Thursday, May 31, 2012

International Manager

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[1] Out of the old, into the new

At this point of time, we are at a stage where modern business management and global organisations have become synonyms with each other. Though the word ‘International Business’ exited many years ago, its application and presence has been noticed only since a few years ago. Multinationals like IBM, GE, Motorola and many more are carrying out business in more than 50 countries. Even small and medium sized companies are getting involved in globalisation. Skilled manpower being the most crucial resource for success in carrying out the strategies, there is involvement of interaction and movement of human resource across national boundaries.

This essay hereon would throw light on what the abilities and skills required by a manager to perform efficiently in another country. It has its implications mostly on workforce upon one particular group of individual’s i.e. expatriate staff. Also, included is the social and business culture in India, for expatriates from foreign countries, with analysis from a few authors mentioned in books & websites, and added personal experience.

[] Highlighting the need for a competent executive

Human resource management deals with recruitment and more importantly selecting the right people for the right job. Since management today is highly multi-cultural, national population have become more heterogeneous and less isolated, consumer varieties and demands are on a rise and there is an upward movement towards a global marketplace . Expansion, diversification, joint ventures, subsidiaries, mergers, acquisitions have all been merged with routine business practices. This brings about collaboration between two or more companies, also countries which possess two distinct organizational cultures. These kinds of situations require utility of multicultural skills to enhance the management systems. Investors from abroad bring along, not only capital but also buy companies, resorts and seek partners in the other country. Cut-throat competition further emphasizes the importance of an effective manager who can enhance the competitiveness of the organization (Harris, P. & Elashmawi, F., 1).

[] What makes a successful manager?

Employees in an organization are the most important resource and are considered assets of the firm. KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills, and Ability) of employees are features that organisations dig for in them. These are those assets that cannot be mimicked, duplicated and are hard to find. Competent managers are those who possess global (cultural, political, economic), business (competition) and personal (individual knowledge) skills. Strategy of any entity to some extent does revolve round ‘Think global, act local’ (Kidwell, 00).

Multicultural competent managers are those who think beyond local perceptions, eliminating old mind shifts and replacing them with new ideas and thoughts. Adoptions of new situations, lifestyles, languages etc are features that categorize efficient managers. Similarly, effective performance in a new environment, flexibility in dealing with diversity in people and thereby creating an optimistic and feasible scenario for the forth coming events makes one a successful performer in another nation. Another important characteristic that cannot be ignored is to seek cultural synergy between and among the different systems and strategies involved (Simons et. al., 1).

Cultures even though passed from generations have evolved with time, and changes that emerge gradually have significant impact on them. These changes are based on economic, social, political and technological factors. However, a few things those are considered bad or illegal are nevertheless similar in other countries and likewise, some considered good or ethical are just the same elsewhere. But, it is also true that there are significant changes in different cultures. It is for this manager to prove his/her competence by evaluating the differences and similarities in both countries and making decisions accordingly, that will enhance his/her role as a manager.

[4] Managers in cross border business arena

What is it that an expatriate has to consider while entering a new firm? Mission, strategy, objectives, vision, cultural synergy, co-managers, boss, colleagues and a few more critical issues that immediately relate to his/her performance. There is certainly more to this. A few other issues are not given enough importance but are equally important. Optimum use of time, listening habits, body language that conveys almost 80% of the message including manners and mannerism, ethical issues in contracts, humour across frontiers are critical enough to go un-noticed.

It thus makes it evident that expatriates do face problems in a different country, not just their individual issues but also family and other social areas of concern that include depression, loneliness, stress and many such mental traumas. In other words, the environment is perceived to be more aggressive to foreign culture and conducive to the domicile culture.

According to Parks et. al., (18), expatriates are generally regarded as a hybrid group, in which they tend to be traditional full-time workers but in the international assignment, they represent a temporary contingent work relationship.

[5] Adapting to Indian Culture

(5.1) Overview of the Indian Culture

In 188, the then Prime Minister of India, Late Rajeev Gandhi had paved way for globalization and opened doors to Americans businesses. Since, The US has become India’s largest trading partner with a two-way trade of around $4billion annually (Harris & Moran, 16).

‘Made in Japan’, ‘Made in USA’ and such other tags are those that are commonly seen on products sold in India.

India being a highly multi-cultural country has lots to learn about and study. If one knows the culture of India, it is very possible to make tentative predictions in relation to its outcome and behaviour with a high degree of accuracy. But, it is also true that there are changes that are taking place with time. Cultures within organisations are different in different companies.

While honesty, sensitivity, optimism, risk taking attitude are highly appreciated, the laid back attitude, procrastination, negligent law, that are a few cultural drawbacks. The following topics describe in detail the individual attitudes and behaviour patterns.

(5.) Social & Business Culture

Loyalty is the most appreciated attribute in Indian Business Culture. Indians prefer working in teams, which they would refer to as ‘One Family’, not always useful though. There is lot more than just performance at workplaces; it includes social gatherings after work, with the entire family being a part of the event. This attitude sometimes leads to biased and hasty business decisions taken over the dinner table. Expatriates would generally have no problems if prior networking is done in India, since most of decisions are based not always on merit but due to some other social relation.

Often business deals are initiated and closed by the ‘shake of hands’ and through verbal commitments. Documenting agreements is not very common especially where low capital is involved. Trust is an important factor. A common phrase would be, “I am selling this to you only because I promised you, although I am not making much profit out of this deal”. Indians generally stick to their commitments even if made verbally. Similarly, contracts take long to get initiated, because ‘Bargaining Power’ is a characteristic, businessmen generally possess. Even, a CEO of the Indian origin would believe in bringing this power to practise, in order to get a good deal.

Lawyers are required in any country for business contracts for documentation, especially in case of International businesses. But, organisations generally avoid, settlement through lawyers. The reason being, files with court cases in them only pile up higher with time, having no outcome or solution. Hence, there is conciliation in contracts or if ever taken to court, may not get resolved for years together.

‘Status’ and ‘Self Esteem’ are other issues that are of major concern. Though treated equally; for success, effective and 100% performance is crucial, hence, criticisms and weaknesses in employees are put forth in person rather than in public. Mocking and sarcasm is another aspect Indians dislike particularly in public. This is an important aspect managers would have to keep in mind. Low at tone though, comments made in public could sometimes lead to resignation by the employee. This in turn could have a negative impact thereby losing skilled and important staff. Indians also do not take pride in labour jobs like cleaning. For example executives and top level managers would not prefer making their own coffee, transferring documents from one place to another or even taking a photocopy. Indian companies generally employ ‘peons’ to do such activities for their bosses.

In India, ‘Punctuality’ is not given that much importance as compared to other countries. Like in case of a western culture, meetings scheduled for particular time do start without delay. ‘Time Management’ is taken care of, but in India practised differently to some extent. Humour in India calls this ‘Indian Standard Time’, which means reaching the desired destination atleast an hour late. This factor however, is changing and shifting towards respect and realising that time cannot be replaced as rightly quoted ‘Once lost, lost forever’.

Richard Lewis (001), states that the reasons for achievement are certainly good effort, but when it comes to failure or results lower than expected; mostly it’s the destiny that is blamed. This encourages individuals to accept more risks and invite challenges. Indians believe in destiny and generally take failures in their stride.

In relation to speech, it is advisable if the expatriate would know one of the languages usually used like Hindi, Marathi, certainly not with his higher level colleagues, as communication is mostly carried out in English. To make interaction comfortable with other employees and staff, minimal acquaintance to one of the other languages is crucial. The national language is Hindi, but very rarely used, mostly by the public sector companies.

[6.0] Conclusion

Today, the world demands a more culturally sensitive management. Hence, analysing and evaluating cultural issues is important in many aspects, both in single-country and multi-national settings, also cultures prevailing within different organisations. Culture has been altering with time. The social and business cultural features about India include a few that existed a few years ago and still existing in a few firms with changes in many others.

Expatriates would face culture shock, is highly predictable but Indians being helpful in nature would definitely make them feel more comfortable, moderately. This culture shock not only refers to executive but also, a matter of concern is his/her spouse and children. Adapting to the different culture is not as simple as it sounds. It is more than just changing ones lifestyle temporally. Also, repatriates, though back to their home country have a possibility of facing the same issues.

Just like different countries have different cultures, so do organisations within a nation, posses different cultures in them. Hence, on transfer to another country, it’s not just the country analysis, but also is the company culture that is to be studied.

[7.0] References

Harris, P. & Elashmawi, F., (1), Multicultural Management New Skills for Global Success, Golf Publishing Co., Houston.

Harris, P. & Moran, R., (16), Moran Managing Culture Differences, rd ed., Gulf Publishing, Houston, Texas.

Kidwell, 00, Strategic Context of IHRM & Inter-Cultural Issues and IHRM, Notes made available in the lecture.

Lewis, R., 001, When cultures Colide Managing successfully across Cultures, nd ed., Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London.

Parks, J., et all, 18, Fitting Square Pegs into Round Holes Mapping the domain of contingent Work Arrangements onto the Psychological Contract, Journal of Organizational Behaviour, pp. 67-70.

Simons, M., 1, Transcultural Leadership Empowering the Diverse Workforce, TX Gulf Publishing Co., Houston

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