A Publication of WTVP

Thomas Friedman, author of the bestseller The World is Flat, would have us believe the world has shrunk. Network cables and the ease of communications have brought our business partners closer than ever before. Indeed, the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” seems to have come true in our generation.

I was first introduced to Change Management in my tenure as a Principal Consultant in India where many of the US and European firms were facing challenges operating in the Indian milieu. Since the working environments in these two leading democracies can be very disparate, the management was finding it challenging to operate efficiently. Those were the days of the initial hiccups of acceptance of the multinational firms in developing societies and the resistance was noteworthy, if not unsurmountable.

There was a tentative fear in the local companies about ‘big capitalism’ coming over and swallowing them. In such scenarios, companies needed to adapt themselves to the local fervor and indulge in social philanthropy activities to let the locals know they did not just want to do business there, but also wanted to assimilate. It has been a while since, and almost all multinationals have found acceptance in the developing countries and have contributed a lot to the development in respective countries.

As countries the world over have moved from socialism and communism to a ‘unified capitalism,’ a new word was coined for our times—McWorld. The term is essentially an amalgamation of the premier businesses of the twentieth century: McDonald’s, Macintosh and MTV. In their pursuit to promote standardization of their products, companies sometimes forget to look at the human aspect of their supply chain and operations.

The inherent problem with understanding and adapting to any new culture is that the term itself is borrowed from organizational behavior, which in turn receives contribution from sociology, anthropology and psychology. Most of senior management pursue the rational theory and assume their companies are being run without an iota of cultural discord. Usually, the HR department of any firm seeks opinions about the firm’s culture without defining it, and therefore would be in receipt of biased opinions based on irrational assumptions.

There seems to be a widespread acceptance of Stephen Robbins’ definition of organizational culture by in his acclaimed work Organizational Behavior. Robbins explains organizational culture as “a common perception held by the organization’s members; a system of shared meaning.” This definition is all the more reason why organizations should clarify and define their culture as newer members join the team—even more so, when the company’s strategy is to diversify into new markets or countries.

Matheson and Matheson came up with ten parameters of change management and their research exemplified how important people are to the successful implementation of change programs within organizations. As the world ‘shrinks’ and multiculturalism becomes a norm rather than an exception, we need to devote our time and energy to appreciate cultural diversity.

Philosopher Karl Popper once said, “It is not possible to verify culture, only to falsify it!” Though we may never be able to define an organization’s culture, it remains a constant quest. IBI