Sunday, July 5, 2009

My current interest

I am currently reading about how different groups of people manage themselves in order to achieve a particular objective. Its quite interesting. So, for example, given an objective to accomplish, how would a group of Koreans or Americans, French or Indian people, go about organizing themselves in order to accomplish that objective? It turns out (read anything by Geert Hofstede, or Harry Triandis) that each of these groups, left to their own devices, and assuming that they really desire to achieve the stated objective, will go about doing it in quite different ways. Hofstede says that a great deal of this variance (perhaps 50% of it) is a product of the differing cultures of the groups. This rather intuitive finding can have some pretty radical consequences if we take it seriously. It may mean that Western management princples have limited applicability in non-Western nations if those nations, and we (the West), are committed to preserving, or at least protecting from overwhelming outside influence, their own particular cultures.
Unfortunately few Westerners have taken this implication seriously. Hofstede made his findings almost 20 years ago, but not much has changed. We in the West are still, by and large, utterly convinced of the universality of our own culturally-derived values which in turn permeate the management and governmental systems that we promote around the world.
Which is why the successful Asian economies are of such interest to me. For not only do they demonstrate quite clearly what Hofstede said 20 years ago, that different cultures go about accomplishing the same goals in different ways, but also that the success of those Asian economies have proven that those "different ways" (see anything by Misumi on "PM theory") are just as capable as "Western ways" of producing what today we generically call a modern society.