Discuss the impact of national culture on organisational principles and behaviour in TWO of the following: China, Japan and/or India. What do you consider to be the most important differences with the West? National culture can be classified as “the collective mental programming” of a society (Hofstede, 1980). The culture will have great repercussions on the way the way organisations and the different sectors within them are run. Managing them and controlling the human resources will also be dealt with according to the specified culture of the country.
It is vital for organisations to understand the culture of different countries that they may be dealing with internationally or have multinational corporations within. This is because the collection of beliefs, habits and traditions within other nations may vary drastically from their own. The Japanese have a strong national culture that affects the way organisations behave and the different principles within them. The national culture is important as it helps structure the culture of organisations. People then know what is acceptable, certain ways to behave and values. They have a number of laws to abide by and for this reason it is very important to follow the culture.
A competitive advantage can also be gained as the culture is different to other nations. Children are encouraged to work very hard and it is not about the degree they get but rather how they use what they have learnt and put it into practice that counts. As they are given employment for life in a certain organisation, rather than moving from company to company, they are very hardworking and dedicated. Body postures show respect and bowing for greeting people is common along with gift giving for good effort. If a mistake is made, one does not get in trouble for it as the Japanese simply believe it is a lesson that has been learnt and honesty is key.
Teamwork is vital for the Japanese. Countless managers in Japan feel their employees are motivated by working as a team. This is because as they are all working towards the same goal they share many responsibilities and get along well with each other, hence enjoying their job. This is a characteristic of Ouchi’s Theory Z when they are satisfied with their input towards the organisation. Japanese managers believe in consensus and cooperation and use the ‘bottom-up’ rather than the ‘top down’ structure in the decision making process.
The hierarchical structure cannot easily be seen as everyone cooperates hugely within the decision making process and dealing with tasks. Managers highlight the need for information to flow throughout the entire organisation be it top or bottom and feel the need for everyone in the organisation to participate. They should be available at all times and readily be enthusiastic to sharing information with the rest of the organisation. The Japanese have been practicing upon many techniques in their organisations which help them in their everyday working lives. Samuel K.M. Ho’s 5-S practice is a procedure which is used to institute quality within the workplace.
These five words when translated into English mean organisation, neatness, cleaning, standardisation and discipline. The people of Japan feel if they preserve this quality, it can be used as a good promotional tool. Another well known practice carried out by the Japanese is something called ‘kaizen’, which simply means ‘continuous improvement’. Kaizen is a strategy that aims to involve everyone in the workforce by getting them to think of any improvements for the business frequently. It is a Taylorist approach which helps employees feel recognised and gives responsibility.
This is done by carrying out tasks in teams, providing personal discipline and improved morale to the workforce. Quality circles are carried out in which employees give opinions and suggest improvements. The ‘Just In Time Production’ theory is something the Japanese use which is very efficient. It focuses on getting the right material at the right time, at the right place and in the exact amount (Authorstream). This is done in order to save manufacturing costs and has many advantages one of which is it helps prevent stock going out of date as the right amount is produced.
So overall, in Japan the national culture affect the organisational principles and behaviour greatly. Organisations expect loyalty, commitment and hard work from the workforce in return for good pay. The culture determines the way in which people are brought up, who is chosen in which organisation and the way people do things in their everyday lives is due to the specified culture. The culture of China varies from region to region within it but overall the culture is homogeneous. The government have been a considerable influence to the culture in organisation as it changes views to suit their needs.
There was a cultural revolution from 1966 to 1976 which slightly changed the culture of China because of economic reasons. The previous system hugely converged on philosophy, literature and history but now the national culture has become more open with the world. The main factor of the Chinese culture is politeness. In everyday life, in and out of the workplace politeness determines an individual’s personality. Organisations usually select those who have the best attitude and family are usually giving priority before anyone else. As with Japan, lifetime employment is also the case with China and the organisation become like family to the employee.
Respect is very important and the Chinese must ensure they give this at all times in order to prevent the ‘loss of face’. Once someone in China loses face, they are regarded as untrustworthy and lose their dignity along with their self respect. Greetings in China are usually made with the face and the Chinese depend on facial expressions and tone for reputation and respect. As with Japan, teamwork is vital in China as this guarantees good cooperation within the organisation. Gifts are given as recognition of hard work and appreciation and are also used for motivation.
Long term relationships are also much more valued rather than quick transactions as the Chinese find it easier to function when they have contacts. This is a more family way of working and is part of Guanxi. Guanxi literally means any type of relationship (Chinese-school) and a favour is usually done for a favour in return. However, he difference from the Japanese culture is in China there are clear levels of hierarchy and people are usually judged according to their status. The seniors will always be given priority and no decisions can be taken upon without their consent. If mistakes are made in China it is regarded as a huge weakness.
Confucianism has largely influenced the Chinese. It is a ‘complex system of moral, social, political and religious codes’ (Smith, 1973). It is unequal and values men more than women. There are fewer women in the workforce and they are regarded to have less importance than men. Overall, there are many similarities in both eastern countries, Japan and China, with only a few differences.
Every nation has their own culture which makes them different and gives a competitive advantage over others. The people in these nations abide by the certain cultures sustaining them throughout generations. There are many differences in the way national culture impacts organisational principles and behaviour in China and Japan than in the West. In Japan, hierarchies are not so clear whereas they are very clear in China.
In Western countries, company structures change depending on which industry is being looked at but the overall hierarchies will still be of importance. In both Japan and China, social relationships mean a lot and people usually get given employment due to family and friends and build them up from there. Once they receive employment within a firm, it is usually lifetime employment and they treat the firm like family.
However in Western countries, people are given jobs according to their degree and on a professional level. People switch from company to company and their role moves up if they are top performers. Western countries unlike the Eastern are only concerned with employees on a work basis. This is different to Eastern countries that are judged on both home and work and actions outside the workplace can be severe.
Men and women are not looked at differently in the Western countries but in Japan and China are given a lower status and fewer women have top positions within the workforce. When a mistake is made in a Western country it is usually overlooked however in Japan it is counted as part of the learning process and in China it is regarded as a weakness. In Japan, decisions are made by groups of up to one hundred people whereas in Western countries they are finalised by only about ten people. Regardless, decisions are still usually made quicker in the East than they are in the West. Corruption is something that occurs widely in China which causes certain decisions to be taken that benefit the rich making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
This does not occur much in Western countries as in the UK, such Cartels exist to reduce corruptive actions. There are many similarities and a few differences between both Western countries, Japan and China that have been listed above. The main difference in culture is the East usually treats their nations more as family and actions inside and outside the work place are something they have to account for. The differences are become fewer though, as these Eastern countries are slowly being influenced by the West because of internationalism.
1559 words References
Guanxi, An Important Chinese Business Element. (2006). Available: http://chinese-school.netfirms.com/guanxi.html. Last accessed 22/04/2010.
JUST IN TIME PRODUCTION . (2007). Available: http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/Nguvananh_07b-311673-time-product-business-english-3-finance-ppt-powerpoint/. Last accessed 23/04/2010.
Morden, T. (1995). Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal. Emerald. 2 (2), 3 – 12.