Cultural Values and Management Practices
This paper discusses two parallel phenomena that are going on in the world today. One is the concept of globalization, especially in economics where western countries tend to dominate the economic situation all over the world. This paper will argue that globalization, especially economic globalization is creating a culture based on western civilization and through this culture, and there is an increasing cultural convergence that makes standard management practices all over the world possible and even desirable although multiculturalism should still be taken into account.
Broadly speaking, globalization is the increasing integration and cooperation of different countries all over the world in terms of economics, society and culture, technology, ecological and political (McGillivray, 2006: 15). This complex and dynamic process has given birth to a greater convergence of cultures and of social norms and practices. In fact, what Marshall McLuhan (1962: 152) predicted several decades ago is that the world is becoming a “Global Village. ” Alongside this dynamic process of globalization, the convergence of cultures can be readily observed from all over the world.
Due to the pervasive presence of multinational corporations and the global diffusion of mass media, people are now exposed to cultures from other nations. This level of exposure is unprecedented in history. However, even though there are apparent areas of cultural convergence going on, the globalization process has also reinforced the cultural identity of other people, thereby forcing them to define themselves in contrast to the rest of the world (Raskin, et. al. , 2002: 11). Raskin, et. al. , (2002: 8) identified several important trends related to globalization in the world today.
In terms of the diffusion of information all over the world, people from different places are now aware of different issues in the environment, the hole of the ozone layer, and ecological imbalance problems among others. With regards to technology, the personal computer has experienced huge advances and its use has spread all over the world. Through the Internet, everyone can easily connect online and get information about anything at all. The international market for technology is booming and those that seek to deliver these products and services are also experiencing tremendous growth.
Geo-politics has change significantly. In the early 1990s, the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving the United States as the only Superpower left in the world. Likewise, the nature of political relationships between and among the countries of the world has changed dramatically (Raskin, et. al. , 2002: 8).. In addition to this, the global civil society composed of non-governmental organizations multinational companies and even terrorist organizations have proliferated. The setting of the struggles of non-governmental organizations, as well as of terrorists has escalated to the global level (Raskin, et.
al. , 2002: 8). More importantly, in connection with this present study, economic integration is being hastened by globalization. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been actively promoting free trade and the relaxing of trade restrictions imposed by individual governments on the goods and services from other countries entering their territory (Raskin, et. al. , 2002: 8). Economic Globalization or Economic Imperialism In the realm of economics, there has been an increasing convergence of the kinds of products being marketed in different countries together with their prices.
Moreover, the level of wages, interest rates and profits are now increasingly coming to a convergence. This is partly because of multinational companies that conduct operations in various locations all over the world. Another reason for this is the migration of humans in search of higher-paying jobs (Shariff, 2003: 165). Furthermore, the trade between countries all over the world have increased, thanks to the efforts of the World Trade Organization and to the efforts of these countries themselves in establishing bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
Capital has become highly mobile and this has enabled multinational companies to invest in developing countries heavily. Financial markets all over the world have also shown increasing integration. If there is any indication that the markets of the world are already integrated, these indications would be the volume of the transactions conducted between and among nations, the free flow of capital from one country to another and the rapid diffusion of technologies, usually from developed countries to less developed ones (Shariff, 2003: 169).
Globalization has been lauded by some as an agent of change and bringer of development to developing and underdeveloped countries. Sachs (2005: 30) in his bold book The End of Poverty argues that through globalization; doors of opportunity are opened up for developing and developed countries alike. These opportunities will then help in the development of democratic principles among peoples and in the allocation of the scarce resources of the society.
Through globalization, the principles of liberty as well as that of capitalism are spread all over the world and will help remove the shackles of poverty all over the world. Economic globalization, however is not without critics. These critics usually point out that although globalization creates wealth, it does not necessarily distribute such wealth equitably. In fact, the inequalities in the wealth of people within the countries, as well as the inequalities of income between and among nations are increasing, despite of the growth rates and increased wealth fostered by globalization.
This led Stiglitz (2006: 5) to criticize the leaders of the largest institutions in the world such as the International Monetary Fund as promoting the interests of western countries without considering fully the impact of this to the developing countries. He claims that wealth generated by globalization is not distributed well and that there should be a way in making globalization work for all nations of the world. Globalization, Cultural Convergence and Management Practices One of the effects of globalization in the social and cultural spheres is the higher level of exposure of different people to different cultures around the world.
It can be noted though that the culture of United States and other western countries are taking centre stage in this convergence of cultures. Although this is the case, through migration and the free exchange of ideas in different areas such as face-to-face interactions and even online conversations, there is a greater degree of understanding among different kinds of people (Martell, 2007: n. p). Bird and Stevens (2003: 397) argues that globalization is creating a new class of individuals and persons who belong to a global culture.
Some of the best means through which this global culture is developed is through the mass media, the workplace in which young professionals are now working. As would be expected, multinational companies operate based on the philosophy and culture of the country where such a company came from. Because of the proliferation of these methods of acculturation, young adults are eventually instructed and immersed in the dynamics of this new global culture. Another result of this global culture is the challenges it poses to the national culture.
Although national cultures may be strong, they would to be flexible in order to survive and become relevant in today’s fast paced and globalising world. Multinational corporations, evidently, would have to deal with the issues of culture in their management practices. They would be confronted with questions on norms and standards of conduct in the country where they are operating. Is there a one-size-fits-all approach for management? Will management practices in the United States be the same for management practices in Malaysia? Pudelko (2006: 12) of the University of Melbourne in Australia explored this issue on one of his studies.
He mapped out the debate between universalism and particularism in regards to the management practices of organizations working in different geographical locations all over the world. If there are best management practices in one particular country, will these practices be effective to the employees in another country? This research has a very profound impact on the way that multinational companies are conducting business operations. If the argument for universalism prevails, it means that multinational companies may establish a global standard of conduct of operations and doing business.
If, however, particularism is proven right, then in each country that a multinational will set its foot on, it would have to study the culture of the country and implement management practices accordingly. Pudelko’s (2006: 18) did not argue for one or the other. Rather, he sought to integrate both ways of looking at the matter and established a framework that will allow the managers of a company to implement universal principles that it adheres to while respecting the cultural nuances and peculiarities of the country hosting the multinational company.
Based on this, it is clear that Pudelko agrees that a global culture is being fostered by globalization, however, the effects of national cultures are still evident in the countries where multinational companies are operating. Management practices can be better understood by looking at the interplay of global culture, national culture and the identity of the individual affected by these cultures. Erez & Gati (2004: 585) proposed that in an individual, there are several levels of culture. They ranked the effects of these cultures from the topmost one down to the level of the individual.
The most macro level culture can be found at the top and this is the global culture. The global culture is then followed by national, organizational and group cultures. In this regard, globalisation impacts greatly the behaviour of people in various cultures. Although the global culture affects the individual, any action committed by the individual on the other hand also affects the culture at the macro level. Hence, Erez & Gati (2004: 585) showed that the interaction of culture is dynamic and any views and research that treats culture as static should be discounted.
Research in management, therefore needs to focus on the different levels of culture in an individual to effectively measure the impact of a global culture and implement any type of intervention should be needed. Based on the foregoing section, it has been shown that indeed a global culture is emerging and yet implementing a one-size-fits all set of management practices is not the best way to deal with such global culture. To illustrate this further, several case studies have been consulted by this researcher to look at the experiences of several countries in management practices. Case Studies on Global Culture and Management Practices
United Kingdom and Management of Human Resources: US Company in UK Ferener, et. al. , (2004: 366) explored management practices of US Companies that are conducting business operations in the UK. They sought to understand whether the policy-making process of US companies is centralised or do they allow relative autonomy to the subsidiaries. They based their data on several previous researches and case studies conducted in this field. In their study, they noted two important aspects of the research topic. They found out that US companies tend to be more formalised, standardised, and centralised in managing their human resources.
As such, there is but little room for the granting of autonomy and decision-making powers to their subsidiaries. Surprisingly, however, the researchers did not find a link between this scenario and the overall management practices of American business system. After exploring the management practices of US companies, Ferner (2004: 370) and his companions turned their attention to the issue of centralisation and decentralisation in managing the multinational company. They found out that there is not much literature exploring the right kind of balance between decentralisation and centralisation in organizations conducting operations worldwide.
Although this may not appear to be an issue in regards to the development of a global culture and the management practices, the level of centralisation or decentralisation also speaks loudly about the kind of culture difficulties that the organization might be facing. European Nations and the United States on Change Management Process Geppert, Matten & Williams (2003: 811) looked at several case studies on four organizations that are offering products and services in the elevator and escalator industry. Since a global culture is already emerging in a lot of subsidiaries of the companies such as those in Finland and Germany.
The researchers wanted to analyse the impact of globalization on the change management process especially in the dynamics of the global culture; the national culture and the diversity that is ever present in the discourse of multinational business. The researchers used the differentiation between two approaches: one is “low context” and the other one is “high context approaches. ” Through these approaches, the researchers were able to show the way in which global and national culture affects the work systems at the multinationals.
Because of these cultural differences, the writers concluded that in making multinational corporations truly global, there is not one best method. In addition to this, the norms and the rules that can be found in the society can be helpful in addressing cultural and societal issues confronted by multinational organizations. These would also provide a way through which national cultures could be better understood. Asian Markets and the Development of Culture on Relationship Creation Fletcher and Fang (2006: 435) also explored the kinds of ethnic cultures in Asia.
They argued against the artificial national groupings as these national groupings can only confuse managers as to the cultures in Asia. Through these groupings, a better understanding of Asians as employees and as customers can be arrived at. Through the process of globalisation, a global culture is also emerging in Asia although the cultural groupings should not be forgotten in implementing management practices for them. The study of Fletcher and Fang highlights the need for managers to draw upon various cultures in dealing with employees, especially in a foreign culture.
On the virtue of the emerging global culture, managers can effectively draw upon standard management practices as these could also be understood by the objects of these practices. Yet, the differences, especially in the details of cultural practices and norms, should be learned by managers so that they can effectively make decisions that make sense and will enhance the overall relationship of management and employees, as well as of the whole company ad its clients. Ethics, Culture and Management Practices
In managing people, it would be necessary to apply a system of ethics since there will be standards and these standards have to be followed and met. There are ethical systems, however, that may run contrary to what is prevailing in the society. Dickerson, Kouzmin & Korac-Kakabadse (2006: 288) explored this kind of study to show that the ethical system that may be contained within the management practices of the organization may be bound by culture. As such, it would be difficult to implement only one system of ethics which is not necessarily shared by everyone in the business. Their study was centred in Latvia and Russia.
The countries in the Baltic States, which used to belong to the USSR, now have free market economies. As such, they are fertile ground waiting for companies and business organizations to grow and thrive in them. In order for these people to be managed effectively, the managers that will be assigned in these countries should either be from neighbouring countries or they should be very aware of cultural issues present in the area. This will ensure that management practices take into account the cultural differences of these countries. Conclusion This paper has shown the importance of culture in managing the workplace.
There is an emerging global culture although its acceptance is not yet very extensive. By taking into account the global culture, some standards of behaviour may be arrived at successfully. However, in order to be effective, the management practices of a manager taking office in a foreign country should reflect cultural sensitivity. One-size-fits all kind of management practice cannot be used all the time. Although global culture can help a manager determine the kinds of intervention and practices he may implement, knowledge and direct experience of the national culture is of utmost importance.
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