of flexibility. On the contrary, people from sequential cultures see the synchronous as disorganized and are annoyed by their lack of punctuality.
7) Human-nature relationship: Internal Vs. External control
This last dimension describes the fact that cultures think that they control their environment where others think they are controlled by it. It concern the heart, the hidden part of culture. This dimension concerns the relationship people have with their environment. It enables to understand if people manage failure with prevention or with response. Internalistic cultures believe that what happen to us is the results of their own actions whereas external cultures think that the environment is the master of their destiny and is able to shape it. Most of Asian countries represent external culture. According to them, failures are inevitable and their survival depends on the skills they are able to develop to respond to this failure as quickly as possible. In regards to the internal cultures, a good planning can help and prevent from failures.
Comparison of Hofstede and Trompenaars’ theories:
There are similarities in their two theories as much as oppositions. Lets begin with the differences.
In Hofstede’s study, he aims to evaluate work values whereas Trompenaars attaches more importance to people preferred and representative behaviors. Meanwhile, what it is interesting is that they both try to identify and analyze the underwater part of the cultural iceberg. They both try to explore and explain the hidden part of culture. Hofstede let us make our own forecast about people behaviors whereas Trompenaars has an approach more focus-oriented on what is in people’s minds and the framework of their behaviors. For instance Specific vs. Diffuse, Internal Vs. Internal Control, Universalism Vs. Particularism are dimensions that traduce this focus. He shows exactly how people actions are planned and handled.
Basically, in Hofstede’s approach, his goal is to identify the first values, the deep values of a culture to then be able to understand and analyze behaviors. On the contrary, Trompenaars’ system is based on behaviors. These recognized behaviors then help to identify and understand cultures’ deep values. Thus, these two authors use an opposite approach to deal with culture even if the goal of their investigations is the same.
Now we have talked about the differences between their approaches, we will see that it also exist similarities, and particularly between the dimensions they chose.
Indeed we can compare Hofstede’s Individualism Vs. Collectivism dimension with Trompenaars’ Individualism Vs. Communitarianism dimension. There is almost no difference in using these two dimensions. They both characterize the degree of interdependence among members of a society and so the orientation towards one proper self or toward groups.
Another dimension that could be identified as identical is Time orientation (Long-term Vs. Short term Orientation for Hofstede and Sequential Vs. Synchronic Time orientation for Trompenaars). Indeed, short-term oriented cultures will show the same tendency to be tradition-oriented as the synchronic cultures.
We can also identify a certain degree of similarity in Hofstede’s power distance dimension and Trompenaars’ Achievement Vs. Ascription dimension. These two dimensions characterized the nature of social position and status’ recognition. It is, however, not a complete match, as Hofstede's power index does not only relate to how status is accorded, but also to the acceptable power distance within a society, an area that is not touched upon by Trompenaars.
Finally, we can say that we can highlight differences among the approaches and processes themselves but there are similarities between the dimensions chosen and evaluated by the two authors, Hofstede and Trompenaars.
There are, however, pronounced disagreements not least in regard to Germany. Trompenaars' findings suggest that German corporate culture is decidedly hierarchical, whereas Hofstede identifies Germany as relatively low in terms of Power Distance.
We can raise a problem here. The two authors have different approaches but they use dimensions that are qualified as being identical. We found different results (i.e The case of Germany). These different results have lead to serious criticism.
Other points have been criticized too. One of the most important points is Hofstede’s perception of culture as a static characteristic of societies. Indeed, his approach does not take into consideration how culture can be modified as the time passes by. For instance, if you have a look at the UK of the Victorian age and the post Second World War UK, it is not possible to deny that the Power Distance is not the same anymore. Indeed, people’s behaviors have changed enough to allow a society with a lower power distance, this new behaviors were modified by time and politics (Rise of the labor Party in 194-1951) . People of lower class become conscious to demand equality in this dimension with the former higher class. The expression of wealth and power and respect to this higher class has decreased, as well as the power distance Index. We can still find similar patterns nowadays. For example Mexico, which is a developing country, has been characterized with strong collectivist communities. Today, they are mainly dissolving as their member become more individualistic, with the desire to be successful in a society that is even more oriented towards commerce.
This is why we can say that Hofstede Index’s estimations are slowly becoming out of date, even if he states that cultural evolution is a very slow process. Thus we could say that the actual weakness of his approach is that its framework itself becomes obsolete from a qualitative point of view.
Additionally, in regards to Hofstede and Trompenaars approaches, we can made other critics. First it is important to say that dimensions of culture do not exist in a tangible sense. They are constructed. . A construct is "not directly accessible to observation but inferable from verbal statements and other behaviors and useful in predicting still other observable and measurable verbal and nonverbal behavior" (Teresa Levitin, 1973). In a way it makes no sense to try to determine how many dimensions culture is made of even if it is still really useful to understand it.
Dimensions can not directly predict any phenomena as it is necessary to take into consideration other factors different from culture such as notable national wealth, history, personalities etc.. It is obviously not possible to understand social life and interactions only by relying on Hofstede. Meanwhile, the dimensions still help to predict a little better what is likely to happen. Dimensions also make easier the comprehensions of certain behaviors or trends.
(Paragraphe à relier avc les recherché en management culturelle aujourdhui pour faire transition avc le nouveau model)
Inputs of the theories :
The Hofstede and Trompenaars cultural dimensions can be seen as a useful tool. As said before, we cannot just rely on Hofstede or Trompenaars theories but it enable to have an insight of the organization and structure of a company or when trading with other countries. In fact, for those who works in an international business it is essential to know the differences between countries and cultures.
Cultural dimensions, although there are intangible, help for marketing purposes and facilitate the design of an optimum strategy. Indeed, history caused a different culture in each society. Taking into account the usage and the meaning of the language and the different ways of communication is extremely important. And cultural dimensions facilitate their understanding.
One of the goal of Hofstede is to help to take into consideration the differences in the way of thinking, to react and act between the different people in the world. According to him, each country generates its own management system. For instance, American cooperation always pay more attention to the individuals, and most of the Asian coutry is the opposite. So if an American firms operates abroad, itmust consider this kind of cultural differences, taking the employees into consideration and emphasize the loyalty. This behavior will help to get success. If the mabager ignore cultural differences, there will be something wrong with the communication, and finally a negative impact for the organization.
By analyzing Trompenaars approach, we note that even if each culture owns its main features, it remains a cultural identity toward each individual, as for each company, which allows adapting into every context. These cultural orientations are no more obstacles for the common work but become the best key factors to carry out successfully. He helps companies to develop and create their own intercultural management. Indeed each company has its own management style or cultural organizational culture.
Finally, we can see that there are different approaches to classify the culture of different nations. Hofstede and Trompenaars cultural dimensions have a number of things in common and many differences as well. In regards to the context, we may live in a globalized environment, however, so far, there is no world culture yet. So even if their theories are still quite controversial and certainly imperfect, they allow companies to save time and enable the creation of a consolidated strategy in approaching to culture.
These limits and criticisms reveal that it is necessary to extend research in the field of intercultural management. According to Y.F Livian, teacher at Jean Moulin University, Lyon 3, 2011), research suffers from difficulties. The dominating model is Hofstede model and it is no more accurate. Connecting national culture to other explicative factors could be a trail for solutions. Bassicaly, Y.F Livian notes that research requires a deep redefinition. Two elements have to be taken into consideration. The concept of culture itself has to be reviewed. The concept of culture is fragile and uncertain but above all we use it too much. Secondly, its operationalization is often to narrow. Indeed to use it concretely in research, this polymorphous concept requires solid frames. Yet, in the dominant research, national culture is studied as an independent and homogenous block. And this representation does not reflect reality. For instance, it exists five different cultural areas in Brazil. Weanwhile, they are all part of the same country. It is the same for China, there is not one and unique national culture but at least three or four. According to
Approach + dimensions
comparison and criticism
LIMITS DE H: http://www.geerthofstede.nl/research--vsm.aspx
Résumer les points clés.
These approaches will help first to identify the possible differences, then how could we characterize them, to finally find a way to embrace these differences and make them benefic for the companies and powerful.
"Culture only exists by comparison" (http://geert-hofstede.com/national-culture.html)
Prk etudier l’expartiation? Parce que = Moment clé de contact entre cultures