Sunday, 6 July 2014

Perspectives On The Clash Between National And Organizational Culture.


Governance in the corporation is about the management of policies,processes and decision rights of individual employees in the organization(system).But how then do we determine how systems yield their behaviour to individual behaviours that are associated with deterministic chaos; chaos that is attributable  and attributed to environmental factors(natural and sub-national cultures)


Governance in the organization is about the management of policies,processes and decision rights of employees .But how then do we determine how organizations as systems yield their behaviour to individual behaviour s that are associated with deterministic chaos;chaos that is attributable and often times attributed to the environmental factor of national culture and its sub-stratums or tributaries if you like.

Factor determinism therefore is to be seen as contributing conditions to complexity in systems.We shall attempt to aggregate individual behavioural phenomena into a whole thereby highlighting the importance of factors such as cuture,ethnicity,religion and language(aggregate national culture) as contributing factors to complexity in organizations. The question is, are there causal relationships between contributing conditions and complexity in organizations when analysing them as complex systems?
Organizations are complex systems,opines Dooley&Van  de Ven(1999).Our interrogation dwells on the role of national conditions earlier adumbrated,whether they are critical components in the complexity of organizational culture,its affective role or otherwise in workplace diversity, its effect on performance outcomes and productivity.


In determining the likely congruence or otherwise between national and organizational culture,we consider Hofstede's definitive study of cultural dimensions in the workplace as a paradigm in his 1984 study of "culture's consequences and work related values" and the 2001 study on related values using the United States and China as comparators. The studies classified these values into power,distance,uncertainty avoidance,masculinity-ferminity,individualism-collectivism and Confucian work dynamics also known as Long/short term orientation which Hofstede carried out in conjunction with Bond(1988).The Confucian dynamics dimension was added by the researchers in an attempt to fit it into the uncertainty avoidance dimension under the earlier IBM survey(1984).We now consider the five dimensions.

Power Distance(An unequal distribution of power): this refers to the width of the gap between superiors and sub-ordinates in the exercise of authority and power in an organization. The implication in managerial terms is that a high premium is placed on hierarchy in the organization.There is a wide gulf between managers and employees in high power distant orgnizations.Low power distant organizations on the other hand tend to have flat organizational structures.High power distance would tend to correlate with autocracy where managers hardly would consult sub-ordinates before taking decisions that affect them.Coversely too,the democratic ethos would tend to govern low power distance organizational environments.

Uncertainty Avoidance: this refers to the level of employee tolerance for ambiguity.High prevalence of uncertainty avoidance in organizations tends to have codification of rules to avoid uncertainty or be assured of the exactitude of a course of action. Conversely,low uncertainty avoidance organizations have fewer written rules and regulations.

Individualism-Collectivism: is about how people in the organization value themselves either as individuals or as groups;whether they are driven by individual interests towards self-actualisation career-wise or more towards organizational benefits.In other words,a low individualistic value places the collectivist aspirations above that of self.

Masculinity-ferminity dimension identifies the role gender plays in the organization.Does the organization recognize women as vital parts of its tapestry.Does the organization accord opportunities to women to aspire to play greater roles in top management?In other words,do women have equal opportunity for top management jobs the same way like their male counterpart?Is there equal pay for equal work between the two? Low masculinity-ferminity driven organizations tend to accord more status to women than high masculinity-ferminity driven ones.

Although not relevant to our discourse it needs be noted however that the Confucian Dynamics dimension propounded by Hofstede and Bond(1988),incorporated the Chinese in the survey based on traditional Chinese cultural values which are distinct from western based cultural dimensions upon which the 1984 and 2001 surveys were conducted(For a fuller examination of the subject,see "Cultures and Organizations: software of the mind by Geert Hofstede and Michael H.Bond,(1991).
In summary,the Hofstede study demonstrated  how national culture differs along these five paths of individual integration into groups, differences in roles between men and women,the degree to which uncertainty is handled,the trade off between long term and short term interests of individuals and organizations, how the issue of inequality is handled,of cultural diversity in the work place.
Hofstede's four dimensions is then juxtaposed with organizational culture to see the point of inflection,if any between the two concepts,how of the fact organizational culture acts as a common denominator to contributing conditions to complexity of national culture.Put differently, how organizational culture though less complicated, is able to moderate,bridge and make more manageable, the contributing factors to chaos in the firm.

Lok and Crawford (2004) note the influence of national culture on organizational culture as well as leadership styles.In their study of these values and their effect on organizational performance in Australia and Hong Kong,it was established that values,attitudes and beliefs which together constitute national culture sometimes clashes with organizational culture and does create challenges for leadership(Majeed,K,et al;2010)

Culture it has been said,is learned;that it is not inherited as it derives from the social environment it is found(Hofstede&Bond,1991).There are many definitions of culture and by culture here we refer to both national and organizational.Hofstede defines culture as the "collective programming of the mind  which distinguishes the member of one group or category of people from another"Edgar Schein(1985) on the other hand ,states that " culture is the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration,and that have worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive ,think and feel in relation to these problems".Hofstede and Schein's definitions of culture are at the macro level given their sociological hew. Harder(1999) offers us the micro view of culture in that it is specific to the organization,in his article,'Primer on organizational culture',HBR,(1999).Harder metaphorized the term as an iceberg where culture is seen as 'deeper needing to be looked at beyond the tip of the iceberg'.The tip here according to the author represents 'artefacts at the waterline of the iceberg',which include,'formal policies,informal norms and explicit statements of values'.And beneath the waterline are 'values in use and taken for granted assumptions'.Harder further notes that culture
is ' pre-conscious',meaning that our individual actions , attitudes and views in relation to the organization are often operating below our consciousness, however, try as we may to reach the conscious zone of our reality.Organizational artefacts also include,symbols,and stories of the founding of the organization,its founder,his behaviour, character,leadership style,(institutionalised folk-memory  stored either consciously or otherwise),rituals or ceremonies, such as retirement dinners,long service awards,chairman's annual dinners,etc,which can form the socialisation fabric of the organization. Organizational culture also encompasses the vision,mission and value statements as well as annual reports which together form the rubric of the corporate sub-stratum.Below this but forming part of the sub-stratum we have policy and procedure manual,induction programmes for new hires,annual performance appraisals and recognition schemes;all forming the organization's human resource management practices.And finally,artefacts recognize the place of socialization through dress codes,the gravevine,time orientation,representing the informal sub-stratum.We deduce from Harder's definition a multi-layer strata of cultural artefacts which together form the gamut of organizational culture.The degree of acculturation within the organization often varies with the level of awareness of culture's role in moderating the influence of differing national cultures when members of those cultures are employed and inducted.Work place diversity occasioned by improvements in human resource management and the liberalisation of attitudes to women and minorities has seen the upsurge in multinationals bringing talents of varying degrees to the workplace and managers seeing their value and contribution to the bottomline are increasingly investing in new ideas and innovations in human capital development,which emphasizes the role organizational culture plays in the new paradigm.This is the upside.The down side of national culture vis a vis organizational culture is the complexity attendant to the entry of various multi-national backgrounds into a work place that lacks strong organizational culture to moderate the influence of such aggregations .More invidious of this influence is in team and group performance where interpersonal skills are needed to achieve team assignments.

Culture clashes come in many forms.Ferrell&Ferrell,(2011) for instance identify how national culture will affect consumer attitudes towards the purchase of clothing,smartphones and ipads in countries such as Japan,the United States and France."Why are KFC,Subway and Mcdonald's successful in most countries even when they have significantly different cultures from those of their host countries.The answer lies in the fact that organizational culture,though different from company to company,is able through mission statement guide the conduct and relationships between members of the organization by way of values and beliefs specific to it.Adherence to these values and beliefs under a cloud of shared understanding for expected behaviour form the fulcrum of organizational culture.Put differently,values,norms and behaviour expressed through policies and procedures convey a firm's organizational culture.


How is organizational culture derived? Organizational cultures may be derived from one or more sources. They derive from the founder or the founding team ( Hewlett-Packard,Apple ).Developing a life of its own organizational culture could amplify due to the strong character and charisma of leadership at the helm of affairs of the company ( Jack Welch,GE;Lee Iacocca,Chrysler).However,the question is, of the cultures which is stronger? Does organizational culture erase or diminish national culture?To answer the first question we turn to Nancy Adler who in her book "International dimensions of organizational behaviour" argues that contrary to anecdotal evidence of organizational culture being stronger,national culture often trumps the former.Adler's supposition was based on Andre Laurent's study on cultural differences when he established that " cultural differences were significantly greater among managers working within the same multinational firm than those working among managers for companies in their own native country.When working for multinational companies,Germans become more German, Americans more American,Swedes more Swedish and so on".The reason for this behaviour can be located in the resistance to organizational culture of these companies when encountered by the beliefs and values of their national culture.Nazarian,A,et al (2013) reinforce this notion in their study of "the relationship between national culture and organizational culture:the case of Iranian private sector organization",(Journal of Economics and Business,Vol 1,No 1,February,2013);wherein Hofstede's five dimensions of culture were used to measure the correlation between national culture and its organizational counter-part.

Since culture as defined by various authors (Hofstede,1984;Hofstede&Bond,1984,1988,2001;
Schein,1985;Harrison&Carrol,1991;Majeed,K,et al,2010;Harder,2010),we ask the question,can culture be managed?This question has elicited a great deal of controversy among academics,practitioners and consultants of management.

Article to be concluded shortly.


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