Organizations of some note and repute today need to engage in a fair amount of intercultural management. Only small companies with a single branch or division, making a single or a few products with the same technology, and from the same raw materials, can ignore the aspect of intercultural management altogether. The many decorative -paper making companies of the St Gallen area in Switzerland are of this type. These companies typically employ 20 people or less, and cater exclusively to a local market. These companies need concern themselves with only their internal working culture.
Intercultural management delves quite extensively into the domain of organizational behaviour. Some of the dimensions of intercultural management that have organizational behaviour overtones are enumerated and briefly described below.
How teams are constituted, and how they can be made to function smoothly, are important aspects of team management. Multicultural teams have members who bring different competencies into organizational decision-making exercises. However, they have to communicate while engaged in decision-making exercises in ways that are acceptable to team members. In any team effort, there are likely to be lacunae in interpersonal skills that could act as a barrier to optimal and synergistic team functioning. One member might put views forth in an aggressive fashion that the others find upsetting. Another might be too passive and unable to influence the group sufficiently. Both members have to learn to be assertive but in wholly different ways. In an intercultural setting, this problem may be compounded because the aggressive individual hails from a context where aggressive behaviour is tolerated. The passive person might originate from a culture where soft-spokenness is valued. Both members thus have to rid themselves of cultural deterrents while learning more team-oriented skills.
The Transformational Leader (Tichy and Devanna, 1997) would be appropriate for intercultural managers. A transformational leader motivates personnel to fully realize their potential. He or she enables ordinary individuals to do extraordinary things. However, to be successful in an intercultural sense, a transformational leader must be a team player as well, and be prepared to be influenced by, and learn from, other organizational members.
In the context of intercultural management, corporate strategy becomes of the essence in decisions pertaining to entry into new geographical terrain, followed by penetration and consolidation in the markets there. Strategies can also vary depending on the cultural mindset that has formulated them. Some mindsets are more adept at implementing strategies keeping in mind local preferences. The Swiss company Nestl is particularly dextrous in this regard.
Peter Senge et al (1999) have described a type of organization called the learning organization. The learning organization is well suited in many ways for an intercultural workforce. It has enormous flexibility in its arrangements, which enables it to be global when necessary, and local at other times. It has a network structure superimposed on its learning organization framework. A network structure enables an organization to pursue a global strategy for some products, while simultaneously pursuing local, customized strategies for other products.
Legislation regarding how employees should be treated, and what their rights are, differs depending on a country's cultural bias regarding these matters. Additionally, such traditional human resource management issues as recruitment, selection, training and compensation assume new dimensions in the context of intercultural management. Where recruitment is concerned , for example, companies may like specifically to select individuals with international exposure and adaptable/flexible mindsets.
This refers primarily to the dissemination of implicit knowledge throughout an organization. Implicit knowledge involves close personal contact among employees. This can be facilitated in several ways. At lower levels, job rotation can be resorted to. At more senior levels, formal mechanisms (such as presentation symposia) can be created.
There are two important aspects pertaining to the core values of a transnational corporation. The first concerns the process of selection of core values. The second aspect relates to how these core values are disseminated. These values would include respect for all human beings, and a basic people orientation. The overall philosophy would be one of liberalism and a belief that there is always something to be learnt from association with other people.
A range of practices can be used to ensure that appropriate core values are imbibed by all employees and constantly strengthened and reinforced by all managers. An example is selection procedures and systems that ensure that only managers with an intercultural orientation are admitted into the fold. The Anglo-Dutch transnational conglomerate Unilever has a penchant for selecting managers for their operations abroad who have been trained at elitist business schools in the countries where their subsidiaries are located. Thus substantial sources of management recruitment for their Indian subsidiary are the top ten business schools of India, where the students, all in their early twenties, are socialized into management values such as commitment to excellence and flexibility of orientation towards people.
This implies sensitivity to language differences. Bringing diverse managers together to participate in cross-cultural sensitivity programmes can enhance appreciation of different communication patterns. The underlying theme here is that cultural differences can exist regarding languages. Thus literal translations from one language to another are not recommended. What can be appreciated here is the importance of English as a sort of global lingua franca. Global managers tend to be fluent in English.
Conflicts are a part of organizational life, and enlightened organizations prefer differences to be stated and worked through, rather than swept under the carpet. Global companies have to take into account that conflicts could arise simply because so much diversity exists. Conflict resolution in an intercultural context would require skill in being able to describe conflicts in unambiguous terms. Only then can a diagnosis of the differences causing the conflict be made.
All these dimensions of intercultural management will be examined in detail in ensuing chapters.