Culture is an important variable to be analyzed in the international business field and it can affect a company in several ways such as strategy definition, organization design, foreign investment decisions, human resources management, marketing management, supply chain, accounting, taxation and many other areas. However, according to Shenkar and Luo (2008, pp. 157), culture isn’t able to provide explanation for every phenomenon since non-cultural environmental variables can also greatly influence individuals and groups.
Therefore, the definition of culture and its measurability; the influence of cultural exchange; the existence of complex cultural interactions in the business scenario; are some of the motives in which comparative analysis of culture for management purposes is been sharply questioned. Yet, Mead and Andrews (2009, pp.57) further clarify that comparative methods of cultural analysis generate controversies since their reference frame is not definite and the weight attributed to cultural values differ significantly across borders.
Culture has paradoxical aspects. On one hand it can take centuries to change, but on the other hand it can change within decades. Hamamura (2009, pp.4)
Many cultural changes have been happening; for instance, the role of women in the US, raise of individualism in Japan and the consequences of globalization such as the influence of American brands in countries like Brazil and India. It is interesting to observe English words being incorporated into Brazilian Portuguese. Another interesting example is the Matsushita’s changing employment policies. The traditional Japanese company, known for having a ‘lifetime employment policy’ had to change its policy due to decreasing revenues, losses and slowdown in the global economy. The lifetime employment policy is known to be part of the Japanese style system and due to internal and external variables it had to be changed inside Matsushita company. Gupta and Sirisha (2003)
IBM Australia is an example on how managers should understand and forecast changes regarding values and cultural norms. Lee (2011) states that IBM frequently applies an opinion survey in order to embody business interpretation of cultural diversity. Education and awareness of different cultures is one of IBM focus, since it provides training and workshops through its own professional development of business culture studies. It consists of intranet based material on how to successfully conduct business with foreign partners.
It can be concluded that managers need a flexible approach when analyzing cultural aspects, understanding that each individual has unique features, respecting and learning from them. Moreover globalization has undermined the premises of the comparative analysis of culture because management practices involve different values not just culture. Lee (2011)
Mead, R. & Andrews, T.G. (2009) International management. 4th ed. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons.
Shenkar, O.& Luo, Y. (2008) International business. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Hanamura, T. (2009) ‘ Are cultures becoming individualistic? A cross temporal comparison of individualism-collectivism in the United States and Japan’ Personality and Social Psychology Review 16 (1) 4-24
Gupta, V. Sirisha, D. (2003) ‘ Human Management Resource at Matsushita‘ Academic Pub [ Online] Available at: http://www.academicpub.com/map/items/189485.html (Accessed: 13 July 2013)
Lee, J. (2011) ‘ Globalization and cross-cultural analysis of cultures’ Global Communication Consulting [ Online] Available at: http://blog.daum.net/ethinktank/9455198 ( Accessed: 13 July 2013)