Cultural Impact On The Implementation Of International Management Strategies Business Essay

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In a more and more shrinking world, where borders and barriers vanish, it is essential to know about other cultures and their people behavior in order to work on an international level. Culture is important for many aspects of business life especially when a business must interface with people, either as customers, employees, suppliers or stakeholders. In a globalized world nothing functions without intercultural communication, but the rules have to be known in order to do smart business. The human instinct is telling us, that deep inside all people are the same, but they are not. More often cultural differences cause misunderstandings and lead to serious conflicts because decisions are being made based on how we operate in our home country. As said by Prof. Geert Hofstede, one of the leading experts when it comes to cultural differences, "Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster."

This paper will encourage the awareness of cultural differences and sensitize the reader's ability to detect and handle them. After a short presentation of the main theories about cultural differences the insights from one of the most influential researches, the five dimension theory by Geert Hofstede, will be applied on a real case. Possible difficulties for the implementing of an international management strategy and the required cultural sensibility will be pointed out. This paper focuses on the challenges caused by cultural differences and therefore will not deal with organizational, strategic, or technical problems.

2. What is culture?

A definition of the word is considered as essential before starting to discuss the influence of culture. The quantity of cultural definitions is numerous and uncountable definitions of the terms of culture try to convey their own meaningful understanding. In the Oxford Dictionary for example culture is described as "the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively."

Hofstede himself also provides equivocal definitions. "A collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group from another". "Mental programming … patterns of thinking and feeling and potential acting." As pointed out by Michael Jones in his paper for the Oxford Business & Economics Conference 2007, "culture is not something that is easily acquired it is a slow process of growing into a society. It includes:

learning values (dominant beliefs and attitudes),

partaking of rituals (collective activities),

modeling against heroes (role models), and

understanding symbols (myths, legends, dress, jargon, lingo…)

These ingredients of culture are acquired from birth. They are influenced by family, school, religion, workplace, friends, television, newspapers and books, and many other sources."

3. Measurement of Cultural Differences

In order to identify or minimize conflicts between cultures the differences between them must be analyzed, even measured. On the following pages two of the most recognized cultural researches will be elucidated. It is explained how they are used to make cultures comparable to each other.

The first theory identifies the key concepts of culture and provides a framework to classify cultural differences by revealing the underlying patterns of behavior. While the second theory indentifies cultural differences through five different dimensions. They are exactly scored and therefore made comparable.

3.1. Key Concepts: Underlying Structures of Culture

The conducted research by Edward Hall is specialized "in identifying the nonverbal components of intercultural communication - the unspoken signals and assumptions that flow from human psychology and national character, elements critical to success in business." Contrary to other studies in that field, Hall does not score the different existing cultures but provides a framework for the integration of own observations and experiences.

3.1.1 The Author

Edward Twitchell Hall was born in 1914 and became an anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher. He received his Ph. D. in 1942 and continued with field work and direct experience throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. During the 50s he worked for the US State Department teaching intercultural communication skills. He is considered a founding father of intercultural communication as an academic area of study.

3.1.2. The Concept

This study is based on in-depth, open ended interviews and firsthand observations by the author. Coupled with models of culture and 30 years of research by Edward Hall, it identifies the major cultural patterns with influences on international business. The following "Key Concepts" describe the conceptual frame designed to bring into focus foreign patterns of thought and behavior.

3.1.3. "The Key Concepts" by Hall

According to Edward Hall "each cultural world operates according to its own internal dynamic, its own principles, and its own laws - written and unwritten." Furthermore culture express itself through communication, it is seen as a "silent language" that is usually conveyed unconsciously. In order to decipher the unspoken rules of each culture, Hall defined the "Underlying Structure of Culture" through numerous key concepts which can be grouped into nine categories which represent different cultural dimensions:

Fast and Slow Messages

High and Low Context

Space

Time

Time as Communication

Information Flow

Action Chains

Interfacing

Releasing the right response

Each dimension can be described accurate. The dimension of high and low context for example describes the quantity of information which is already in the person or in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message. In a high-context culture rules can be understand more easily because there are many contextual elements. Much is taken for granted, while in low-context cultures very little is taken for granted.

Another important dimension is space, which represents the invisible boundaries of a person. These boundaries include individual's personal space and his or her territory. Personal space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs. Invasion of personal space often leads to discomfort, anger, or anxiety.

"There are many kinds of time systems in the world, but two are most important to international business." They are called monochromic and polychronic time. In monochromic cultures time is used in a linear way, it is scheduled and makes it possible for a person to concentrate on one thing at a time. While in polychronic cultures time is characterized by involvement of people and a simultaneous occurrence of many things at a time. The dimension of time also includes the relation between space and time and the orientation towards the past or the future.

Cultural differences in information flow often cause great misunderstandings in international business. The rate of information flow can be measured by how long it takes for a message with the aim to produce an action to travel from one part of the organization to another and for that message to provoke the desired response.

3.1.4. Summary

The above mentioned dimensions are involved in the creation of national and corporate character. According to Hall cultures can be analyzed and differences discovered by scoring these factors. His researches indicate countries or societies in each group but do not provide scores for individual countries or regions. As said before his concept is used to provide a framework and the awareness of existing differences in order to create cultural sensibility and indicate where to put the focus on when it comes to cross-cultural interaction.

3.2. "The Five Dimension Theory" by Hofstede

One of the most popular theories about cultural differences is the "Five Dimension Theory" by Geert Hofstede, which characterizes cultures through five different dimensions. Based on numerous studies, Hofstede scored these five dimensions for a lot of countries and by that made cultural differences tangible and comparable.

3.2.1. The Author

Geert Hofstede was born in 1928 in the Netherlands. He studied the interactions between national culture and organizational culture, and became an influential Dutch organizational sociologist doing a "pioneering study of cultures across modern nations" to evaluate how values in the workplace are influenced by culture.

3.2.2. The Concept

Geert Hofstede's curiosity as a social psychologist led him to the comparison of nations; first as a travelling international staff member of IBM and later as a visiting professor at an international business school in Switzerland. He analyzed a large data base of employee values scores collected by IBM between 1967 and 1973 covering more than 70 countries. Afterwards he extended the analysis and since 2001 scores are listed for 74 countries and regions. From the initial results, and later additions, Hofstede developed a model that identifies five primary dimensions to assist in differentiating cultures.

3.2.3 The Five Dimensions

Hofstede identified values that distinguish cultures from each other and grouped them into four clusters. These clusters deal with anthropological problem areas which different societies handle differently. These areas are the following: ways of coping with inequality, ways of coping with uncertainty, the relationship of the individual with her or his primary group, and the emotional implications of having been born as a girl or as a boy. Out of this the Hofstede Dimensions were developed:

Power Distance

Uncertainty Avoidance

Individualism versus Collectivism

Masculinity versus Femininity

In 1991 Hofstede added a fifth dimension after conducting an additional international study with a survey instrument developed in China. The fifth dimension is about the orientation virtues towards the past or the future. Short-term oriented societies for example foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of face, and fulfilling social obligations.

Long-Term Orientation

All scores are relative, they are used to compare societies with other societies. In the last decades these scores have been quite stable. If societies shift, they do it continent wide or on a global level, so that their relative position remains the same.

3.2.3.1. Power Distance Index

The Power Distance Index relates to the degree of inequality between people in a society. It also represents the acceptance with which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect unequally distributed power. A country with a high Power Distance accepts and sustains inequalities between people. The fact is that all societies are unequal, but some more than others.

3.2.3.2. Uncertainty Avoidance Index

The index indicates how society members feel in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are unknown, different from usual. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures. People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy.

Uncertainty accepting cultures are more tolerant of opinions different from what they are used to and try to have as few rules as possible. Their members are more phlegmatic, contemplative, and not expected by their environment to express emotions.

3.2.3.3. Individualism

Individualism represents the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. In individualist societies the ties between individuals are loose. Everyone is expected to look after himself. In collective societies people are integrated from birth onwards into strong groups, often extended families which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.

3.2.3.4. Masculinity

Masculinity refers to the distribution of roles between the genders. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men. While in masculine countries there is gap between men's values and women's values. Masculine values are competitiveness, assertiveness, ambition, accumulation of wealth and material possession. While females are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned about relationships and the quality of life. In female societies "both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life."

3.2.3.5. Long Term-Orientation

Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance. Values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'.

3.2.4. Global tendencies

Power distance scores are high for Latin, Asian and African countries and smaller for Anglo and Germanic countries. Uncertainty avoidance scores are higher in Latin countries, in Japan, and in German speaking countries, lower in Anglo, Nordic, and Chinese culture countries. Individualism overweighs in developed and Western countries, while collectivism overweighs in less developed and Eastern countries. Masculinity is high in Japan, in some European countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and moderately high in Anglo countries. It is low in Nordic countries and in the Netherlands and moderately low in France, Spain and Thailand. Long-term orientation scores are very high in East Asia, moderate in Eastern and Western Europe, and low in the Anglo world, the Muslim world, Latin America and Africa.

3.2.5. Correlations

The country scores are statistically correlated with other data around the country. Power distance is correlated with the use of domestic violence and with income inequality. Uncertainty avoidance is associated with Roman Catholicism and with the legal obligation in developed countries for citizens to carry identity cards. Individualism is correlated with national wealth and with mobility between social classes from one generation to the next. Masculinity is correlated negatively with the percent of women in democratically elected governments. Long-term orientation is correlated with school results in international comparisons.

4. Challenges for international

Implementation Processes

Hofstede's research is one of the most popular cultural studies for business economist and management experts and often used to teach the importance of the ability to understand cultural differences. It has had a remarkable effect on academics and practitioners alike. Hofstede's model has been instrumental in the implementation of many business systems, including: compensation practices, budget control practices, entrepreneurial behavior, training design, conflict resolution, workgroup dynamics and performance, innovation, leadership styles, management control systems, participative management.

On the following pages Hofstede's insights will be used to analyze the possibly emerging difficulties for the implementation of a new customer relationship management tool of a Dutch company in South-East Asia.

4.1. The Situation

With its headquarter in Amsterdam, more than 100.000 employees, and subsidiaries in over 60 countries, the Dutch company is one of these so called global players. In order to increase productivity and effectiveness of the sales force the board of management initiated a global program with the aim to create one global customer relationship management tool. As part of the global change management processes and the objective of organizing around customers and markets, the CRM tool should foster the creation of customer facing organizations. In general it should be used as a supporting tool to capture profitable growth and to meet the local market and customer requirements. Not only realized by collecting all customer information in one place but also through offering the sales force tools which really help to simplify and speed up the process of managing all customer related data. Besides the fact that it is quite challenging for the IT to create and adapt the SAP tool and then guarantee a stable and continuous run on a global level, the management team is also facing a significant and difficult task. A smooth implementation of the CRM Tool is needed to assure its acceptance and daily use. Because of the global level of operation a smooth implementation in this case would signify that there will be a lot of different implementation processes in many different countries, all aligned and coordinated from the regional headquarters which on the other hand are directed by the global headquarter. As a consequence the implementation process which represents the realization of new management strategies highly depends on cross-cultural communication.

On the following pages fragments of the implementation process in south-east Asia will be examined. The communication process between the global headquarters in the Netherland, the regional headquarters in Singapore, and its subordinated countries will be studied and possible challenges pointed out.

4.2. The Challenges

Challenges do not only emerge during direct communication. As soon as a project involves people from different countries or has an international impact, cultural sensibility is required in every step of planning, review, and implementation. Managers must be aware of the possibility that messages, claims, delegation of tasks, discussions, deadlines, arrangements, conditions, and even the simple disclosure of information, facts, or news can be delivered or interpreted on many different ways. Therefore misunderstandings do not only happen during direct contact but occur when it comes to important things such as conveying the purpose or necessity of a project. As a result the lack of cultural understanding can lead to serious problems and jeopardize a successful implementation. Problems can arise from:

Unexpected behavior

Difference of opinions

Divergence of personal aims

…

Feeling of being treated wrong

Divergence of attitudes

Different interpretation of language

Feeling of injustice

Conceivable problems are:

Anger/Annoyance towards colleagues and superiors

Interruption of work flow

Strong arguments with colleagues and superiors

Refusal of understanding

Refusal of work

Misunderstandings; Wrong executions

…

To avoid these problems all people involved must be aware of the existing differences between cultures and be sensitive for possible misunderstandings. With the knowledge of what could lead to disturbances within the company, employees are able not only to prevent trouble but also to react fast and in a proper way when solution-orientated work is needed.

4.3. The Countries Involved

By comparing the cultural dimensions of some of the involved countries to each other, cultural differences and exceptions will be pointed out.

4.3.1. The Netherlands

Individuality is the highest Hofstede Dimension for the Netherlands at 80. It ties up with Canada and can be compared to the United States (91), Australia, and the United Kingdom. The high ranking indicates a society with more individualistic attitudes and loose bonds with others. The individuals are more self-reliant and look out for themselves and close family members. Privacy is very important and personal integration is difficult. The high IDV dimension also indicates that individual pride and respect are important values, therefore degrading another person is not well received.

Figure : The Netherlands

The Uncertainty Avoidance Index at 53 is the second highest dimension and expresses a cultural tendency to reduce the level of uncertainty using rules, laws, policies, and regulations to cover all situations. The moderate Long Term Orientation index indicates a society which tends to meet obligations and has a sense for cultural traditions but also acts future orientated.

The Power Distance Index at 38, compared to the world's average of 55. This is indicative of a greater equality between societal levels, including government, organizations, and even families. Also revealing a cooperative interaction across power levels and a more stable cultural environment.

The lowest dimension for the Netherlands is the Masculinity at 14. This low index stands for a low level of differentiation and discrimination between genders. And also indicates that both, men and women, share similar values which are more feminine distinct than masculine.

4.3.2. Singapore

The Power Distance Index describes the hierarchical relationship and is Singapore's highest dimension. It means that superiors and subordinates are considered as unequal. The members of society are unequal in rank and standing. Subordinates are expected to be told what to do while superiors are entitled with privileges. Therefore respect and formality towards superiors are the norm. The high PDI is seen as a result of the Confucian teaching.

Figure : Singapore

Singapore ranked low in Individualism with a score of 20. Due to Hofstede's research people in societies with a low Individualism index operate in and out groups. There are tight networks and cultures are likely to maintain harmony, censure by the group, face-saving, and loyalty. These values are being developed from early infancy on. "Children are taught to assist and uphold the honor of the group, whether that group is the family, the school, the neighborhood, or the nation. The person who places his or her own needs ahead of the needs of the group is considered to be amoral, almost a misfit, or even a social deviant."

The Masculinity dimension at 48 is located under the world average with two points. It reveals that a gender differentiation of roles is present but not too strongly distinct. According to Angela Milligan "Singapore is unique in Asia in terms of women's presence and position in the workforce." Furthermore the society unifies in a way masculine and female values. There is still a gap between the values of female society members and male society members but both are concerned about competitiveness, assertiveness, and ambition as well as relationships, quality of life, and personal goals which stand for friendly atmosphere, good relationship with the superior, etc.

Singapore has the lowest Uncertainty Avoiding Index worldwide. Which means in general that its society is more tolerant of new different options, and has a greater level of tolerance for a variety of ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. In business life managers are prepared to take more risks than in countries with a high UAI. A low score on UAI is typically for young countries with a diverse population. Innovation and pushing boundaries is encouraged.

4.3.3. India

The Power Distance is India's highest dimension. With a ranking of 77 it indicates a high level of inequality regarding the distribution of power and wealth within the society. The upward mobility is very limited, which shows remaining attitudes from the outlawed caste system.

The moderate dimension of Individualism scored 48 stands for a society which is whether dominated by individuality and individual rights nor by collectivism. The ties between individuals are not that tight but still collective responsibility and family obligations do exist. In business the IDV is indicated through none existing standard of rewarding an individuals but building up relationships is important in order to do business. Indians deal favorably with those they know and trust.

The Uncertinity Avoiding Index is Indias's lowest dimension. According to Hofstede "the culture may be more open to unstructured ideas and situations. The population may have fewer rules and regulations with which to attempt control of every unknown and unexpected event or situation, as is the case in high Uncertainty Avoidance countries." Which means that tolerance for a variety of ideas, thoughts, and beliefs is limited. Unusual and different developments are not very welcome.

Figure : India

The relatively high score of Long-Term Orientation means that the Indian culture is more persistent and thrifty. It searches for long-term benefits, not only in private life by assure a good education for their children but also in business life. People try to stay put in one job and business plans need to be long-term orientated.

4.4. The greatest differences

The greatest differences between the above analyzed countries will be used to point out reasons for conflicts. Due to an almost equal level of Long Term Orientation, the dimension will not be used for further comparison.

Individualism

The process of interaction between the headquarter in the Netherlands and the regional headquarter in Singapore, leads us to the first comparison of these two countries. One of the clear differences is the dimension of Individualism. 80 points in the Netherlands meet 20 points in Singapore. The gap shows that an individual orientated society with weak relationships encounter a collective orientate society with strong ties between individuals. That means that the communication process could be between a person who's identity is revolves around the "I" and shows acceptance for pursuing personal goals at the expense of others and a person who expects conformity and would curb his or her desires and aspirations for the good of the group. This can lead to misunderstandings when one person is used to work in a team, consult many people before taking a decision, build up strong relationships and use them for business related decisions, has a family which may takes precedents over business, while the other person is used to independent work, separation of personal and business life, and less reliant relationships. A Dutch employee who stucks only to business related topics for example without showing any interest in the other person can cause annoyance, irritation and can make a Singaporean feel aggrieved. But irritation can be caused on both sides, simply when each side expects different behavior.

Power Distance Index

Another divergence between the Hofstede's dimension can be found in the Power Distance Index. Which is significantly higher in Singapore at 74 while in the Netherlands it is scored at 38. In a high Power Distance culture the greatest differences to low Power Distance cultures can be found in the way of treating superiors and how direct contact in business life is handled. While in high Power Distance cultures superiors openly demonstrate their rank, and have rarely close or personal relationship to their subordinates which on the other hand also expect clear guidance from above, the relationship in low Power Distance cultures is different. Subordinates are entrusted with important assignments but on the same time they are expected to take the responsibility for mistakes and things going wrong. Superiors often do not pull rank and socialize with subordinates. These differences can lead to problems when a Singaporean manager works with Dutch subordinates or vice versa. Awareness should be created for the different way of interacting.

Masculinity

Comparing the Masculinity dimensions to each other it can be observed that the score for the Netherlands is 34 point lower than the Singaporean one. Representing the degree to which masculine values are valued over feminine values, the score indicates that in the Singaporean society many things are business driven. This can have positive consequences if you look at the execution at the organization in Singapore but on the other hand can lead to problems when employees discover missing achievement motivation from their Dutch colleagues.

Uncertainty Avoiding Index

The gap between the Uncertainty Avoidance Index can lead to problems when new and unknown situations occur or decisions towards a more or less risky strategy have to be taken. The breeding ground for conflicts may not be so big due to the fact that the UAI for the Netherlands is moderate, not really high, but on the other hand the Singaporean index is the lowest worldwide. There definitely will be differences in coping with new ideas, methods, strategy changes, and plan development. In the case of the CRM tool implementation this fact can have strong influences on the project run. Members of societies with a higher UAI need help to develop an understanding of an initiative, convincing them is more complicated. Therefore they must be involved in projects to reduce the element of the unknown. Facts and statistics are needed in order to back up decisions and proposals. Since the higher score can be found in the Netherlands, it wouldn't be a problem to incorporate the Singaporean organization but adoptions, suggestions, or new ideas for a more fitting strategy from the local employees may be handled with discomfort.

Considering the global implementation process, the communication between the Netherlands and Singapore is seen only as a fragment of what is found on a global level, but chosen as an example in order to outline the principles of cross-cultural misunderstandings. Singapore as the headquarter for the South-East Asian region represents a center of communication because it is responsible for implementing the strategies developed by the global headquarter, in its subordinated countries. To highlight possibly emerging difficulties for business processes caused by the lack of cultural understanding throughout the whole communication line, local relations will be analyzed. Therefore Singapore's dimensions will be compared to these of India.

Individualism

The greatest differences between the Indian and the Singaporean dimensions can be found by comparing the Uncertainty Avoiding Indexes and the scores of Individualism. As said before the Individualism dimension is relatively low in Singapore while the score in India is just above the world average at 48 points. In general this could lead to problems just as described at the comparison with the Netherlands above. But due to the fact that the gap is not so large, irritations caused by unexpected behavior are more unlikely. However contact between members of these two societies could cause disrespect or anger when different attitudes are exposed.

Uncertainty Avoiding Index

More serious conflicts could be caused by different attitudes and behavior originating from the different Uncertainty Avoiding trend in society. A low UAI index stands for acceptance of change, new ideas, and an embracement of risk as part of business. A similar situation was described before, where the Netherlands with a relatively high UAI have been compared to Singapore with a very low UAI. This time the situation is reverse. Change and new strategies must be mediated by the county with a low score towards the country with a relatively high score. This can lead to difficulties during the implementation process due to the lack of acceptance and/or understanding. This must be taken into account during planning and agreement processes. Strategies must be developed in order to encourage an understanding and to foster confidence in the project. This will ether take more effort or/and more time.

4.5. The Main Points

In order to create awareness of the main differences, the main points from the paragraph above will be pointed out.

The Netherlands -> Singapore

Consequences of Individualism index

Building up relationships is part of business

Group work forms an important part of business life

Praise is expected to be directed to a team

Consequences of Power Distance index

Promotions depend upon experience and seniority

Process of decision making may be a bit slow

Clear directions are expected

Deadlines are to be highlighted

Initiative from subordinates has to be encouraged

Management style is more authoritarian

Organization pyramids are higher

The centralization is greater

Consequences of Masculinity index

Business is a topic at any time

A direct and concise communication style is most effective

Consequences of Uncertainty Avoidance index

Approaches to new ideas are more flexible and open

Plans are expected to be realized as soon as possible

Innovative thinking is encouraged

Singapore -> India

Consequences of Individualism index

Initiative and individual work is expected

Personal and business life may be kept separate

Consequences of Uncertainty Avoidance index

New ideas, methods or strategies are seen with objection

Understanding needs to be developed

Confidence must be fostered

Decision-making will need facts and statistics

5. Criticism

Hofstede's research has become one of the most cultural studies for business economist and management experts; therefore it has not been spared from criticism. Protagonists and antagonists are arguing about the meaningfulness. Following some of the main contentious points are presented.

5.1. Outdated

Since Hofstede conducted his survey between 1967 and 1973 some researchers have claimed that his study is not of any modern value. Particularly with the development of the internet global environments are changing rapidly. This essential and meaningful development, urging internationalization and convergence, is not monitored in Hofstede's work. Culture may "not change overnight" but the fact is that the world has change and this can't happen without any influences on culture.

5.2. Cultural Homogeneity

With his study Hofstede assumes that the domestic population is homogenous. He does not take into consideration the fact that most nations are groups of ethnic units. Furthermore cultures are not necessarily bounded by borders. His survey wasn't conducted within all existing different groups of a nation but rather addressed employees of one single company, which leads me to the next point of criticism.

5.3. Company Culture?

A study based on questionnaires filled out by employees of only one company "cannot possibly provide information on the entire cultural system of a country." Often employees of a multinational company such as IBM have adopted part of the cooperate culture of the company and therefore can't represent the local population. Another point is that international companies often employ or send people with an international background to other countries. They have therefore not been shaped by the culture around their workplace but rather by experiences they made over the years in many different countries.

5.4. Judgment and evaluation by one individual

There are numerous different cultures on the planet and even cultures and societies themselves combine many different types of individuals. In order to characterize societies or their individuals the examiner must be able to recognize differences and characteristics. Not a single person with as much international experience as he or she could gain in a lifetime is able to classify such a huge number of different cultures. Hofstede used a questionnaire for his research, using numbers and calculations to do the judgment of individuals. Critics say that at least an international team of researchers should have been evaluating the collected data, instead of one Dutchman.

5.5. Contradiction

Sometimes two or three of Hofstede's dimension for one country stand in contrast to each other. Not directly through the entire definition, but in some way they can be contradictory. For example a high Individualism index paired with a low Masculinity index. By definition a high Individualism index stands for an individualistic culture, where the majority tries to achieve their own goals, less reliant on relationships, with separation of private life and business life, and less group formation. While a feminine culture represents a society with priorities set towards relationships, family, quality of life, and small talk during work.

6. Conclusion

Taking all findings into consideration it can be outlined that the application of Hofstede's theory can be used to create cultural awareness but rather not for a precise elaboration of the challenges emerging during a specific implementation process. The main fact which leads me to this conclusion is the expansibility of Hofstede's characterization. The scores for each country are fixed of cause but due to the fact that there isn't a complete data base with detailed descriptions and characterizations for every country the interpretations can vary. Creating a model with specific scores for a variety of dimensions in order to make cultures comparable should also include definitions suiting the data base. Therefore Hofstede's dimensions give a good indication of what the examined culture is like but do not provide a precise model. Which on the other hand is not completely possible due to all the factors which must be taken into consideration, but since the interpretation of Hofstede's scores are left for the user, divergence from reality is very likely. As mentioned in article 2.3.2. the data of Hofstede findings is almost 40 years old. Which means that it has been collected before the important periods of change in the 80s and 90s. As a basis for business related interpretation the study is in my opinion not completely applicable on global enterprises. Nowadays not only management teams consist of highly experienced people with different international backgrounds, heterogeneity in labor force is no exception. Employees are not necessarily foreigners but especially in times of globalization and vanishing barriers, the majority can count with international experiences. As a result employees in different countries but from the same global company are not that different as described in Hofstede's research. At least they have a more pronounced awareness for cultural differences. But again Hofstede's dimensions can be useful to obtain an impression of what possible differences consist of.

In general the so called culture clash in business is too specific as to give exact recommendations for avoiding risky situations. It is down to the individuals involved to act with caution in the international world. This is only possible if they have sensitized their awareness for existing differences, which manly consist of first hand experiences. But in order to encourage the process of obtaining cultural experiences comparisons of societies like the one from Hofstede are very useful. Not only for preparation but also for reviewing observed differences.

Concluding it can be said that the ability of understanding different cultures and being able to life in them is very important and will get more important within the next years. Global markets need global citizen who are able to understand different languages, attitudes, values, behavior, and customs. Cultural sensibility is essential.

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