Implementation Issues

This section examines a few issues associated with implementation of the objectives of intercultural management. It is implicitly assumed that culture can be learnt, or culture can be cultivated, as Wilhelm von Humboldt (2000) would aver. Humboldt goes on to observe that among cultivated people, some are more cultivated than others. Likewise we have noted that in modern organizational life, some people are more adept at intercultural management than others.

In this book we are inclined towards the global convergence perspective on intercultural management. Transnational corporations can achieve some measure of global convergence. They must however give attention to the following implementation issues.

Commitment by managers

All perspectives on intercultural management are united in their opinion that organizational culture should support the accommodation of diversity. The norms of organizational culture should include looking for ties that bind people together. The emphasis of these perspectives is on actions, on actual behaviour that is manifested. Often, behavioural change can lead to attitudinal change. (Way back in the 1970s the social psychologist Bem (1970) demonstrated that this could be the case.) Thus in multicultural organizations, when new entrants are made to interact with people from different cultures, they learn new attitudes about those cultures.

Ultimately, implementing and supporting the norms of intercultural management is the responsibility of all managers. Georgina Wyman, Managing Director of Bata Shoe Company, is well known for insisting that managers of Bata worldwide function in a way that results in a winwin situation for everyone concerned. Win-win situations for managers in a multicultural context can only be achieved by the concerned managers themselves . Wyman herself believed in communicating and interacting with others so as to widen the scope of mutual opportunities rather than narrow their differences.

Thus implementation of intercultural management is a frame of mind - a frame of mind that is understood and supported by all managers. It can be viewed as being a component of what Scruton (1998) described as 'high culture' attained by effort, study, and application of the mind. It can of course be internalized, so that comfort with diversity becomes akin to a personality trait.

Management styles of working

The styles of working used by managers need to be compatible with the implementation of intercultural management. Generally speaking, the implementation of intercultural management is best achieved through participative styles of management. People are made to feel at ease providing inputs regardless of their position in the hierarchy, or cultural background. They also feel at ease regardless of who their superiors (or colleagues) are; regardless of their superiors' (or colleagues') origins. The hierarchical lines are not viewed as carved in stone. And what matters most of all is displaying a basic respect for people. Without respect, how can managers develop rapport with people from cultures different from their own?

Senior management are expected to act as role models in the appropriate use of management styles. At Royal Dutch/Shell, the senior managers have constituted themselves into a Committee of Managing Directors. These senior managers work collectively. The leadership is distributed and participation is equal. The designated CEO officiates only as a coordinator . The members of this committee represent different geographical locations. The committee engages in intercultural management. Each member appreciates his or her dependence on the other members to achieve his/her own business objectives. Each member also acknowledges that the formulation of a global strategy necessitates decision making by consensus.

Yukl (2001), a researcher on leadership, and participative management, has noted that managers from a wide variety of cultures perceive and report themselves as being participative. The subordinates of those managers, however, did not view their managers as being that participative. There is therefore a widespread need for managers to develop greater dexterity in participative leadership. Otherwise, impediments could arise over the implementation of intercultural management. This lacuna, where it exists, can be overcome with training. The preferred training would be generic rather than concerned with imparting traditional inputs on participative management. This would entail developing a general competence on the job. Individualistic managers need to learn to accommodate others more. Reticent managers need to learn to assert themselves more.

Effective managers operating within an intercultural management context are unique and possess a malleable and open management style. Their skills are valuable , which makes them invaluable. They are therefore well compensated and are found in profitable, high performance companies that can afford them. These managers in turn contribute to the further success of their companies. This would suggest that corporations adept at intercultural management are well resourced companies. They are also especially well resourced in cultural curiosity , which prompts them to look to culture for ways of honing their business skills. They are able to view the world as a global village. They may be contrasted with managers of small, family-owned concerns who are born in the same small town as their great grandfathers, and carry on their grandfathers' businesses. They are more like clan members whose world view cannot transcend tribal traditions.

John Daniels and Lee Radebaugh (1998) have used the term 'geocentrism' to describe hybrid business practices that borrow from several cultures. These practices can even be an amalgam of two ways of conducting business. The best elements of two ways are brought together. Intercultural management resorts to geocentrism quite frequently.

How are hybrid business practices, or for that matter any business practices, disseminated in a transnational corporation? There is an implicit understanding that the unofficial lingua franca holding a transnational corporation together is English. For most intercultural managers, the working language is English, even if it is not their first language. For a large number of intercultural managers regardless of nationality , English is the first language. And of course, all management schools of note and repute use English as the language of instruction.

Participative styles of management are strengthened through human interaction. Hence, the organizational structure and systems need to be designed so as to facilitate the easy flow of communication. Delayering is a mechanism that can be used to dilute hierarchies. Not many managers can embrace and propagate egalitarianism. There are not as many managers adept at intercultural management as there should be. The rarity of intercultural management skills imbues those capable of implementing it with some elitism. Today, Nestl 's managers in India are actively headhunted by other multinationals. The elitism referred to here is not at odds with the spirit of egalitarianism stressed in this section. Intercultural managers are amenable to participative management that makes them effective. Their effectiveness causes others to bestow them with appreciation and treat them as if they belong to an elitist cadre.


An issue that must be addressed here is whether a tension exists between intercultural management and nationalism. Can strong national identities inhibit the application of the global convergence perspective highlighted in this chapter? An optimistic view would be that nationalism serves as a useful stumbling block to thwart the march of cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism is in many ways the antithesis of intercultural management. It originates from a belief that a particular cultural heritage is superior to all other cultural heritages. Companies that engage in cultural imperialism engage in dumping their products in new markets and muscling out existing and potential competition.

Intercultural management, by contrast, embraces cultural relativism, or a belief that there can be more than one way of getting things done. This catholic cultural sensitivity inherent in intercultural management enables managers operating in that domain 'to recognize that providing consulting services to a pharmaceutical company in Paris will be quite different from doing so to a tire company such as Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand' (Schneider and Barsoux, 1997).

The only scenario in which intercultural management faces a challenge over nationalism is when national governments start interfering in business life. However, in many countries the nature of government- business relations is known, and intercultural managers make adjustments accordingly . For example, in the United States there exists a divide between government and business. In Germany, by contrast, businesses are expected to participate in executing the social obligations of the government. As long as individual governments follow the rule of law, intercultural managers experience no great difficulties. Corporations that have been expelled from countries bring it on themselves in certain ways, by not forging amiable relations with governments .

The last words on the subject of intercultural management cannot be spoken when the first words are still being said. As matters currently stand, intercultural managers do not rush in where nationalist identities are likely to have fundamentalist and jingoist overtones. They leave such islands of closed economies alone. This makes practical business sense. It is also the expedient course of action to pursue .

In general, however, economic operations have become global and the cultures in which multinational managers operate are converging. It is only political systems that remain nationally circumscribed. We thus live in interesting times. And just as Trompenaars (1993) has had his personal life enriched by having parents from different nationalities, intercultural managers enrich their professional competencies by ' belonging to several cultural constituencies'.

Intercultural management - through 21st century communication

The accelerated pace by which intercultural management is being practised worldwide has been greatly facilitated by turn of the century modes of communication. E-mail has enabled employees at all levels of multinational corporations to get connected with each other wherever in the world they might be. A policy formulated at headquarters can be communicated simultaneously to all employees , regardless of whether they are half a world away, or in the same headquarters complex. Intercultural managers are adept at phrasing their communication in ways that are non- threatening to individuals from different cultures. Teleconferencing/ videoconferencing allows managers, irrespective of location, to engage in face-to-face discussion. Here too, intercultural managers distinguish themselves by presenting themselves in ways that are universally appealing.

Additionally, international travel is becoming increasingly commonplace. Global companies arrange for their managers from all cultural constituencies to get together at conventions. This ease in bringing together intercultural managers allows them to find commonalities. They can also express their differences and work through them. Thus diverse perspectives can be made congruent. Samsung, Korea's largest corporation, is currently experimenting with this approach in a partial fashion, by sending 400 junior employees abroad every year.

Intercultural Management
Intercultural Management: MBA Masterclass (MBA Masterclass Series)
ISBN: 0749435828
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 98
Authors: Nina Jacob © 2008-2017.
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