martes, 16 de marzo de 2010

Blog Recommendation

In this occasion I would like to suggest you visit the following blog from my classmate Carlos Torres, because I find it very interesting due to the several dynamic tools that he uses to exemplify the cultural topics; photos, cases and relevant videos are shown making the presentation more attractive. Also he makes a comprehensive analysis of the different units, in his blog he integrates the opinion of several authors in order to build a broader perspective of the issues that we are studying. He raises analytical questions in order to foster a critic thought among his readers.

domingo, 14 de marzo de 2010


According to the article: Is Guanxi still working, while chinese MNCs go global? The case of Taiwanese MNCs in the UK by Chun Lisa Chen  and Mark Easter by-Smith, Guanxi is a chinese social system based on the relationships between individuals whose ultimately goal is to achieve harmony in the society, in order to get this harmony the relation should be conducted with a cooperative behavior, reciprocity and a high commitment with the others persons.

The Guanxi was inspired by some Confucianism statements that "urging individuals to adapt to the collective to control their emotions, to avoid conflict and to maintain inner harmony. Social relations should be conducted in such a way that everybody’s “face” is maintained and face is a key component in the dynamics of guanxi". The activity of Guanxi is based on a face- to face communication and the trust is the main value that sustains all the system's dynamics.
The Guanxi is applied in both fields, the social and the business one, the latter has two models of Guanxi: the horizontal Guanxi and the vertical Guanxi. The taiwanese business culture works through the construction of a contacts network, it is very common that a business manager personally knows his employees and his business contacts, in most of the cases the new employees or business contacts should be introduced by someone whom the manager trusts, this is known as Renqing and "is kind of a resource in Chinese society,
which means that an individual can introduce someone to another person in the course of social exchange

In the horizontal Guanxi the manager works to develop and strength business relationships through the socialization with his customers, the construction of mutual trust and the constant communication. This horizontal approach let the manager get a bigger competitiveness in the market, because this model allows him to get information about business oportunities and provides him resources related to social capital, as an example of this case, the IT taiwanese MNCs, who decided to internationalize their operations afirm that they chose to locate their subsidiaries in UK, because for them is very important to work close to their most important customers.

The vertical Guanxi is related to human resource management, where it states the importance of personal relationships between the employer and the employee. The vertical Guanxi concept is highlighted in the following paragraph "Taiwanese manager gives face to the supervisor, he expects that the supervisor will obey the rules (obligation) and follow his orders (obedience)...Mianzi entails providing empathy with others and avoiding speech or actions that cause embarrassment to others. Where face is saved, emotional feelings of attachment are developed".

 This article summarizes a research made with some taiwanese MNCs , most of them from the IT sector and the financial sector, these companies develop an entry strategy to the UK market based on the Guanxi approach, but they have found some difficulties to implement this model, the Guanxi approach is not seen as a good alternative to use in an employees' recruitment, because the Guanxi could affect the company's efficiency. Also the UK employees or business contacts are not too commited with this approach.

The proposed question for this topic is:
1. Discuss in your blog the relevance of the Guanxi and the existence of chinese business networks as supporting factor to the internationalization process of chinese companies.

For me there are many valuable elements of the Guanxi approach to take into consideration when an international manager arranges to build a business relationship with his customers, I think those elements such as harmony, communication and trust could promote a higher level of cooperation and this issue could be translated in bigger and better developments of projects. In the same way I think the Guanxi approach could ease the daily activities inside a firm, because all the employees (from the top to the bottom) are caring about how they are going to interact with their partners in order to avoid emotional conflicts or disrespectful behaviors and certainly this could be a good productivity indicator because the employees could work in a comfortable labor environment.
The existence of chinese networks abroad could be very useful for companies, which are going to undertake an internationalization process, these networks could support the development of new contacts, gather market information, and give important ideas about how the beginner company should consolidate its strategic plan in this new market, however no company should depend entirely to these business networks because the international market requires a broader perspective of interaction among employees, managers and customers, many of the business contacts, whom the manager is going to know don't belong to the same business network and many of them don't even  share his culture, so he has to be ready to face this challenge.

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East Asia

In this chapter we are going to analyze a cultural case from East Asia: the management convergences and divergences between korean firms and japanese firms. Our guide text for the analysis is: "What makes management style similar and distinct across borders? growth, experience and culture in korean and japanese firms" by Jangho Lee, Thomas W. Roehl and Soonkyoo Choe. 

According to the authors' definition "the convergence assumes that as countries develop, management systems will converge to a model found in developed countries. The other, the comparative cultural approach (divergence), is based on the assumption that a wider set of cultural norms in each society is a powerful force for differentiation".

When firms get a bigger size or when they undertake international activities, the management system turns into a more sophisticated practice, that is why many firms try to imitate the management styles from bigger companies, which have had similar management problems and their outcomes were successful, this means both driving forces (a bigger size and international activities) make the management styles tend to convergence to a single model, the most developed and the most successful. So the firms that are in this situation must face two kinds of pressure: a domestic pressure  that tries to  preserve culturally determined forms of management and the pressure from international markets that encourages firms to conform with the conventional international norms, under these circumstances,  it has become a real challenge to keep an equilibrium position between these two approaches.
As firms became larger and internationalized, the main statements of the different management styles tend to converge to the most developed model, however the dimensions that are directly tied with some aspects of the national culture tend to lag this change and sometimes to avoid it.

This article also compares the similarities and differences between the korean management style and the japanese management style. Many authors state that korean model is almost a copy of the japanese model, the reason is the years of japanese occupation into the korean territory, this situation allowed the direct influence of japanese traditions among the korean people, however there are some essential cultural differences between both management styles, for example the koreans give more importance to the blood ties, that's why is very common to see korean companies managed by an entire family, also the koreans state a more individualistic orientation and are so respectful for the hierarchical differences, so these features are reflected in their management style, the korean managers tend to be authoritarian and do not give the enough recognition to their employees to take into account their suggestions, the employment system is characterized by the frequent employees turn over, there is not a real stability in the jobs. Besides the korean government has a high involvement in the companies' performance, it helps them through credit, foreign exchange rationing and supervising the private investment plans.

Meanwhile the japanese culture has other features that differentiate its management style, the japanese state a group orientation, that's why is very important for them the employees' ideas, the consensus and the loyalty. A strength of their manufacturing process is the flexibility to adapt the product to the changing market requirements, this shows a sinchronized connection between the product design area and the production. Also the japanese firms are eager to introduce new technology in their manufacturing process. The japanese firms tend to establish a solid and long- term partnership with their suppliers in order to consolidate a competitive advantage based on the mutual trust, direct communication, flexibility and cooperation to develop joint projects. In the sales management area, it has always been important the market share and all those strategies which focus on the growth of the market participation, for example the pricing strategies.

The proposed question for this topic is:
1. In the case of korean and japanese management styles, do you think they tend to converge or diverge? Are they likely to converge to each other or to other management style?

Definitively both management styles tend to converge to each other because they share many elements of a common cultural background and some deep beliefs and values related to religion and social principles such as the harmony promoted by the Confucianism. Also the companies from both countries have reached large sizes and have established an international orientation in their operations, this means that management styles are going to adopt all the roles or parameters that fit better with the international market requirements. In my opinion  it is more feasible that korean firms learn from the management strategies of the japanese companies because the latter ones have more experience in the international market  and because some korean firms have as their main competitors japanese firms, which manufacture the same product that they do, so there is no  better way to learn than observing your most successful rivals.

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Expatriate assignments and Overseas Experiences

In this chapter we are going to analyze the features of the EA (expatiate assignment) and the OE (overseas experience) as social phenomenons that can change or strongly influence the individual's career and the companies' performance, the guide article of this topic is: Expatriate Assignment vs Overseas Experiences:  Contrasting models of international human resource development by Kerr Inkson, Judith Pringle, Michael B. Arthur and Sean Barry.

 According to the authors' definition EA consists in: "In Expatriate Assignment (EA), the initiative for the international experience comes primarily from a company which operates internationally. A position may become available in a subsidiary outside the country in which the company is based. The job requires both knowledge of the company's strategy, procedures, etc., and the ability to work and live successfully in a foreign environment ... In Overseas Experience (OE), the initiative for the international experience
comes from the individual. Typically, he or she will save money to bankroll the trip, resign from work, and set off overseas autonomously".

The authors highlight that in an open economy the OE could bring more benefits and better outcomes for the company in which the individual is going to work after his return to home, and for the sector in which his job belongs. The reason is the knowledge and the social skills that he got during his international experience could be more useful and relevant when the individual was the only one who takes the decision for himself based on his real motivations to explore and learn overseas.
The persons who have had an OE develop many valuable skills such as flexibility, a broader perspective and a critic thought, these skills could be applied in any type of company and could contribute to develop a more accurate insight of the international market conditions.

At the other hand, the EA is traditionally seen as a human resource management (HRM) issue, where this area selects, prepares the expatriate workers, gives them support overseas and plan their future repatriation, but this approach has been criticized by many authors because they think this concept is very limited, the authors think that EA could not offer to the company a complete feedback of the knowledge the repatriate worker got overseas and it is because he just focuses on pursue the mandated company's goals, he does not mind neither get a deeper knowledge of the host culture nor develop personal skills that could help him to become a competitive and high qualified worker.
Some repatriate workers have complained about the uncertainty they face when they come back to the company, because they do not find an adequate position to use their new skills, after their return they become less employees and more project partners, this means they require more interaction and exchange of benefits with the company.

The authors suggest that the HRM area should modify its structures and procedures in order to get better benefits from the overseas experiences of their employees. The EA should be seen as a non-linear dynamic and not as a process with predictable effects derived from the HRM policies, so the HRM should left behind the traditional hierarchical careers model and redefine the employment principles in order to encourage the exchange of implicit knowledge and skills. One thing that HRM area should take into account is that nowadays expatriate workers are changing their wishes, for them to be promoted to a higher position in the company is becoming a lesser important issue, they are more interested in enrich their careers through the experiences obtained in the different sectors and companies in which they have worked. Another particular feature is some expatriate workers are interested to have their own business.

As a conclusion I want to highlight an authors' paragraph where they talk about how the HRM should performance:"The focus in HRM must move from, "How do we plan, prepare, and protect our people so that EA doesn't cause them to leave?" to "What are the benefits we seek from this exchange and how do we ensure that we get these benefits?"

The proposed question for this topic is:
1. Explain one of the causes for expatriate assignment failure and provide three recommendations to address it.
The main failure that expatriate assignment presents that the initiative to work abroad comes from the company instead the individual, so it is not a personal choice and the worker does not have the enough motivation either learn different ways of thinking nor explore different cultures.
The suggested actions to improve this situation are:
1. The HRM area should redefine their employment principles and make more flexible the EA selection process in order the employees who undertake this process are really motivated to have this international experience.
2. The HRM should take into account those persons who have had an overseas experience in the recruitment for specific intercultural jobs due to they have different social skills that have been developed in their previous international experiences.
3.Improve the feedback process in order that both the company and the repatriate workers have benefits with this knowledge transmition, the company should assure that relevant information has been transmitted and the repatriate worker becomes a project partner in order to use and take advantage of their new skills.

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lunes, 8 de marzo de 2010

Migrant Workers

The analysis of this chapter is about the migrant workers and we are going to focus on the Canada case, our guide text is a David Verbeeten article: The past and future of immigration in Canada.
Canada is a country with a rich immigration history, the lower population levels in this territory has always been a big concern for the canadian public authorities.
The author states an interesting definition of how the immigration dynamic works:"Immigration will as always, though, be the product of "push" and "pull' factors abroad and at home".
In the canadian case, during the nineteenth century the net migration inflows presented a negative rate, indeed for that time Canada was not an attractive target for the european migrants, Canada was perceived as a remote, cold and backward territory. There is no doubt that Canada did not have a strong pull factor to attract immigrants. Besides the canadian authorities had a declared preference for a certain kind of immigrants, people with the following features: white, Anglo-Saxon and protestant, that is, British or America. The policies did not help to settle the canadian territoty.
However this reality changed during the twentieth century, Canada had become an attractive and promising place to live. This transformation was the result of the progressive economic boom, almost all the economic sectors presented a high performance and a dynamic growth, so the canadian economy needed a bigger and qualified workforce to sustain this growth. Besides the previous fact the economic and political situation from overseas territories did not assure stability for the citizens, so these situation became push factors, it means these reasons encouraged people to immigrate to better destinies, in this case Canada.
Regarding the migration policies, the selecting criteria based on the race and religion was eliminated and replaced by a "point system", "which emphasized the skills, education and training of the independent immigrant". These measures were more consistent with the conditions and necessities of this period. Canada encouraged the immigration inflows through more flexible entry requirements, an example of this initiative is that canadian government eased the entry of dependents, family members and refugees in its intent to foster the family reunification. 
Nowadays Canada is still facing a migration challenge, because the migration trends have demonstrated that many immigrants return to their countries when those states obtained a certain development grade or a higher richness level. Also the migrant workers constantly move to those countries, where they can receive a higher payment for their jobs. So the dilemma that Canada faces could be summarized in this way:
Canada wants to have under control the immigration inflows in order to not damage the welfare system with the entry of "vulnerable" people, but at the same time the authorities should keep creating incentives or pull factors to not lose the qualified migrant workers and to avoid the brain drain of national citizens.

The proposed question for this topic is:
1. Do you think the point system in Canada is meant to protect the country's sovereignty? or is it just a deliberated form of discrimination? why?
I think the point system is a selecting method that defines which persons are the right immigrants according to the Canada's expectations. I think the country has the right to decide which people are going to live in the territory and off course the public authorities are going to show preference for those persons, who have professional skills because those are the persons who can contribute to the country's richness. I do not see this selecting method as a discrimination criteria because its rules and requirements are not so strict, indeed they allow the entry of many people, who perhaps do not have the educational background that the country would wish they have it. This is the case of dependents, family members or refugees in order to pursue the family reunification objective.

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domingo, 7 de marzo de 2010

Managing Diversity

In this chapter we are going to analyze how the diversity management is applied on the corporate culture of the organizations. Our reference article to this reflection is: The business case for commitment to diversity by Stanley F. Salter, Robert A. Wiegand and Thomas J. Zwirlein and published by Kelley School of Business from the Indiana University.

Nowadays the cultural diversity is regarded as one of the most important human capital resources within an organization because this is seen as a competitive advantage that competitors find it very difficult to imitate and impossible to substitute.
Even though the cultural diversity must be supported by a high management commitment in order to become this "asset" a sustainable competitive advantage and obtain from it a superior organization's performance. The cultural diversity can just work inside an organization when it is considered as an active element of the corporate culture and not merely as a human resource program, the cultural diversity inictative should represent the values, beliefs and behavioral norms that the corporate culture states. Also the cultural diversity should be oriented to the company's business strategy in order to build a linkage between the company's diversity initiative and its organizational success.
It has proved that a company with a multicultural work team takes more effective decisions in the resolution of complex problems due to the different perspectives and backgrounds of the group members. People from different cultures get access to more diverse information and take into consideration broader and more complex issues than a homogeneous work team  could do it.
The dynamic of a multicultural work team allows more critic and reflexive ways of thinking and working.
Despite the cultural diversity potential, this one brings some cost for the company's internal activities such as a lack of communication within the employees, decrease group cohesiveness and cooperation, etc ;so in order to avoid or mitigate these bad results every area of the organization should get involved in the consolidation of the cultural diversity, the CEO commitment, the corporate communications and the supplier diversity are just some actions that support the inictative to become the cultural diversity in a business strategic aim.

The proposed questions for this topic are:
1. Is diversity management at IBM a source of competitive advantage? why?
Yes, I consider  that IBM works with the assurance that its diversity management is a valuable know-how to use as a competitive advantage, because the way how the CEO and the top executives lead the implementation of the diversity management through the formation of diverse cultural focus groups, allows the company evaluate the business with a broader perspective, and take more consistent decision regarding the facts and the needs presented in the market. The information and analysis that these focus groups develop are useful "assets" that competitors cannot copy.

2. Do you think the IBM case reflects a strong organizational commitment to diversity? why?
 Yes, definitively IBM shows a high commitment with the diversity initiative, because all the working areas were involved in the development of this idea and not the human resources area, this is an issue that concerns everybody in the company. Also the originator of this initiative wanted to get involved different hierarchical level workers because the interaction and joint work of these different types of persons could give the company broader perspectives of the actual market conditions and it could help to develop more effective strategies to the actual market needs.

3. What are the limitations or challenges that a corporate diversity program faces? Please provide recommendations to address them.
All companies that undertake a cultural diversity program could notice some disadvantages or costs that cultural diversity entails. Problems such as lack of communication within the workforce, higher employee turnovers, decrease group cohesiveness and group cooperation. Al these situations cause conflicts among the group members. The leaders of this initiative should work to foster an open minded orientation and a flexible way to work and communicate among the employees. The leaders should highlight the benefits of this program and the linkage between the cultural diversity and the company's strategic business plan in order to demonstrate its importance for the better company's performance.

I invite you to see this interesting video How does diversity  impact the business today?

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For further information you can check:
- Diversity as Strategy by  David A. Thomas published by Harvard Business Review.