In today’s global economy, working with people from different cultures is becoming the norm. Although this brings many rewards, it also introduces challenges for both workers and management alike. All managers know that motivating their staff is the key to a successful business. To do this, they must understand what drives their staff. But what if their staff members seem to think and behave in unexpected ways? This can happen when people from very different cultures work together. Organisations are beginning to realise the importance of training their managers to become inter-culturally competent in order to ensure their staff continue to be motivated and productive. The main issues to be discussed in this report are: How culture influences working style, different management styles and the importance of training managers to become inter-culturally competent. The report discusses these issues and integrates the evidence from the article “Quality Management: A Cross-Cultural Perspective” by Alessandra Vecchi and Louis Brennan.
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Quality Improvement and Cultural Diversity
In the recent past, organisations across the globe have attempted to improve the quality of their services by balancing performance through proactive cultural integration. Despite variations in cultures across the globe, organisations have devised ways of integrating cultural diversity as part of competitive advantage parameters. As established by Vecchi and Brennan (2009), three approaches are often used to understand the science of managing cultural diversity such as convergence, divergence and culture-specific. For instance, the convergence model suggests that continuous learning is a fundamental element of efficiency in management practices. This means that organisations with stable training modules tend to share quality practices, which are similar. On the other hand, the divergence model probes the universality in application of standardised quality management practices.
This means that organisations operating in a multi-cultural environment should embrace a nationalised context for optimal effectiveness. Therefore, Vecchi and Brennan (2009) conclude that organisations may improve their success in terms of quality through integration and implementation of standardised practices that are sensitive to the regional cultural variations. Moreover, the culture-specific model attempts to explain how deeply embedded cultural variables have a direct and indirect impact on how managers approach and react to quality improvement. For instance, Vecchi and Brennan (2009) discuss the Hofstede cultural dimensions of individualism, power distance, masculinity and uncertainty avoidance as having an impact on management practices in any working environment. The results suggested that there are variations in management systems or styles within various national cultures. Specifically, the variations were influenced by differences in masculinity across regions. Basically, these models imply that any quality management strategy should be aligned to national cultures within an environment of operations. Specifically, Vecchi and Brennan (2009) have identified masculinity as having the highest impact on organisational performance.
How Culture Influences Working Style
Due to variations in practices, priorities and performance across cultural settings, culture has a direct impact on working style due to differences in quality practices. As established by Vecchi and Brennan (2009), variations in priorities are influenced heavily by uncertainty avoidance and masculinity indices in each primary national culture. Moreover, the quality practices are different within each of the four cultural dimensions for each national culture. For instance, power distance index in each region determines the use of future and current quality programs (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). This means that countries with high power distance have created an ideal environment for implementing intensive action programs than regions with low power distance. Higher level of commitment within high power distance regions to different action programs “could be explained by the fact that workers do not possess the effective tools for effective process management because of the high degree of centralisation” (Vecchi & Brennan 2009, p. 156).
Since organisational culture integrates different values, attitudes and behaviours of workers, perceptions on quality strategies vary from one place to another. For instance, Vecchi and Brennan (2009) note that company values are a reflection of priorities and principles put in place to achieve specific improvement goals. In reality, these perceptions are an invisible segment of any organisational culture. Moreover, organisational management practices form the visible part of the work culture, which cannot be the same in different regions. For instance, organisations across the globe have different approaches to work culture and programs in place such as work group socialisation, meetings and human resource management approaches. As part of organisational culture, these variations influence the external and internal work environment of any establishment (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). This means that a strong organisational culture translates to an effective work environment and vice versa.
As established by Vecchi and Brennan (2009), the four main cultural dimensions of individualism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity directly affect short- and long-term employee orientation. For instance, behavioural orientation in a masculine society affects decision-making through stronger and active approaches towards management strategies. Moreover, variations in social beliefs might alter what is considered normal in one culture and abnormal in another (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). Vecchi and Brennan’s research established that workers in China and other Asian countries are more conservative than workers in the US and parts of Europe. Moreover, the work culture in the Asian and South American region is not as flexible as it is in more liberalised societies. In addition, language or communication skills vary from one culture to another, thus, affecting the working style. Vecchi and Brennan (2009) conclude that culture dimensions have different compliance levels and evenly affect the work approach in terms of policies and programs from one region to another, depending on the predominant national culture.
Different Management Styles
Since cultural dimensions have been associated with attributes of quality performance, priorities and practices, it is in order to state that the predominant culture affects management styles. In line with the culture-specific model, Vecchi and Brennan (2009) note that deeply embedded cultural attributes have an effect on reaction and approach to quality practices. For instance, as organisations plan and implement different quality practices and programs, management strategies are put in place to sustain optimal performance. These approaches are unique to practices associated with each national culture (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). For example, managers from conservative societies tend to be cautious about excessive risks in decision-making as compared to open and innovative management styles in the liberalised societies.
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The variation in experience and way of doing things across different cultures ensures that management practices cannot be the same. Vecchi and Brennan (2009) established that organisations situated in national cultures with high scores in the four cultural dimensions tend to embrace innovative, proactive and holistic approach to management to create an equally liberal work environment. On the other hand, organisations in regions with low scores in cultural dimensions tend to practice excessively bureaucratic, systematic and prolonged decision-making process as part of the management approach (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). Moreover, international organisations use exportative, adaptive and integrative management styles, which vary from one culture to another, depending on nature of the functional environment. For instance, organisations operating in an environment with diverse cultural setting would prefer integrative strategy to balance competing needs (Vecchi & Brennan 2009).
Importance of Training Managers to Become Inter-Culturally Competent
Training of managers to become inter-culturally competent is significant towards creating a dynamic, proactive and holistic work environment that integrates diversity as part of organisational strength. As noted by Vecchi and Brennan (2009), a stable management paradigm should internalise and institutionalise inter- and intra-relationships that transcend national and cultural boundaries to create distinctive patterns of organisational governance. Moreover, training managers to become inter-culturally competent ensures that quality decisions are aligned with the predominant culture without interfering with the work environment (Vecchi & Brennan 2009).
For instance, an inter-cultural competent manager will consider the local culture in the creation and implementation of programs to reconcile or minimise impacts of competing interests. Through training, managers will be sensitive to competing cultural variations such as religion, language and ethnicity to create reliable homogeneity and flexible decision that is aligned to the national or regional culture (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). Since many cultures currently co-exist, training on cultural competency equips managers with the necessary skills for effective management since fundamental cultural values cannot be altered in decision-making without attracting avoidable conflicts (Vecchi & Brennan 2009). These differences might have short- and long-term impact on the wellbeing or an organisation, especially in a multicultural setting.
Vecchi and Brennan (2009) have successfully associated the cultural dimensions to organisation performance as determinants of working style, management practices and quality approaches. Apparently, cultural diversity has an impact on working style due to differences in power distance, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and individualism. These dimensions affect management style. It is therefore necessary to train managers on cultural competency to ensure that management practices and policies are aligned to national culture for smooth operations. Through this approach, managers will be able to discern and effectively make decisions that do not interfere with a predominant culture. Moreover, such an organisational environment will internalise proactive engagement of all stakeholders to guarantee healthy relationships. An effective training module is a recipe for optimal management practices that are void of cultural biases.
Vecchi, A & Brennan, L 2009, ‘Quality management: a cross-cultural perspective’, Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 149-164.