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Significantly. Culture have a lot of aspects but in this report we just analyze the relationship between the dimensions of the cultures identified by G. Hofstede - power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/feminity, the uncertainty avoidance
and long term vs. short term approach - and the steps of the decisional
process (in the simplified normative vision) -problem recognition, search for information
generating, selecting and implementation of the chosen alternative.
After 8 years of experience in many international company I realized many situations or issues that could be resolved in better way if managers understand about the culture.
We understand that in the globalization market , It is crucial for international managers to understand the influence of culture on decision-making styles and processes
In the organization with high level of power distance we observed that usually the process of problem recognition is longer than in culture with lower power distance score. It is because of the actual issue should be escalated through many levels before finally be recognized as a problem. It is actually happened in many Russian and Vietnamese companies that I have worked before, when the issue escalated to director's level it became very serious and take big impact to the company's business. So in these culture in order to have good problem recognition process , company should establish the good system of information management to ensure the information about any big issue should come to decision's level in appropriate time.
In the organizations with a culture with high level of uncertainty avoidance, top management manifests a special trust in planning and hardly accepts the idea of existing of an unexpected decisional problem, the awareness being sometimes delayed, even late. There are also neglected the signals concerning certain dissonances, there is a focus on formal reports, usually financial- accountant ones, with historical information. In the organizations with a culture tolerant to uncertainty, the acceptance of the dissonances is much easier, this wouldn't be seen as a situation with no exit, but, on the contrary, as a conjuncture which provokes creativity.
A high power distance means the concentration of all information concerning
the activity of the organization at high managerial level. This can lead to more negative
implications upon the decisional process: the leader/manager, the only one that can
observe the existence of a decisional problem, knowing all the facts, may not always
have the capacity or the interest (objective or subjective) to identify the problem; the
subalterns, partially informed, can identify and try to resolve the "fake problems". A
low power distance produces a decentralization of the decisions.
One of the major dimension affect to the problem recognition is masculinity/feminity. In the feminity culture, the approach to problem recognition is more subjective while in masculinity culture it is more objective. Western approach is based on the concrete evidence of the problem it mean that some time they realize about the problem only after it happen but Latin Americans or Asian approach base more on the sense of the people . It have disadvantage because some time their thinking about the problem is not correct but they usually can foresee the problem.
American managers believe strongly in self-determination and perceive problem
situations as something they can control and should change. However, managers in
many other countries, Indonesia and Malaysia among them, are resigned to problem
situations and do not feel that they can change them.
Another dimension affect the process is individualist/collectivist , we observed that American managers may identify the problem long before their Asian counterpart (indo, thai, malay, Vietnamâ€¦) would choose to define the situation as a problem. In my experience It can be explained because Asian culture is more collectivist that why when one person realize a problem , they should convince other people in group to agree with him, and the process of getting agreement usually take time.
One of the major cultural variables affecting decision-making is whether a
country assumes an objective approach or a subjective approach. Whereas the Western
approach is based on rationality (managers interpret a situation and consider alternative
solutions based on objective information), this approach is not common throughout the
world. Latin Americans, among others, are more subjective, basing decisions on
In our observation we see that the culture with more short term oriented and more individualistic usually gather information base on the fact of situation, while other cultures are likely more intuitive. They are more frequently gather ideas from the past and future in their attempt to understand the situation. It help them to have full picture of the problem but it also take more time. In my previous company we have board of director which include American and Vietnamese, the conflict in the planning process happen quite often while American director just take information in the current report from his direct subordinate while other directors were looking for more complex information from other department, report from the past and market forecast. In some cases in order to fit with the change of the problem we need to limit the time of information collection so I think in this step it is crucial for the manager to define the acceptable level of information he need to make a decision timely.
Constructing alternatives. In this step we will look into 3 of the five
dimensions identified by G.Hofstede, such as: long/short power distance,
uncertainty avoidance, long/short term orientation.
In organizations with a culture characterized by big uncertainty avoidance it is
identified a small number of alternatives, generally predefined, in the moment of
elaboration the planning. New information/alternatives is treated superficially. On the contrary, in organizations with a tolerant culture to uncertainty it is paid
attention to all information, including the one obtained on an informal way, and are
considered and analyzed all possible alternatives.
In organizations characterized by cultures with long power distance,
this activity is the privilege of the general manager/leader. In cultures with sort distance
towards power, in order to elaborate the decisional alternatives, are taken into
consideration the subordinate's suggestions.
People from more long term oriented cultures tent to have more new alternatives than the people in short term oriented cultures. For example all people over the world can realize the problem of running out of nature resource (oil, gas â€¦) in near future and the long term oriented people as Japan are care more about next generation, and they are the first one who introduced hybrid car to the world.
Selecting one alternative.
Who make the decision in the company?
First we must have a discussion concerning the
criteria taken into consideration to differentiate the alternatives. Thus, in an
organization with a culture characterized by individualism, only single manager make decision. In North America the expression "the buck stop here " reflect the belief that ultimately a single person hold responsibility for a particular decision. In other collective culture as Japan, Vietnam, groups make decisions; they would find it inconvenient for an individual to make a decision prior to consulting his colleagues and gain their agreement. The collective approach usually give more efficient result but it take more time and some time not clear about the responsibility if the decision is failed.
In organizations with a culture typically masculine it is noticed a strong
orientation towards results, towards settled objectives achievement mainly the financial parameters , while in organizations with a culture typically feminine it is privileged the maintenance of a good organizational climate, of an environment which encourages cooperation.
Still in the sphere of objectives, it can be made a distinction between
organizations with a culture characterized by risk avoidance and organizations with a
culture characterized by tolerance towards risk. Thus, the first ones have standards,
norms, rules, clear, firm procedures for all activities, actions, missions. In organizations
with a culture characterized by tolerance towards risk the criteria for appreciation of
decisional variants are flexible, dynamic, and circumstantial.
Another variable that affects the consideration of alternatives solutions is Power distance. In big power distance culture, only senior executive make important decisions, the lower level staff hold the responsibility to implement it. Many surveys show that Indian managers prefer more directive style and up to 85 percent of them believe they work better under supervision ().In contrast, in lower power distance culture, the employees/managers are expected to make their own decision in daily operation and even they take the responsibilities of allocating and scheduling tasks as well as allocating rewards among employees. In my experience, the disadvantage of the big power distance culture in decision making is people are not encouraged to make decisions; they usually wait for the command from the higher level manager and if the senior manager have not enough time or knowledge the final decision usually inefficient or even failed.
From my point, the step of choosing alternatives is the most important step in decision making process, so managers should understand deeply about the culture variable and implement the most appropriate approach to it.
The implementation of an alternative.
In an organization with a culture with short
distance towards power the implementation of a decision turns into an active process, with many negotiated actions. The co-operation model is more suitable for this type ofculture. In organizations with a culture with long distance towards power it is applied the imposing model. In many companies that require the creativity such as software comp., designing comp. etc. we see many changes can be occurred during the implementation step. But in manufacturing industry usually imposing model is used to make sure the output will be exactly as manager's desire.
In another point collectivist type organizations also take big implication to the decision implementation step. From one side it enhance the efficiency of the decision by
creating and following a common vision, according to the values of the group but from the other side it can make people depend on other and not take their own interest in doing their own work.
In individualist type organizations the ones
implicated in taking a decision must be preoccupied by harmonization of interests, most of all divergent, of different categories of stakeholders, by diminishing the tensions among personal, individual objectives and the objectives of the organization. Within this paragraph the debate was focused on the influences exercised by organizational culture upon organizational decisional processes. Without a doubt, the bond between culture and organizational decisional processes can be approached in a reversed way, that is culture can be modified throughout the decisions made especially by the leader of an organization, but in our opinion the impact is slow, the
organizational culture couldn't change from one day to another (this direction will be
approached within the next paragraph).
Finally, we will analyze, briefly, the impact of national culture upon decisional processes in organizations from a certain national spirit. More studies have shown that, in a certain measure, the decisional practices vary from one country to another. The national cultural factors can influence the attitude towards risk of the deciders, the centralization/decentralization of the decisional processes, the configuration of group decisions, the speed of adoption of the decisions etc.
In these conditions, for example in a country like India, where the distance
towards power and the aversion to risks are high, the decisions are the tasks almost
exclusively of top-management, which will prefer, most of the time, the decisional
solutions less risky. On the contrary, in a country like Sweden, characterized by a very low level of the two factors, managers won't hesitate to assume the risks and to
encourage the employees' participation in adopting the decisions, moreover to those
that are in their interest. In another plan, a country like Egypt, where there are a few
temporal compulsions, managers will assign more time for a decision than their
homologues in the North-American space, for example, where the decisional speed is
often considered a determinant of organizational performance. In Italy, where the
tradition is highly valued, managers prefer already tested decisional solutions. In France
and Germany, top-managers adapt the decisional style to the respectively culture. Thus,
in France, the autocrat approaches are quite frequent, and risk assumption in decisional
processes is made with certain moderation. In the German space, the decisional
practices are also a reflection of national culture. These are characterized by: the
preoccupation for structure, order; clear delimitation of the responsibilities of each
decider; the existence of some norms, clear, precise rules for decisional processes
within the organization.
In Japan there is a specific modality of adopting a decision, called ringisei.
This, basically an approach of the decision by consensus, radiographyates exactly the "
virtues of the Japan leading system - stressing the global perspective and situating the
overall interest of the organization above the own interest" (T. Hafsi). Concretely, it is
done as follows: an employee finds a resolving solution for a major problem of the
organization and tells it to his direct boss; this organizes a meeting in which he presents
the problem and the proposed decisional variant; if the members of the organizational
subdivision considers that the proposing deserves to be taken into consideration, the
boss informs the department manager starting the process of obtaining the consensus
within the organization; it is obtained first the consensus of the people in the
department directly and indirectly implicated in solving the approached problem, then
demarches the action of getting the consensus at the level of the whole organization; for
this, the department manager, initiator, organizes a meeting with the representatives of
the other implicated departments, where it is presented the decisional variant which is
in the stage of proposal and it is done a deep exchange of information upon it (if there
are needed more information, there are more meetings); when it is considered that all
the necessary information is gathered, a group of specialists from the starting section
writes a document in which presents the decisional variant that has been outlined,
asking for the approval of all managers at medium and low level implicated; the
document is handed to the superior manager of the organization which gives the final,
official approval of the decision; it takes place the registration of the decision and
proceeding to its implementation.
Another important variable in companies' overall approach to decision making
is that of autocratic versus participative leadership. In other words, who has the authority to make what kinds of decisions? A country's orientation - whether is
individualistic or collectivist - influences the level at which decisions are made. In
many countries with hierarchical cultures - Germany, Turkey and India among others -
authorization for actions has to be passed upwards through echelons of management
before final decision can be made. Most employees in these countries simply expect the
autocrat - the boss - to do most of the decision making and will not be comfortable
otherwise. Even in China, which is a highly collectivist society, employees expect
autocratic leadership because their value system presuppose the superior to be
automatically the most wise. In comparisons, decision-making authority in Sweden is
Arab managers have long traditions of consultative decision making, supported
by the Qur'an and the sayings of Muhammad. However, such consultation occurs more
on a person to person basis than during group meetings and thus diffuses potential
opposition. Although business in the Middle East tend to be transacted in a highly
personalized manner, the final decisions are made by the top leaders, who feel that they
must they must impose their will for the company to be successful. In comparisons, in
cultures that emphasize collective harmony, such as Japan, participatory or group
decision-making predominates, and consensus is important. The best-known example is
the bottom-up (rather than top-down) decision-making process used in most Japanese
In present conditions, marked by the effects of globalization, top-managers are,
more often, in the situation to collaborate with subordinates from other cultures. In
these situations, they must know the possibility of appearing of some differences among
subordinates during the decisional processes in which they are implicated, differences
inducted by cultural factors. The leader/manager, must build in this case, a common
space, accepting and integrating elements of cultural diversity in the philosophy and the
practice of adopting a decision from the organization's perspective.