Culture Clash

“The language of organisation theory has, in the past, been that of engineering and more recently of electrical engineering (with its talk of feedback loops, pulses and currents)… The new words in the organisational literature are words like ‘culture’, ‘shared values’, ‘networks and alliances’, ‘power and influence’, ‘federalism’, ‘compromise and consent’ and, most crucially, ‘leadership’ not ‘management’. These are not the metaphors of engineering but those of political theory, and they symbolise a new way of thinking about organisations – as societies and communities rather than as machines or warehouses.”
(Handy 1988, pp. 20 – 21)

Culture. It is a word we hear so much in our day-to-day enactment as employees and managers. Inflationary application of the term, its indeterminacy, its constructive vagueness make the value of such vocabulary questionable. I have not met any person associating it with the same thing as another. As I am not interested if my work colleagues eat fish on a Friday or in the general pasta consumption in Europe, I will dive into the topic of ‘organisational culture’. A problem with understanding organisations is that the language we use to conceptualise them is often dated, as Handy (ibid.) points it out.

A description of organisational culture has been given as “the way we do things around here” (Deal and Kennedy, 1982). It captures both the power and and informality of organisational culture. But often culture is also about what is not done in an organisation. And while the ‘we’ highlights that it is people, past and present, who shape and enforce culture, it understates the impersonal character of culture (similar to Adam Smith’s (1776) “invisible hand”). McLean and Marshall (1993, p. 74) offer a more detailed definition of culture:

“The collection of traditions, values, policies, beliefs, and attitudes that constitute a pervasive context for everything we do and think in an organisation.”

From Wilson and Rosenfeld (1990, p. 229) comes a suggestion as to how culture manifests itself:

“The basic values, ideologies and assumptions […] which guide and fashion individual and business behaviour. These values are evident in more tangible factors such as stories, ritual, language and jargon, office decoration and layout and prevailing modes of dress among the staff.”

There will be ways of working and behaving which run alongside, or even displace, the official policies and procedures. Real, experienced organisational culture can (and often does) differ from the formally defined one. Culture is increasingly claimed to be a critical element of organisational identity and performance. In the early 1980s Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, partners at McKinsey, explored what made for ‘excellence’ in large commercial companies in the USA. They concluded that success was based on a strong corporate culture, on core values of customer service, innovation and quality, and on managers who wanted to work and to succeed. While the work of Peters and Waterman (1982) has been criticised and some of their models have hit hard times, it was the spur for managers to embark on ‘cultural change’ programmes. However flawed some of these attempts proved and still do prove (especially when deriving from an HR initiative), it is generally accepted that culture is a significant factor in how organisations behave and perform – even survive.

Comments (8)

  1. The Editor (Post author)

    Metaphors

    The following extract comes from a writer who has developed a range of views on organisational life:

    “One of the easiest ways to grasp and ‘see’ the nature of an organisation’s culture is to try to view it as if you are a visitor from a foreign land. As one tries to look at the organisation with fresh eyes, one can see the intangible ‘social glue’ that holds everything together: how the language, norms, values, rituals, myths, stories and daily routines form part of a coherent ‘reality’ that lends shape to how and what people do as they go about their work.”

    “In understanding this ‘social glue’ (which like all glue sometimes does not stick as well as it might, producing a fragmented of divided ‘culture’) other ways of thinking about culture may be appropriate. For example, try thinking about the corporate culture as an iceberg. Recognise that what you see on the surface is based on a much deeper reality. Recognise that the visible elements of the culture may be sustained by all kinds of hidden values, beliefs, ideologies and assumptions – questioned and unquestioned, conscious and unconscious. As a manager, recognise that it may not be possible to change the surface without changing what lies below.”

    “Or try thinking about the corporate culture as an onion. Recognise that it has different layers. Recognise that one can penetrate beneath the rituals, ceremonies and symbolic routines to discover inner layers of mythology, folklore, hopes and dreams that eventually lead to the innermost values and assumptions that lend meaning to the outward aspects of the culture. Recognise that to impact or change the culture in any significant way it is necessary to address and perhaps change the values that lie at the core.”

    “Or try thinking about the corporate culture as an umbrella. Look for the overarching values and visions that unite, or are capable of uniting, the individuals and groups working under the umbrella. Recognise that one’s ability to mobilise or change any organisation may depend on finding the umbrella that can unite potentially divergent individuals, groups and subcultures in pursuit of a shared vision of reality.”

    [Morgan 1989, pp. 157 – 158]

  2. The Editor

    Culture as Shared Rules

    Handy (1988) built on earlier work to analyse the unwritten or shared rules of behaviour that become entrenched in organisational culture. He identified four groups of behaviour:

    • Power culture
    • Handy pictures a power (or club) culture as a web because the key to the organisation is one or a few persons sitting, spider-like, in the centre, connected to and pulling the strings of a widening network of intimates and influence. The organisation is very much like a club; it exists to enable the decisions of those at the centre to be carried out. The culture is typically dominated by a charismatic figure or founder. Here, personality is more important than formal structures, roles or procedures in sustaining and advancing the organisation (Lawless and Stapleton, 2004).

    • Task culture
    • The dominant feature of task culture is its job or project orientation. Its graphic representation is a rectangular net in which groups can be assembled in different ways depending on what needs to be done. Much of the power and influence lies at the intersections of the net, at the knots. The notion of work as problem solving will probably be a major feature of a task culture, with people relying on their concerted abilities to deal with new situations rather than applying tested formulae (ibid.).

    • Person culture
    • A person culture puts individuals and their interests first and sees the organisation as a sort of means to an end. It is a resource on which individuals can draw to enhance their own talents, abilities or concerns. Handy (1998) represents the person culture as a constellation of loosely clustered stars. In this culture, commitment to the organisation for its own sake is likely to be limited.

    • Role culture
    • By contrast, it is impersonality which is central to a role culture. it can be represented as a building supported by columns and beams each of which has a specific role to play in keeping the building up. The organisation is seen as a set of interrelated roles; individuals are role occupants; communications tend to be formalised into systems and procedures, both horizontal and vertical (Lawless and Stapleton, 2004).

    Critique:
    There is a danger that Handy’s four cultures are taken as ‘given’ styles. In practice, organisations may contain features of all or none of the four categories. Culture is not something organisations possess, but which they create, negotiate, and share over time. This tends to be accompanied by conflict, inequalities as well as agreement and a sense of identity.

  3. The Editor (Post author)

    Negotiated Cultures

    Different groups evolve their own distinctive ways of interpreting and explaining what is going on in an organisation. They will add not just their own perceptions, but their own values and beliefs, individual and shared. Therefore, there will always exist a range of cultures and subcultures in any organisation, which in turn means that culture is something fluid and influenced by everyone.

    Values lie at the heart of organisational culture and can rarely be easily adjusted to make an organisation perform better in the way a machine, or a service delivery schedule can be adjusted (Lawless and Stapleton, 2004). Hendry and Hope (1994) identify four related problems that face managers who engage with cultural change:

    • Resilience of the existing organisational culture
    • Outsiders may see the need for change, while organisations and their employees may not. Hendry and Hope argue that prevailing cultures represent the accumulated and often unconscious learning from what has worked to date. Therefore, individuals tend to view proposals to change the culture from the mindset of the prevailing culture.
      Lorsch (1986, p. 98) noted that organisations stick with the beliefs that have worked in the past, but Johnson (1987, p. 270 – 274) argues that an analytical-rationalistic approach (like the six-stage model of change shown below) cannot be effective unless another change process to break down old beliefs is already in process.

    • Complexity of culture change
    • Cultures consist of a complex web of interrelated factors which vary even within sections of an organisation.

    • Contradictions in the desired culture
    • Hendry and Hope argue that top-down attempts to change a culture are motivated by a desire to break the power of the prevailing culture. Culture change represents senior managers’ quest for control in their organisation, yet the very culture they desire is usually one that proclaims autonomy, creativity, and innovation.

    • Mismatches between individual and organisational values
    • If individuals are to accept a sense of community in their workplace, they need to genuinely trust, respect, and support their organisation’s behaviour.
      Key stakeholders must be satisfied or at least neutralized, or the initiative fails (Mintzberg et al. 1998, p. 261).


    The six-stage model of change (Source: Mabey 2008, p. 15)

    Mintzberg et al. (1998, p. 182) criticize that often the implementation style of change matches the organisation’s operating practices: How can an organisation change if it applies concepts embedded deep in the heart of the institutions? – the same needed to be overcome in order to implement real change.

  4. The Editor

    Keeping a Low Profile

    Organisational culture manifests itself through ‘high-profile’ and ‘low-profile’ symbols (Lawless and Stapleton, 2004). High-profile symbols are designed to create an external image: the mission statement, the logo, the annual report, corporate dress code, the head office architecture, etc. Low-profile symbols are the more mundane manifestations of what actually goes on inside an organisation to get the work done (ibid.). Trice and Beyer (1984) suggested four categories of low-profile symbols:

    • Practices
      The rites, rituals and ceremonies of the organisation which take many forms, like the ’employee of the month’.
    • Communications
      The stories, myths, sagas, legends, folk tales, symbols ans slogans that circulate in an organisation. Like many often repeated tales, these tend to be embellished and developed until they assume legendary proportions.
    • Physical forms
      The location of the building, open plan or individual offices, the furniture, exposures of art, canteens, etc.
    • Common language
      Jargon is common to many organisations. It is not only a convenient shorthand form of communication, but also affects behaviour and forms identity. The emphasis can be on being a part of a team and intended to affect the way people work.
  5. The Editor (Post author)

    The Cultural Web

    According to Schein (1992), culture is the most difficult organisational attribute to change, outlasting products, services, founders and leadership, and all other physical attributes of the organisation. At the first and most cursory level of Schein’s model is organisational attributes that can be seen, felt and heard by the uninitiated observer – collectively known as artifacts. Included are facilities, offices, furnishings, visible awards and recognitions, the way that members dress, how each person visibly interacts with each other and with organisational outsiders, and even company slogans, mission statements and other operational beliefs.

    Johnson’s (1998) cultural web defines culture as the identity of an organisation (if companies can have ‘identities’ is questioned by agency theory, e.g. Fama and Jensen, 1983). It identifies the six main areas that make up the working environment ‘paradigm’, the assumptions taken for granted within the organisation.

    • Stories
    • Past people and events still talked about by the organisation gives an insight into what the organisation holds in high esteem.

    • Rituals and Routines
    • Typical daily behaviour that is seen as normal determines what outcomes are expected, “the way things are done around here”.

    • Symbols
    • Any visual representations including logos, office appearance and dress code.

    • Organisational Structures
    • Both the defined structure and the assumed hierarchy indicate the value of each person’s contributions.

      “Bear in mind that ‘top management’ is just a metaphor. In reality, the top manager is on top of nothing but a chart. Managers who see themselves on top of their organizations may not really be on top of what takes place there. They may simply be too distant from the actual work being done.” (Mintzberg and Van der Heyden, 1999. p. 93)

    • Control System
    • Measurements and reward schemes in place that emphasise expected behaviour.

    • Power Structures
    • The groups that appear most powerful highlight the core assumptions.

    • The ‘Paradigm’
    • Subconscious ways of thinking which make up the culture – also relating to high and low profile symbols mentioned above.

    To use the cultural web effectively there are three key steps: looking at the current culture, what the future culture needs to look like, and the differences between the two. One of the hardest things to do is to get the managers to conceptualise the paradigm because they don’t see their assumptions as problematic. They need to question everything they take for granted because it all affects the culture and may need to be changed. Once all aspects of the culture have been discussed, it then becomes easier to see what areas require changing and how to go about effecting that change. The so called “soft factors” are harder to change than the “hard factors”, because they affect people’s thinking.

  6. The Editor

    Some Formulas for Change

    There is the notion that change cannot be managed and made to march to some orderly process: “You deal with change by improving you. And then your time must come” (Mintzberg et al. 1998, pp. 324 – 327). Initiatives may develop deep in the hierarchies of a hospital, from middle managers who act as ‘intrapreneurs’ (Pinchot, 1985). Nelson and Winter (1982) see change deriving from ‘routines’, for example borrowing best practices from other organisations or testing how a smaller change could be transferred to the rest of the organisation.

    Change often has to deal with differences in world view, tension, distribution of power, fears, and lack of acceptability. This points to ‘unfreezing’ (Lewin 1951) in a need for change, according to Brunwin and Preston’s (2004, p. 61) equation:

    A       +       B       +       C       >       D

    Where
    A = the group’s level of dissatisfaction with the status quo
    B = the group’s shared vision of a better future
    C = the existence of an acceptable first step
    D = the cost of the change to the group

    The dissatisfaction with the way things are (A) may originate from many sources, but if the better future (B) is unclear, energy will be dissipated in argument. This underpins “tipping point leadership”. Kim and Mauborgne (2005) recommend change managers to address those factors (stakeholders) with disproportionate influence and from there achieve a focused change without massive investment of time and resources. First steps (B) are usually acceptable if they are small, like a workshop to look at the gaps. The “cognitive hurdle“ describes the mindset of the organisation wedded to the status quo (Boojihawan 2010, p. 84). It is then the job of the change initiators to promote B and C in order to break through the cognitive hurdle.


    The dynamics of change implementation

  7. The Editor (Post author)

    A Word on Hofstede

    Much interest has been placed on culture in business in the last two decades. The topic gained popularity with the work of Hofstede with his landmark study of IBM (1980), and with Peters and Waterman (1982) who started the organisation culture sensation with “In Search of Excellence”. Preceding these studies, however, was the work of Bartels (1967) who was one of the first to relate the importance of culture, illustrating the concept in decision-making and business ethics. Bartels identifies several criteria for the identification of cultural differences. Edward Hall (1976) introduced ‘high context’ and ‘low context’ dimensions in order to assess the implications of a message.

    Hofstede (1980) asked the question, “Do American theories apply abroad?”, after he had surveyed over 116,000 IBM employees from over 50 countries. Hofstede worked with IBM (at the time identified as Hermes) staff over the years 1967 to 1978. From the data he provided a factor analysis of 32 questions in 40 countries. From there he identified four bipolar dimensions (power distance; individualism/collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; masculinity/femininity), which became the basis of his characterisations of culture for each country.

    The critique on Hofstede’s research points to its restriction on IBM employees and therefore impeaches representativeness. Actually, this restriction can also be seen as an advantage, because blurring factors such as company climate are diminished. Hofstede points out that the use of a single multinational employer eliminates the effect of the corporate policy and management practices from different companies influencing behaviour differently, leaving only national culture to explain cultural difference.

    A subsequent study conducted by Hofstede (1991) and Hofstede and Bond (1984 and 1988) introduced a fifth element ‘confucian dynamism’ or ‘long/short-term orientation’, which was an attempt to fit the uncertainty avoidance dimension into the Asian culture.

    While the criticisms may be sound, Hofstede’s research is one of the most widely used pieces of research among scholars and practitioners and has many appealing attributes. Recent research has found that culture is in fact fragmented across group and national lines. Hofstede points out those national identities are the only means we have of identifying and measuring cultural differences. Schein (1992), Deal and Kennedy (2000), and Kotter (1992) advanced the idea that organisations often have very differing cultures as well as subcultures.

    There is a danger that Hofstede’s dimensions are taken as ‘given’ styles and applied to individuals. On an individual level, however, we always deal with real life persons who might have been raised in Kurdistan, studied in London, and then make a living in Switzerland. Individuals do not fall neatly into simple cultural categories.

  8. The Editor

    Negotiating: The Top Ten Ways that Culture Can Affect Your Negotiation

    Jeswald W. Salacuse is the Henry J. Braker Professor of Law at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University. This article is drawn from his book, The Global Negotiator: Making, Managing, and Mending Deals Around the World in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). In becoming sensitive to cultural issues (while not stereotyping), he created a wonderful tool which is a ten part questionnaire not only assessing the cultural style of the other side of your negotiation, but also your own style and from there you can conduct a gap analysis.

    “When Enron was still – and only – a pipeline company, it lost a major contract in India because local authorities felt that it was pushing negotiations too fast. In fact, the loss of the contract underlines the important role that cultural differences play in international negotiation. For one country’s negotiators, time is money; for another’s, the slower the negotiations, the better and more trust in the other side. This author’s advice will help negotiators bridge the cultural differences in international negotiation.”

    “International business deals not only cross borders, they also cross cultures. Culture profoundly influences how people think, communicate, and behave. It also affects the kinds of transactions they make and the way they negotiate them. Differences in culture between business executives—for example, between a Chinese public sector plant manager in Shanghai and a Canadian division head of a family company in Toronto– can create barriers that impede or completely stymie the negotiating process.”

    “The great diversity of the world’s cultures makes it impossible for any negotiator, no matter how skilled and experienced, to understand fully all the cultures that may be encountered. How then should an executive prepare to cope with culture in making deals in Singapore this week and Seoul the next? […] This article discusses this framework and how to apply it.”

    1. Negotiating goal: Contract or relationship?

    “Negotiators from different cultures may tend to view the purpose of a negotiation differently. For deal makers from some cultures, the goal of a business negotiation, first and foremost, is a signed contract between the parties. Other cultures tend to consider that the goal of a negotiation is not a signed contract but rather the creation of a relationship between the two sides. Although the written contact expresses the relationship, the essence of the deal is the relationship itself. […]”

    2. Negotiating attitude: Win-Lose or Win-Win?

    “Because of differences in culture, personality, or both, business persons appear to approach deal making with one of two basic attitudes: that a negotiation is either a process in which both can gain (win-win) or a struggle in which, of necessity, one side wins and the other side loses (win-lose). Win-win negotiators see deal making as a collaborative, problem-solving process; win-lose negotiators view it as confrontational. As you enter negotiations, it is important to know which type of negotiator is sitting across the table from you. […]”

    3. Personal style: Informal or formal?

    “Personal style concerns the way a negotiator talks to others, uses titles, dresses, speaks, and interacts with other persons. Culture strongly influences the personal style of negotiators. It has been observed, for example, that Germans have a more formal style than Americans. A negotiator with a formal style insists on addressing counterparts by their titles, avoids personal anecdotes, and refrains from questions touching on the private or family life of members of the other negotiating team. A negotiator with an informal style tries to start the discussion on a first-name basis, quickly seeks to develop a personal, friendly relationship with the other team, and may take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves when deal making begins in earnest. Each culture has its own formalities with their own special meanings. They are another means of communication among the persons sharing that culture, another form of adhesive that binds them together as a community. For an American, calling someone by the first name is an act of friendship and therefore a good thing. For a Japanese, the use of the first name at a first meeting is an act of disrespect and therefore bad. Negotiators in foreign cultures must respect appropriate formalities. As a general rule, it is always safer to adopt a formal posture and move to an informal stance, if the situation warrants it, than to assume an informal style too quickly. […]”

    4. Communication: Direct or indirect?

    “Methods of communication vary among cultures. Some emphasize direct and simple methods of communication; others rely heavily on indirect and complex methods. The latter may use circumlocutions, figurative forms of speech, facial expressions, gestures and other kinds of body language. In a culture that values directness, such as the American or the Israeli, you can expect to receive a clear and definite response to your proposals and questions. In cultures that rely on indirect communication, such as the Japanese, reaction to your proposals may be gained by interpreting seemingly vague comments, gestures, and other signs. What you will not receive at a first meeting is a definite commitment or rejection.”

    “The confrontation of these styles of communication in the same negotiation can lead to friction. For example, the indirect ways Japanese negotiators express disapproval have often led foreign business executives to believe that their proposals were still under consideration when in fact the Japanese side had rejected them. In the Camp David negotiations that led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the Israeli preference for direct forms of communication and the Egyptian tendency to favor indirect forms sometimes exacerbated relations between the two sides. The Egyptians interpreted Israeli directness as aggressiveness and, therefore, an insult. The Israelis viewed Egyptian indirectness with impatience and suspected them of insincerity, of not saying what they meant. […]”

    5. Sensitivity to time: High or low?

    “Discussions of national negotiating styles invariably treat a particular culture’s attitudes toward time. It is said that Germans are always punctual, Latins are habitually late, Japanese negotiate slowly, and Americans are quick to make a deal. Commentators sometimes claim that some cultures value time more than others, but this observation may not be an accurate characterization of the situation. Rather, negotiators may value differently the amount of time devoted to and measured against the goal pursued. For Americans, the deal is a signed contract and time is money, so they want to make a deal quickly. Americans therefore try to reduce formalities to a minimum and get down to business quickly. Japanese and other Asians, whose goal is to create a relationship rather than simply sign a contract, need to invest time in the negotiating process so that the parties can get to know one another well and determine whether they wish to embark on a long-term relationship. They may consider aggressive attempts to shorten the negotiating time as efforts to hide something. For example, in one case that received significant media attention in the mid-1990’s, a long-term electricity supply contract between an ENRON subsidiary, the Dabhol Power Company, and the Maharashtra state government in India, was subject to significant challenge and was ultimately cancelled on the grounds that it was concluded in “unseemly haste” and had been subject to “fast track procedures” that circumvented established practice for developing such projects in the past. Important segments of the Indian public automatically assumed that the government had failed to protect the public interest because the negotiations were so quick. In the company’s defense, Rebecca Mark, chairman and CEO of Enron International, pointed out to the press: “We were extremely concerned with time, because time is money for us. (Enron’s Rebecca Mark: ‘You Have to be Pushy and Aggressive’” BusinessWeek, February 24, 1997)”

    6. Emotionalism: High or low?

    “Accounts of negotiating behavior in other cultures almost always point to a particular group’s tendency to act emotionally. According to the stereotype, Latin Americans show their emotions at the negotiating table, while the Japanese and many other Asians hide their feelings. Obviously, individual personality plays a role here. There are passive Latins and hot-headed Japanese. Nonetheless, various cultures have different rules as to the appropriateness and form of displaying emotions, and these rules are brought to the negotiating table as well. Deal makers should seek to learn them. […]”

    7. Form of agreement: General or specific?

    “Whether a negotiator’s goal is a contract or a relationship, the negotiated transaction in almost all cases will be encapsulated in some sort of written agreement. Cultural factors influence the form of the written agreement that the parties make. Generally, Americans prefer very detailed contracts that attempt to anticipate all possible circumstances and eventualities, no matter how unlikely. Why? Because the deal is the contract itself, and one must refer to the contract to handle new situations that may arise. Other cultures, such as the Chinese, prefer a contract in the form of general principles rather than detailed rules. Why? Because, it is claimed, that the essence of the deal is the relationship between the parties. If unexpected circumstances arise, the parties should look primarily to their relationship, not the contract, to solve the problem. So, in some cases, a Chinese negotiator may interpret the American drive to stipulate all contingencies as evidence of a lack of confidence in the stability of the underlying relationship. […]”

    8. Building an agreement: Bottom up or top down?

    “Related to the form of the agreement is the question of whether negotiating a business deal is an inductive or a deductive process. Does it start from an agreement on general principles and proceed to specific items, or does it begin with an agreement on specifics, such as price, delivery date, and product quality, the sum total of which becomes the contract? Different cultures tend to emphasize one approach over the other. Some observers believe that the French prefer to begin with agreement on general principles, while Americans tend to seek agreement first on specifics. For Americans, negotiating a deal is basically making a series of compromises and trade-offs on a long list of particulars. For the French, the essence is to agree on basic principles that will guide and indeed determine the negotiation process afterward. The agreed-upon general principles become the framework, the skeleton, upon which the contract is built. […]”

    9. Team organization: One leader or group consensus?

    “In any negotiation, it is important to know how the other side is organized, who has the authority to make commitments, and how decisions are made. Culture is one important factor that affects how executives organize themselves to negotiate a deal. Some cultures emphasize the individual while others stress the group. These values may influence the organization of each side in a negotiation.”

    “One extreme is the negotiating team with a supreme leader who has complete authority to decide all matters. Many American teams tend to follow this approach. Other cultures, notably the Japanese and the Chinese, stress team negotiation and consensus decision making. When you negotiate with such a team, it may not be apparent who the leader is and who has the authority to commit the side. In the first type, the negotiating team is usually small; in the second it is often large. For example, in negotiations in China on a major deal, it would not be uncommon for the Americans to arrive at the table with three people and for the Chinese to show up with ten. Similarly, the one-leader team is usually prepared to make commitments more quickly than a negotiating team organized on the basis of consensus. As a result, the consensus type of organization usually takes more time to negotiate a deal. [..]”

    10. Risk taking: High or low?

    “Research supports the conclusion that certain cultures are more risk averse than others (Geert Hofstede (1980) Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-related Values, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications).”

    “In deal making, the negotiators’ cultures can affect the willingness of one side to take risks– to divulge information, try new approaches, and tolerate uncertainties in a proposed course of action. The Japanese, with their emphasis on requiring large amount of information and their intricate group decision-making process, tend to be risk averse. Americans, by comparison, are risk takers.”

    “Faced with a risk-averse counterpart, how should a deal maker proceed? The following are a few steps to consider:

    1. Don’t rush the negotiating process. A negotiation that is moving too fast for one of the parties only heightens that person’s perception of the risks in the proposed deal.
    2. Devote attention to proposing rules and mechanisms that will reduce the apparent risks in the deal for the other side.
    3. Make sure that your counterpart has sufficient information about you, your company, and the proposed deal.
    4. Focus your efforts on building a relationship and fostering trust between the parties.
    5. Consider restructuring the deal so that the deal proceeds step by step in a series of increments, rather than all at once.”

     
    “Negotiating styles, like personalities, have a wide range of variation. The ten negotiating traits discussed above can be placed on a spectrum or continuum, as illustrated in the chart below. Its purpose is to identify specific negotiating traits affected by culture and to show the possible variation that each traitor factor may take. With this knowledge, you may be better able to understand the negotiating styles and approaches of counterparts from other cultures. Equally important, it may help you to determine how your own negotiating style appears to those same counterparts.”
     

    [Read the full article here…]

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