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Case 3b: National cultures and management styles
Michael Savvas, Aberystwyth University
Petro decided to research cross-cultural management. He was interested particularly
in national cultures and wished to compare and contrast differences between Britain,
France and Nigeria in terms of their management theory and practices. He spent
several days in the university library searching the online catalogue for information on
national cultures in order to make comparisons between the countries selected for
his project. He also used the Internet search engine Google and was taken by
surprise to find over 50 million hits on ‘national cultures’.
He was aware of the research of Hofstede and Trompenaars from his third year
studies. Google highlighted 159,000 hits on Hofstede and 77,000 on Trompenaars.
Given the numbers involved he quickly realised how time consuming this would be.
Discussing this with a fellow student alerted him to the problems of such data. Apart
from the fact that commercial and academic information was not easily differentiated,
much of the information was not referenced in the way expected for his academic
project.
Nevertheless given the problems he had in selecting the appropriate data on crosscultural differences in management he arrived at his first tutorial with a range of
material for his literature review. This included photocopied extracts from textbooks
on management theories and practices and copies of the articles from a variety of
journals. He realised that there was a lot more data on Britain and France compared
to Nigeria. However, he perceived that his managerial experience in Britain and
France as well as his three years working in Nigeria for a large multi-national
company would give him insights that were valuable for his project. Petro emailed his
project tutor his written work so far on his literature review. He was careful to make
what he thought were interesting and meaningful comparisons between the three
countries and assembled them in chronological order of publication. He felt pleased
that he had already written 3,000 words towards the 10,000 words he needed for his
project report.
Petro then went to see his project tutor who gave him some feedback on the
information he had gathered. The tutor felt much of the information gathered was up
to date and based partly on material from the company he had worked for. However,
he now had to look critically at the academic literature. He suggested that Petro
begin by reading recent books on the topic such as Mead (2004) and Schneider and
Barsoux (2003) as well as an article by McSweeney (2002) which he felt would be
useful when thinking about Hofstede’s work. Petro had led a busy life in which he
liked to solve practical problems as a manager. He now realised that searching
academic literature would be extremely time-consuming. His tutor gave him some
advice on learning to skim texts to speed up the process and to summaries the main
issues in his own words as well as keeping careful notes of sources.
Petro searched for the textbooks and the refereed journal article. As he read and
began to make notes on national cultures and their impact on management, he
noticed that what he was reading was thematically organised with a clear framework.
This helped him begin to define the parameters for his study. He began to make links
between his practical experiences of the other cultures he was studying and
concepts discussed in the books and article.
Over the next few weeks, he focused more on the academic literature. The more he
read on the topic the more references he gathered by other researchers. He noticed
that in the textbooks and the journal article the writing not only applied the ideas on
values associated with national cultures to different countries but that the ideas were
explored in a critical way. The ideas were also justified by referring to named
researchers in the field, many of whose names he recognised. However, the style of
writing made his task of reading for his literature review seem impossible and he
began to worry about this. He even questioned his own ability. Discussing these
difficulties with other students on his course made him realise that he was not alone.
They were also having problems, not only understanding the material, but also
attempting to select what was appropriate and relevant for their particular project.
Gradually Petro began to order his notes around certain issues which kept recurring
in the books and articles he was reading. Over the same period, he began to better
understand the practical problems he confronted during his time as a manager in
Britain, France and Nigeria. The academic literature appeared to be providing a
theoretical framework and possible explanations for his managerial experiences.
Questions
1. How do you think Petro’s understanding of the literature review changed?
2. What particular skills did Petro develop in the preparation of the review?
3. Do you think Petro would have benefited from the use of mind-maps in
researching his topic? Give reasons for your answer.
4. What problems do you think he would have anticipated in conducting
research into national cultures which his literature review may not have
highlighted?
References
McSweeney, B. (2002). Hofstede’s Model of National Cultural Differences and their
Consequences: A Triumph of Faith – A failure of Analysis, Human Relations 55(1),
pp. 89–118.
Mead, R. (2004). International Management: Cross-Cultural Dimensions (3rd edn.).
Oxford, Blackwell.
Schneider, S.C. and Barsoux, J.-L. (2003). Managing across Cultures (2nd edn.).
Harlow, FT Prentice Hall.

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