Global Processes/Local Issues LO19796

Phillip Capper (
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 11:54:33 +0000

Replying to LO19770 --

In LO19760 R Holman wrote:

"I need help answering the question "What is the best way to structure
a global services organization to insure global processes with
consideration to local (national) issues and to enhance learning?".
This company has over 60,000 employees and is located in over 30
countries. The issue is balancing the need to provide a consistent
look to global customers while maintaining a local touch in each

To which Alan Anderson (LO19770) in part replied:

" A major part of the answer in my view is to be found in common
principles rather than common processes. Let me explain.
I assume that when you use the expression "global processes" you
mean that certain activities should be carried out in an identical
manner the world over. If this is the case then your efforts will
inevitably meet with resistance. People resent being told from some
far away head office how to do things. They may welcome advice and
ideas, but they will only be committed to the task if they are allowed
to work out for themselves the best way to do it."

Many of us in New Zealand, including my colleague on this list Bob
Williams, are very conscious of the work known to us mainly via the
Australian Colin Pidd, concerning cultural archetypes. What it tells us is
that organisational processes, and even principles, do not transport
readily across cultures. The knowledge is important to us because here in
New Zealand so many of our large companies are foreign owned.

Small example. When a number of US companies - notably MacDonalds -
induced NZ sites to start putting 'employee of the month' pictures on the
walls of workplaces, the result was hysterical laughter on the part of
customers and sullen resistance on the part of employees. Making people
stand out lijke that just isn't part of the NZ culture. After a brief
duisastrous flurry the practice (as far as I know) disappeared from NZ.

Big example. A successful NZ owned company was taken over by an American
multinational. Initial communications said, in effect, that the NZ sites
were so successful on all measures that the US parent would not interfere
in any way with what was clearly a well functioning outfit. Some months
later a memo came in from the US saying that, although the parent was
still firmly of the view that they shouldn't interfere in how these good
NZ sites were doing business, there WERE a few common reporting practices
required for standard business analytical processes at the US corporate
head office, so could NZ please institute the following small

>From that point on NZ performance declined until the NZ operation was no
longer performing better than corporate norms. It was simply that the
information required led the NZ sites to adopt patterns of
interrelationship which did not suit NZ culture. NZ complied, but in doing
so lost what made it special.

Conceptual example. Quality is a principle. Right?

But Pidd has experimentally demonstrated that the word attaches to
different concepts in different cultures. In brief:

Japan = perfect
Germany = completed according to specifications
France = luxurious or aesthetically satisfying
US = it works
Australia = something I did to my own satisfaction

So what happens when Deming's Japan developed concept of TQM is

There is NO standard operating procedure or organisational practice,
however minor, which does not have cultural assumptions embedded in its
design. When such an artefact is transferred between cultures it may seem
no big deal, but in the complex system of the modern multinational it can
have the effect of the legendary butterfly's wing in the Amazon basin.

Phillip Capper
Centre for Research on Work, Education and Business (WEB Research)
PO Box 2855
New Zealand

Ph: (64) 04 499 8140
Fx: (64) 04 499 8439


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