The differentiation perspective on culture focuses on diversity, and has been advanced most appealingly by Martin (1992). When the differentiation perspective on culture is applied to transnational corporations, these are seen as made up of subcultures that are 'sometimes in harmony, sometimes in conflict, and sometimes in indifference to one another' (Martin, 1992).
The differentiation perspective on culture is an extreme description of culture, like the other two perspectives put forward by Martin, the integration perspective and fragmentation perspective. Of the three perspectives, the integration and differentiation perspectives are most germane to our discussion here. Since they are extreme descriptions, not everything posited in the integration and differentiation perspectives is referred to. However, the perspectives, being modern, are deserving of mention.
Although differentiationists are interested in emphasizing subcultures, they do accept that certain features of a dominant culture exist in all organizations. They acknowledge the existence of unifying forces in much the same way that integrationists do. Where they diverge from integrationists is in insisting that subcultures within a transnational corporation are hierarchically arranged, and power struggles exist between various subcultures. We accept the existence of differing subcultures in transnational corporations, these subcultures being defined by national or ethnic cultures. However, based on the interviews conducted for this book, we would like to suggest that subcultures need not be hierarchically arranged or habitually in a state of opposition .
At this juncture, we would like to draw inspiration from the integrationist perspective. This perspective holds that the culture of a corporation is enshrined in its core values. This acts as an integrative mechanism or organizational glue holding together the diverse groups within that organization. There are two aspects to the integrationist perspective that we consider important. These are the existence of an organization-wide consensus among members regarding the core values that hold them together, and clarity regarding what these core values mean in differing cultures. As per the integrationist perspective, uncertainty and ambiguity regarding roles and identities are dispensed with when resort is made to the unifying effect of core values. Cultures, or core values, as we have defined them, are 'existing to alleviate anxiety, to control the uncontrollable, to bring predictability to the uncertain , and to clarify the ambiguous' (Martin, 1992).
Integrationists like to focus on those organizational manifestations that contribute to consistency and ignore inconsistencies. We beg to differ . Core values contribute to a global organization having some consistency regarding orientation. Meanwhile, the inconsistencies are not ignored. Successful global organizations find mechanisms for dealing with the inconsistencies induced by culture. They also devise methods for detecting inconsistencies before these inconsistencies become deeply entrenched.
Integrationists have emphasized that consistency is achieved via three facets: action consistency, symbolic consistency and content consistency. Action consistency refers to the congruence of managerial behaviour with an articulated core value. For a global company, this implies that an articulated core value is operationalized at all its locations. Thus the Nestl managers of Vietnam are expected by the company to enact the core values of Nestl with as much commitment as their counterparts in Switzerland.
Symbolic consistency occurs when the rites, rituals and customs of a global company are aligned to its core values. When Moscow McDonald's gives the same training to its Russian managers in Moscow as it does to its Canadian managers in Toronto, it is underscoring the McDonald's core value that all employees belong to a single global family. Content consistency ensues when all the core values of a global corporation are in synchrony with each other. Thus, Nestl stresses long- term viable goals that are consistent with its core value of respecting customers.
Some well-known researchers in the field of organizational behaviour, especially with reference to the study of culture, are integrationists. These include Schein (1986), and Ouchi (1981). Most of the managers interviewed for this book concur that the integrationist perspective makes sense. The appeal of this perspective lies in the fact that it partially explains the experience of high-performance transnational corporations. Since it posits core values as entirely within the gift of a corporation to define, the integrationist approach offers scope for managerial control on outcomes .