Comparative Management Research Paper Starter

Comparative Management

(Research Starters)

Many theorists believe that management style loses its effectiveness when applied in a different culture. With the increasing trend toward globalization in many organizations, therefore, there is a concomitant increase in the study of management practices in different countries and how they relate to organizational effectiveness. Cultural norms, assumptions, and values need to be understood by a manager who desires to be effective in a cross-cultural situation. This understanding can be helped through cross-cultural training for expatriate managers as well as by ensuring that the management team in an offshore operation includes members who understand the local culture and its implications.

Keywords Cross-Cultural Training; Culture; Expatriate; Globalization; Intercultural Sensitivity; Management Style; Motivation; Offshoring

Management: Comparative Management


Practitioners and theorists alike spend significant time examining organizations to determine what differentiates those organizations that succeed from those organizations that fail. Significant time and energy is expended to determine the best practices and how these practices can be generalized or extrapolated to become universal truths that help other organizations to succeed. This impetus led to the Industrial Revolution and to the development of novel ways to mass produce goods. As a result, contemporary businesses are able to produce goods more effectively and efficiently than ever before. This impetus also led to the Technological Revolution with its burst of new technologies and their application to both the home and workplace. As a result, many tiresome or routine tasks have been eliminated, and employees are better supported in the design and development of even more and better goods and services. What such technological innovations cannot change, however, is the human factor.

No matter how high tech or automated a contemporary organization is, it still is dependent on the inputs and work of human beings. Human beings are necessary not only to run the machines on which a business relies, but to design, develop, and repair them. Wherever there are human beings in an organization, their activities need to be coordinated and supervised to optimize their performance and increase the success of the organization. Management is the process of efficiently and effectively accomplishing work through the coordination and supervision of others.

When management first became a recognized field of study, the goal was to reduce the empirical observations of successful practices in isolated cases to simple lists of practices a manager should or should not do in order to be effective. When these practices were unsuccessfully applied in another organization, a new list was promulgated. Leadership theories were developed that described the differences between successful leaders and unsuccessful leaders and posited the characteristics or practices that differentiated between the two. However, human behavior is a complex and multifaceted thing, and it was found that such universal truths were apt to be neither universal nor truths.

Eventually, this discrepancy was recognized and the study of management became a multidisciplinary effort; drawing on the insights from scientific research rather than isolated or casual observation and incorporating the insights and practices of other fields of study including psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Insights gained from empirical research eventually led to the conclusion that there is not one best way to lead. Rather, effective management requires the consideration of numerous factors including the nature of the job to be done (routine, mechanized vs. creative, artistic), the readiness of the workers to do their jobs (experience, degree of training), personality and work style of the workers, as well as the ability and personality of the manager. Further, it was found that as some of these variables changed (the workers became more experienced as they learned on the job), the most appropriate management style also changed (experienced workers require less close supervision than those who are new to the job).

The effectiveness of a management style is also based on the type of organization in which it is used. The large organizations that came into being following the Industrial Revolution were often production facilities where a military command and control model was effective. Many of today's organizations, on the other hand, do not follow this model. Today, more organizations offer services rather than goods and the educational levels of employees are rising in many fields. Each type of organization and its concomitant workers requires a different type of management in order to be effective. An engineering organization, for example, where workers are hired to develop new ideas or products, cannot be managed on a piecework philosophy as can be done in some production facilities. Rather, different types of organizations require different styles of management in order to be effective.

The changing landscape of organizations today is made even more complex by the increasing globalization in many industries. In particular, the practice of offshoring — relocating part of an organization's business to another country with lower costs — can present significant challenges to an organization as it works in a foreign culture with different assumptions, practices, and laws. In particular, culture can play a significant role in the expectations on managers and the effectiveness of management practices. Cultural differences also can affect how people communicate, what assumptions they make, and how they perceive the world in general. For example, many cultures — including both Germany and Japan — tend to be more formal than US culture. If a manager acts without sensitivity to this fact, s/he can appear to local workers as rude, and can quickly lose effectiveness.

Comparative management is the study of management practices in different countries and how they relate to organizational effectiveness. To do this, comparative management theorists look at how managerial practices are similar and how they differ in order to accommodate the needs of the local culture. By looking at management styles and techniques that work well in different venues, it is possible to gain insight into which management issues are universal and how local culture and conditions require adaptation of management practices. Specifically, the field of comparative management seeks to help organizations and their managers to better understand the impact of local culture — the consciously or unconsciously held shared assumptions, beliefs, norms, and values held by a group of people — on the way that people and processes need to be managed.

There are several different theoretical approaches to studying comparative management. The socio-economic approach primarily examines variations in economic development between two or more countries and how these variations affect what constitutes effective managerial practice. Unfortunately, this approach is not easy to test empirically. In addition, this approach cannot account for differences in management style or effectiveness within a given country because it rests in part on the assumption that organizations operating at the same level of industrialization would have similar management practices. This assumption, however, is not borne out in fact.

Another approach to the study of comparative management is the environmental approach. This approach emphasizes the external factors — environmental factors and constraints — under which the organization must operate. As with the socio-economic approach, however, the environmental approach cannot explain differences between organizations operating within the same environment. This is due in part because both approaches fail to take into account the internal factors that can affect managerial effectiveness.

On the other end of the spectrum is the behavioral approach which focuses on the psychological factors (beliefs, values, attitudes, assumptions) that affect individual and group behavior within organizations. Although this approach rectifies the major shortcoming of the socio-economic and environmental approaches, it fails to consider the external factors that can also affect organizational and managerial effectiveness.

To make up for these shortcomings, various eclectic models have been proposed that take into consideration...

(The entire section is 3734 words.)