I. Summary of Hofstede’s Model of Cross-Cultural Management Early management gurus used to presume that their ideas on management apply to everybody all over the world. Their notions were challenged when the Japanese became a world economic superpower, along with the significant rise of dragons and tigers economies.
The notion that management principles are not universally applicable across all cultural boundaries soon emerged and began to develop itself through various cross-cultural studies, such as Lane and Beamish’s (1990) study on western companies that built joint-ventures with people from other nations, without considering the differences in their management cultures and thought that it would be sufficient in dealing with global competition problems.
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One study that stood out from the others came from Geert Hofstede (1980a), who defined culture as: “…the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another…the interactive aggregate of common characteristics that influences a human group’s response to its environment”. Richards (2001) mentioned that Hofstede’s study was focused on the differences in ‘mental programming’ among groups of people in different nations, through their collective preferences on certain states of affairs over others.
His study was conducted through a questionnaire survey on IBM’s employees in fifty nations and his analysis was based on comparative data from that survey. Hofstede’s empirical study would then strengthen the belief that western, particularly American, management practices could not directly be applied on management from different cultures, which are based on different values. Geert Hofstede identified four levels of social attachments through which culture displays itself: symbols; heroes; rituals and values.
Among said levels, values play the biggest part in explaining cultural differences. Hofstede further identified five primary value dimensions from which a pecking order can be established for each target country. These dimensions are: 1. Individualism versus Collectivism: The way in which people live together and the relationship that exists between the individual and the collectivity. 2. Large versus Small Power Distance: The extent to which a society accepts or rejects inequalities in such areas as prestige, wealth and power, or hierarchy versus equality.
3. Strong versus Weak Uncertainty Avoidance: The extent to which culture cope with uncertainty or unstructured situations, and encourage risk-taking, through technology, law and religion (risk avoidance versus risk comfort). 4. Masculinity versus Femininity: Attitudes to quality of life, achievement, assertiveness and competition (task versus relationship). 5. Long-term Orientation (Confucian work Dynamism): Value persistence (perseverance); having a sense of shame rather than guilt; search for virtue, rather than truth; long-term approach to life; and ordering relations by status and observation of it.
Hofstede then placed countries within the above dimensions and found that a culture in one country makes people from that country to more likely behave in a certain way than other. This research was found to be very enlightening (Richards, 2001, p. 172), especially in paving the way to look deeper into the differences in cultural values and norms. In his 2002 counter-argument made toward McSweeney’s critique, Hofstede (2002, p. 1355) even claimed that his pioneering research had resulted in a ‘paradigm-shift’ in the field of cross-cultural studies.
Later on in 1987, he developed what he called as ‘theory T’ (Richards, 2001, p. 178), which core arguments are: 1. The world is unequal and everyone has his/her place within the order. 2. Each of the children has his/her birthright place and has to work on his/her duties accordingly, but can improve his/her position through studying with a good teacher, working with a good patron, and/or marrying a good partner. 3. Wisdom is grounded on tradition.
That is why human beings do not like change and will avoid it if he/she can. Trying to find the ideal model for these cultural differences, Hofstede then developed his theory T to a more complex model he called theory T +, which added on to theory T the component of change and the ability within a particular culture to modernize and synergize with other cultures through life experience; commitment to change; capacity to lead to change; and people’s learning capacities (Richards, 2001, pp. 6-17).
II. Analysis and Critique The prescribed readings that followed after Richards’ (2001) overview of cultural differences, cultural dimensions and syndromes, through previous academics’ works (Hofstede, Trompenaars and others) and his own teachings on cultural understanding, essentially went back and forth on research credibility issues, including validity in the methodologies that these academics utilized in their research (i. e. Hofstede’s critique on Trompenaars’ research methodologies and its subsequent rebuttal from Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars in readings # 2 and 3 of the reading list, followed by more critique from Hofstede on Trompenaars’ work in reading # 4, and still followed by Brendan McSweeney critique on Hofstede’s own methodology and the quality of his evidence in reading # 5, which sparked another refutation from Hofstede in reading # 6, and still another counter-rebuttal from Sweeney in reading # 7).
To this writer, all the above debate was focused on several key issues: 1. All theoretical claims have to be based on analysis grounded on empirical research. 2. Selection of methodology made on an academic’s research could determine the credibility of his/her research and subsequent academic analysis. 3. Research design, along with type of data and instruments to gather said data are exceptionally important in the formation of a researcher’s analysis. . The type of analysis used on a researcher’s database would determine the scope of academic claim he/she could create and how valid those claims would be. This writer’s own doubt on Hofstede’s research is mainly based on whether his sample of 117,000 respondents who participated in his questionnaire survey are homogenous, thus representative enough to the world population that was supposed to be the target population of his research on (world) culture.
Unlike McSweeney in reading # 5, however, this writer would give Hofstede the benefit of the doubt on his choice of questionnaire content, which must have played a significant part in determining whether cultural differences could be correctly reflected through the selection of question items. Simply put, should the writer be in Hofstede’s shoes and possess sufficient resources within his grasp, he would probably undertake another survey-based research on a much narrower or tighter ‘cultural’ sub-concept or characteristic, which makes up a larger concept of ‘culture’.