Sunday, January 01, 2006

Define the values conflicts and seek to correct the conflicts, not the values. A Review of: Building Cross-Cultural Competence (Part One)

Define the values conflicts and seek to correct the conflicts, not the values. A Review of: Building Cross-Cultural Competence (Part One)

Building Cross-Cultural Competence: How To Create Wealth from Conflicting Values (Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars) Yale University Press (2000)

This review is long overdue. As determinants of intercultural change in MNCs management theorists should not and realistically cannot be divorced from my perspective on their impact upon my increased reading habits, a quantifiable change in my intrinsic priorities as referencing salary increases versus increased opportunities for educational learning and a desire to attempt self-taught diffusive learning in topics of personal observation and discussion. If every consumer could so delve into the roots of global consumerism trends. So time and again, I attempt to possess my own thoughts on these issues (if I have any that are my own) simply through the readings of the thoughts of others. In relation to culture, specifically the effects of expatriation upon individual perspectives on collective culture, I must return often to ruminate upon suppositions attributed to Clyde Kluckhohn regarding cultural values.

“Anthropology holds up a great mirror to man and lets him look at himself in his infinite variety.”

Carefully considered, anthropology also allows theorists to borrow its ideals and sell them to corporate clients, eager to diverge from participant-observer perspectives and involve themselves in cultural realignments at the level of MNC management hiring practices, educational evaluations, and data compilations which implicate the working practices and successful alignments of nearly half the working world population as their subjects of persistent study. These theorists have all been coaxed and gone irreperably "native". But what is consumed here is not peyote. Wholey business-sponsored research implicates new ideas, based on specific research outcomes.

"Anthropology provides a scientific basis for dealing with the crucial dilemma of the world today: how can peoples of different appearance, mutually unintelligible languages, and dissimilar ways of life get along peaceably together?"

In intercultural management strategies the question becomes how can all of these impacts be measured and evaluated, how can these dimensions be realigned to maximize profit and growth for MNCs? Under such desired outcomes, an understanding of anthropology, or even a brief interlude with its topics is irrelevant.

"People typically feel their own cultural beliefs and practices are normal and natural, and those of others to be strange, or even inferior- abnormal."

This implicates that anyone attempting to make critical observations upon the logical usefulness of the models of acclaimed cross-cultural experts, specifically outsiders not sponsored or supported by elite organisations, which critically self-examine aspects of culture in their own workforces to implicate reorganisation of localized cultural values to further support global MNC successes, will obviously be considered of inferior analytical logic because the extent of personal understanding of the outcomes is irrelevant. The desired outcomes of cross-cultural business studies are necessarily, and singularly measured by corporate profits and internal or external customer satifaction measures due to new alignments.

I have not dawdled over these pages or orientations however. I have been picking over some of these managerial precepts of Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner since July 2004 courtesy of "Riding the Waves of Culture" and "International Management Behaviour" (Lane , DiStefano Maznevski: Fifth Edition). As per the Blackwell Site these authors are heavyweights in the topics: "Henry W. Lane is the Darla and Frederick Brodsky Trustee Professor in International Business and Director of the Institute for Global Innovation Management at Northeastern University. He has written numerous books, articles and case studies and has taught in France, Germany, Finland and Mexico. Joseph J. DiStefano is a Professor at the International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne, and Professor Emeritus at the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario. He recently spent three years setting up UWO's first off-shore operations in Hong Kong. Martha L. Maznevski is Professor of International Management and Organizational Behavior at the International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne."

That these writers provide more than mere mouthfuls of relevant material for debate should be more than obvious. They are the decorated champions of the application of business-based cross-cultural business management studies for decades. Their outcomes and findings have implicated the successes of foundations-level cross-cultural management research, however flawed, for example, as the IBM-based categorization patterns of Geert Hofstede, easily applied in theory, but easily found to be merely a first step towards standard-setting in an obviously statistics-starved area of study with great heaps of wishful extrapolations of scant statistical data. Trompennars and Hampden-Turner and their purposes can be reviewed at:

First of all, this book is useful as a reference text, and deals with a topic of increasing interest to international business, namely the strategic methods by which experts tend to classify and categorize social or soft elements of cultural values on management behaviour which may impact positively on managerial decisions which can quickly effect regional profits and losses. It is a topic area with profitable elements perhaps not immediately tangibly monetary in value,perhaps purpose-built for those ready and capable to attach themselves to the challenges of effectively analyzing and observing changing corporate managerial perspectives on how to do business internationally. One may easily espouse these methods from case study approaches, which rival cookie cutters in their ability to replicate supposed cross-cultural challenges and supposed solutions. Readers may consider these theories not only in their impacts upon their own cultural milieus, but in the ever-expanding international realms where key competitive advantages may often be in unexplored cultural values realignments.

Such a task might be a monumental request when one observes the average CEO or Managerial Cadre of any MNC. Far from being the most innovative thinkers out there, "Type A" CEOs and their snakes and ladders competitive cadres are often the least prepared to evaluate or analyze their individual or collective approaches to cross-cultural dimensions of their global businesses. Their focus is obviously all too often necessarily snakeskins and ladder rungs.

Hence increasing demand for cross-cultural business theorists, applications, and studies. For example, there are plenty of horrific, true to life business pieces out there on the topic of international managerial chaos and horrendous, shareholder-ire-type losses perpetuated by misplaced but stubbornly perceived directorial self-interests. Even once existent mislabeled jars of infant formula were once ignorantly stacked on foreign shelves, interpreted by local nationals (the hoped for consumers) as ground-up babies meats thanks to misplaced research directions on the illiteracy issues of local markets being solved theoretically at the board-room decision level(supposedly) by pictures of smiling happy white babies on labels of little anonymous brown-contents baby foods bottles.

The extent to which such managerial blindness has reached its zenith in modern times may be exemplified by the proliferation of the case-studies methods for teaching the basics of international business measures and cross-cultural management issues. It is in effect, the cheapest, most effective method by which MNCs may attempt to turn horrendous failures in managerial intelligence into opportuntities for promotional aggrandisements, courtesy of intercultural theorists obviously ready, willing, and able, to crow up upon and "cross-culturally fix" what may have been simply a broken marketing idea, or perhaps a human perception, rooted simply from the timeless and human ethnocentric perspective which echos of Kluckhohn. One must admit that learning should often be much more than the elaborate relabeling of poorly selling bottles of product.

Namely, individuals, regardless of their power or position in a corporate entity may continously, and continually appear to make bad decisions based on a perspective of cultural ethnocentrism. That business elites now make greater and greater results-oriented demands of perspectives on cultural values, while at the same time seeking to remove themselves and elevate their own domains further and further, seemingly over and above such values is the real paradox of cross-cultural management. That able theorists and researchers sift and delve for a fee, to implicate decisions made by mostly men and a few women who obviously do not have the skills or experience personally to cross-culturally vet or clear their own corporate strategies to sell products or services globally implies a requirement of specialized knowledge. Research-based leadership strategies that "King of the Mountain" does not teach. However it is quite simply not knowledge requirements which are missing from current business practices, regardless of the current popular edicts of "Knowledge-Based Economies or Management" being seemingly the global business world's newest mantra. It is simply (and perhaps more cheaply) about effective and flexiblized knowledge perspectives. Effectively, perspective is quite a learned attribute. Impossible to measure independently. But its impact on profit and loss, perhaps only global business can evaluate such successes or failures in whatever accounting principles it seeks to display. While at the same time...

Kluckhohn grappled with elements of cultural relativism early in the century and Mirror for Man still reads well into the following millennium. I am a little surprised that it is out of print however. Considering the debts to which modern(living) intercultural business enthusiasts obviously owe their global profits to this particular dead man, it would serve their interests to lay clear foundations back to origins of business-sponsored adaptations and the divergences necessary of their new orientations on similar perspectives. Putting "Mirror for Man" on boardroom tables again would make clear the aspects of continued innovative theories, fresh new ideas, which only originate, seemingly, outside of boardrooms, the kinds of demands innovation requires of cross-cultural theorists, namely, that theoretical constructions in contemporary times merely appear to teeter upon historical sequentialities and recent business-realm references.

The relativistic perspective on cultures which appears to support over-inflated individualistic perspectives on "anything goes" in developed economies, seemingly concurrent with corporate ideals of defining and segmenting markets upon which to capitalize greater sales of products and services at the cost of and without clearly supporting pro-social or communitarian mechanisms, those social cooperations of responsible business management, pillars of community, or even supporting values of spiritual community easily required for eons by evolving business-oriented societies and through which over the long-term individual relativist values have owed their existence (including those by which corporations increasingly seek to define their social responsibilites) is carefully noted by Trompennars and Hampden-Turner. But sadly it really appears they are preaching to quite a tiny choir of seeming crickets out here.

Individualism in developed economies lends itself to over-arching relativisms of cultural valuations, especially in comparativisms, which appears to fragment and isolate communities, especially those existing outside of corporate governance, even one of the world's finest statisticians supposed that good theories were more worthy of trust, and that one should never trust statistics (I will not name the man here, but he also appears quite dead theoretically by contemporary standards). But can statistics alone be blamed for what appears the perfection of greed-based mechanisms of business sustainability? Must every global business leader economically sign away its cultural community for a uniquely business-oriented facsimile? Where goes the herd's profits? Where goes the collective middle-class cushion? Will cross-cultural theorists explore such a phemonena?

"Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." Aaron Levenstein

Far from the obvious origins of their methods of observation, Trompennars and Hampden-Turner are not espousing a benign, soft theoretical offshoot of anthropology/psychology/or sociology in my mind. Nor do they appear as malevolent, wildly-inspired or maddened experimentalists. Trompennars and Hampden-Turner are simply well-selling a service menu of cross-cultural management studies and their models. They represent a number of cross-cultural management theory chimera out there to explain profit-based potentialities of cross-cultural perspectives to a market-place hung-up on statistical analysis and the sacrifice too often of common sense to profit maximization. There is no non-partisan element in these kinds of business-oriented attempts to socially remould or refashion international enterprises or global cultural perspectives. All the players are in it for business improvements with tangible success rates, realignments of cultural values which implicate increased successes of service or product sales globally are hot commodities.

Over and over, throughout their ministrations, these writers never absolutely tell a reader that the profits of inter-cultural competency are intimately related to the extent of successful effective or thus emotional or intrinsic values changes willingly made by an individual reader (what other kind of reader is there?)in one's own international business perspective. So individual readers may implicate changes in business practice independently as a result of individual responsibilities or positions in global companies. That would be too short a message to be spun out over four hundred pages. I just hope I am not the only little nest-weaver-spider to look at it this way.

The collective thus effective business changes possible reflect the profits available to businesses which point to effectively changed perspectives among individuals on how to do business internationally. As most adult educators will attest, effective values are the most difficult sets of learning tasks to achieve or measure, most businesses are at a loss to explain or even define their effective needs culturally, let alone the cross-cultural dynamics required of MNC growth in competency in cross-cultural management. As these are the most intangible qualities of individuals and collective cultures their being oriented from profit-based perspectives is often a hit and miss approach.

Thus impacts of perspective upon global business corporate cultures are diverse, extensive, and imply in worst cases, the remoulding of corporate values which heighten the value of certain localized values in support of global company missions locally and diminish certain localized values deemed of lower value to globalized entities. This effect of causes, profits-based increases, which demands the individual or localized culture to locally adapt to be useful to a corporate-defined culture, this is the element of the discussion which really matters. But the effect of which never appears to be mentioned. Who would willingly analyze the woeful effects of corporate cultural effects upon localized cultural employees? Who would even fund such studies?

It would be easy to suppose then that the very foundations of business intercultural management studies have effectively hijacked their sociological underpinnings, the benefits of method, and the base value orientations useful for an appreciation of the deep interest in global cultures of writers such as Clyde Kluckhohn. In his review of Navaho witchcraft, he noted with regularity that those individuals who most often claimed of spiritual possession or curses and grudge spells were more often than not second sons, or non-power position community members, and thus power was often reoriented through accusations of witchcraft. As I have little illusion over the global power players in corporate and cross-cultural studies dynamics, I expect no one to cry fowl over my mere collected observations here. Cross-cultural management is a hot topic. But as many aspects of best practices in global business, it could cool over time.

Clyde Kluckhohn

"Clyde Kluckhohn was born in 1905 in LeMars, Iowa. He attended Princeton University until he left in 1923 due to poor health. He then spent a summer in the American Southwest where he developed his interests in both the past and the present. His interests were varied including archaeology, social anthropology, art, psychiatry, religion and language. He was a cultural anthropologist with a deep interest in culture and personality. He chose this profession based on his interest in psychology while at the same time expressing his interest in cultural diversity. He felt that diversities of authentic cultures must be represented in personality psychology. This contrasted beliefs of the universality of culture, which states that certain biological, psychological, social, and cultural features are shared by all human populations in every culture" (Kottak, 1997. pp.43).

Clyde Kluckhohn's solution to locating universals of personality while at the same time respecting the factual diversity of cultures was accomplished in the following manner. He devised breaking the problem down into manageable chunks in order to set limits on the demand for general trends. Clyde Kluckhohn was a firm believer in the principles of personality psychology. He elaborated this in an article entitled, Anthropology and Psychology. His respect was shown in an article for psychology, with the first line reading, "The anthropologist looks at the psychologist as the cat might look at the king."(University of Pennsylvania). Kluckhohn displayed the fundamental importance of cultural anthropology as a source of information about human nature.

Dr. Kluckhohn went on to study the Navaho culture and personality. After extensive studies, Kluckhohn wrote two more cultural works. The first was a book entitled, Mirror for Man in 1952 and Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions ( In his first work, Mirror for Man, Kluckhohn wrote about the relations between biology, culture, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism. Relating to personality psychology, Kluckhohn felt that people think their own cultural beliefs and practices are normal and natural, and those of others are strange or even inferior (Keel, Kluckhohn's belief that we are the product of a strange and interesting mix of biology and culture is highly applicable to both psychology and anthropology.

Clyde Kluckholm was the Curator of Southwestern American Ethnology at the Peabody Museum until his death in 1960."


To attempt then to encapsulate the past forty years of intercultural applications of cultural values orientations in the perspective that they have been most useful to profit-based business communities, in particular, international businesses attempting to streamline and rationalize their own multinational dimensions following periodic new market entries, mergers or acquisitions is not an unfair, unjust, or ill-conceived conclusion. But it is a little like deciding not to change one's own perspective on intercultural business orientiations.

MNCs are not unsuccessfully re-evaluating the ways they do businesses every day. They define science and industry-based research interests to a greater extent daily. The elements of purity supposed by research institutes in academia are daily realizing that business alignments define the issues of research and study. Then these aspects of cross-cultural value systems comparisons have developed due to their usefulness and thus may be more than mere constructions upon more base, more fundamentally simple orientations, such as those of Kluckhohn, which do appear to focus on individual variations at a more localized level of observation and appreciation. While individual orientations are an element of global cross-cultural observation, individuals are not the clear focus of redemption for business-based modelling and case studies methodologies unless they are representative stake- or share-holders. If anything, their findings have provoked greater cause for statistically honourable conclusions which I think is a good idea.

The dimensions of cross-cultural orientations courtesy of Trompennars and Hampden-Turner

1. The first dimensions of Trompennars and Hampden-Turner are the universalism versus particularism debates. These imply the observance of cultural values which can be most easily differentiated are in the realms of degree of rules and laws creation and abiding, versus the degree to which exceptionals and unique circumstances may be linked which undermine them.

2. Next the latitudes of individualism versus communitarianism implicate the degrees to which personal freedoms and competitiveness may be measured in concert with their polar cooperative and responsibility to group values.

3. Further the debate includes the tug of war between specificity or analytical/objective values versus diffusiveness or relational or holistic values.

4. The variations between ascribed and achieved status are also measured.

5. The polarity of inner versus outer directiveness are also analyzed.

6. Time sequence in sequential versus synchronous time events are also considered.

A benefit to the reader of such orientations must remain simply to be open to learning more about how one individually relates to each. That each dynamic exists to some extent in every blueprint for cultural evolution in our world of highly defined cultures is an interesting first step to learning about how one may profit from the exercise of such self-analysis. However, the more one reads dynamically, diffusively, and dimensionally, hopefully, the more one realizes that the purposes and intent of originators of such concepts, namely that of peaceable cultural exchange, for its own intangible value, has been overtaken by a business-motivated imperative, to the peacable alignment of global cultures enveloped by corporate objectives, which increasingly appears to implicate the moulding of cultures above and beyond the boundaries of which any mere shop-keeper or entrepreneur should be ethically permitted to require or demand of any status quo, a modern status quo which appears only more efficently incapable of observing what did go before, specifically absent appears to be an intrinsic understanding of the organic dimensions of cultures as they existed for millennia before the free market capitalization of free flowing capital markets.

Which makes possible emasculation of cultural values by MNCs a fair bit easier and altogether impossible to trace.


Anonymous said...

the review just a piece of rubbish, nothing constructive I can notice

Daniel Costello said...

Come out of the dark you anonymous...rubbish?