Recognizing and
Managing
Cultural Patterns
Stuart A. Umpleby
The George Washington University
Washington, DC
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Stuart A. Umpleby
Speakers' Bio
Dr. Stuart A. Umpleby is a professor in the
Department of Management and Director
of the Research Program in Social and
Organizational Learning in the School of
Business at The George Washington
University, in Washington, DC. He is a past
president of the American Society for
Cybernetics, and Associate Editor of the
journal Cybernetics and Systems.
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Origins of cultural differences
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Organizational structure
National, ethnic, or religious cultural
differences
A combination
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Task
oriented
Person
oriented
Guided missile
Project-oriented culture
Incubator
Fulfillment-oriented culture
Eiffel Tower
Role-oriented culture
Family
Person-oriented culture
Egalitarian
Corporate cultures
Hierarchical
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Family culture
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Person-oriented
Close face-to-face relationships but
also hierarchical
The “parent” has authority over
“children”
A power-oriented corporate culture
High context
Diffuse relationships
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Incubator culture
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Fulfillment-oriented
Free individuals from routine
Both personal and egalitarian
Very little structure
Emotional commitment to a creative
process
Leadership position is achieved
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Eiffel Tower culture
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Role-oriented
Bureaucratic division of labor
Coordination by higher levels
Specific rather than diffuse
relationships
Status is ascribed
Qualifications are important
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Guided missile culture
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Project-oriented, task-oriented
Egalitarian but impersonal
Rationale of ends
Neutral, not affectionate, culture
Intrinsic motivation
Individualists and specialists
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Cross-Cultural Project Teams
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Increasing trend in application of:
• Cross-organization projects
• International projects
• Global organizations
• Outsourcing
• Multi-cultural project teams
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Growing body of research and
literature on cultural differences
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Widely accepted studies
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G. Hofstede’s studies of IBM
employees in many countries
F. Trompenaars and C. HampdenTurner’s more recent studies of
cultural differences
Z. Aycan, et al.’s socio-cultural
dimensions
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1) Relations between people
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Individualism vs. communitarianism –
the individual is more important than
the group or the group is more
important than the individual
USA, Australia, UK

Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama
Universalism vs. particularism –
a rule-oriented society (a welldeveloped legal system) vs.
a person-oriented society
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2) Motivational orientation

Masculinity vs. femininity – sharply defined
roles for men and women vs. similar roles
Japan, Austria, Germany
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Sweden, Norway, Netherlands
Uncertainty avoidance – seeking to avoid
uncertainty vs. tolerating high uncertainty
Power distance – people feel comfortable
with large differences in power among
people or they prefer equality
Malaysia, Mexico
Austria, Denmark
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3) Attitudes toward time
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Long-term vs. short term orientation –
patient about results or not
China, Japan, South Korea
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Western countries, Nigeria,
Pakistan
Sequential vs. synchronic – prefer to do
tasks one at a time or comfortable doing
several things at once
Inner vs. outer time – preference for
working on one’s own schedule or
comfortable working on group’s schedule
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4) Control
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Internal control vs. External control
• The culture’s belief that it controls its
environment or works with it
• Implications for (newly) democratic
systems
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5) Socio-cultural dimensions
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Paternalism – superiors provide
guidance, protection, and nurturing
while subordinates are loyal and
deferential
Fatalism – the belief that it is not
possible to control the outcomes of
one’s actions, so hard work and longterm plans are not worthwhile
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Western vs. Non-Western Values
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Individualism
Winning
Respect for results
Specific/ linear
Verbal
Achievement
Internal self-control
Pride
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Collectivism/ group
Harmony
Respect for status
Holistic
Non-verbal
Modesty
External control
Saving face
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Western vs. Non-Western Values
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Equality
Respect competence
Time is money
Action/ doing
Systematic
Tasks
Informal
Assertiveness
Future/ change
Control
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Hierarchy
Respect for elders
Time is life
Being/ acceptance
Humanistic
Relationship/ loyalty
Formal
Indirectness
Past/ tradition
Fate
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Year 2000 (Y2K) project
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Each nation and organization set up
its own year 2000 (Y2K) computer
projects
• Information was widely shared among
technical specialists in meetings, papers
and various media
• People recognized all would benefit by
sharing information
• Top management supported and funded
this project
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Y2K results: A successful
project
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Millions of Y2K projects completed
worldwide with resounding success
• Ahead of Schedule
• Generally below budget
• With no significant failures
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Iridium project: Anywhere to
anywhere communications
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Iridium project
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A satellite telecommunications
network costing $5 billion and
involving 6,000 engineers and
managers in 26 countries
Used proven project management
methods and promising practices
Capability Maturity Model:
Level 3  Level 4
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Iridium project results:
A failed project
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The international structure was
almost impossible to manage –
many languages, cultural
differences, different styles of
management and communication
Cost: US$3.4B  US$5.0B
Implemented in 1998-1999
Bankrupt in 2000  Sold for US$25
million
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Concern for culture of others
Cultural maturity
High
Accommodating:
When in Rome…
Reconciliation
Respect
Recognition
Low
Forcing:
My way or…
Low
High
Concern for own culture
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Adapted from: Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 2003
Reconciliation
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“An approach where the two
opposing views can come to fuse or
blend - where the strength of one
extreme is extended by considering
and accommodating the other”
Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 2003
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Conclusions
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There is an increasing number of
international, multi-cultural projects
Multi-cultural teams can provide
experience and innovative thinking
Cultural differences can be seen as an
asset
Managers need to be culturally
sensitive and use flexible leadership
to promote creativity and innovation
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Contact Information
Prof. Stuart Umpleby
Department of Management
School of Business
George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052 USA
www.gwu.edu/~umpleby
[email protected]
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Questions?
Thank you very much!
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