The Role of Culture In International Management

Continuing from a previous post, A Mystery A-Foot, the course International Management, Part Two The Role of Culture begins a four chapter series with Chapter 4 – The meaning and dimensions of culture, Chapter 5 – Managing across cultures, Chapter 6 – Organizational culture and diversity, and Chapter 7 Cross-Cultural communication and negotiation. Chapter 4 begins with the case on Toyota’s a global story addressing the cultural roots of its 2010 accelerator sticking crisis resulting in several deaths and the recall of millions of vehicles. Before we look at this chapter’s case, we will visit the Japanese culture in order to get a feel for it (Luhans and Doh 2012).

We began our study of cross-culture life with the Greek aphorism to know thyself and in applying this we began by adopting the depth psychology investigative framework into ethics –  the dao of individuation. By extension we are in the process of applying this depth framework to our study of the American culture and in tandem now to the Japanese culture and its impact on the management of its corporations. To know the Japanese and their culture one has to experience them – one has to learn its language and live among the people. In the 1980s James Clavell’s Shogun TV series was very popular – it is a story taking place in 1600 around John Blackthorne, Pilot-Major of the Dutch trading ship Erasmus that during a voyage into the Pacific Ocean is shipwrecked in Japan. Blackthorne has to adapt and is most excited when a Jesuit Priest gives him a translation of the Christian Bible into Japanese, he instantly realizes he will now be able to learn Japanese, survive, and find his way into the culture. He enters the political struggle between warlords, falls in love with a Japanese woman, embraces Japanese life, and is honored as a samurai (Wikipedia)

Clavell’s book and the TV series, Shogun, are entertaining and insightful in providing a view into Japanese culture. Here in more depth but also very entertaining is the three part documentary Japan: Memories of a Secret Empire, that should help us get deeper into the Japanese culture:

Japan: Memoirs of a Secret Empire: The Way of the Samurai
Japan: Memories of a Secret Empire: Return of the Barbarians
Japan: Memories of a Secret Empire: The Will of the Shogun


Memoirs of a Secret Empire

I visited Japan several times in the 1980s and traveled north to south, eahiroshimast to west, visiting the Hiroshima Nuclear Bomb Memorial, and climbing to the top of Mt Fuji, which was much the same as this Mt. Fuji Climb. I climbed with a colleague and it took us 5 hours up a winding path, with eating and sleeping stations just in time for a bowl of hot noodle soup and to yell “bonsai” as the Sun came up. Strait down the back side without a path took us 1 hour – were we tired!

imagesThe Japanese Tea Ceremony, The Sword Makermt_fuji_map, and Japanese Gardens are sheer delights and one can sense their impact on corporate culture. Here is a deep look into Japanese Zen Buddhism – The Land of the Disappearing Buddha, with a realization that we are still only scratching the surface of our project to go deep, which is now investigating the Ways of Individuation and the Way of Zen Buddhism – are they different? Here is a peak at what is happening today in the capital of Japan – Tokyo.


Tokyo Life

The Toyota’s 2010 quality crisis created a serious challenge to Toyota’s organizational culture that has been a real nightmare for the corporation and a challenge for Japan. I collected these video clips that should help us experience the crisis beginning with Toyota driver’s 911 call, then the news that Toyota recalls 4 million vehicles amid unintended acceleration problems, and then CEO Akio Toyoda testimony before Congress.

After reading the case and watching these clips on the Toyota case, we are set to apply Chapter 4’s Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory Wiki defination ; Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory – Wiki Article, and interviews with Hofstede On Cultural Dimensions, Recent Discoveries, and On Analytical Psychology. In this last interview Hofstede describes the psychoanalytical approach to studying cultural that he suggests went bankrupt and is no longer a relevant approach. How would you respond to Hofstede on this issue? My response is that Hofstede has not kept up with analytical psychology’s advances, which is being pursued in this class and blog. Fons Trompenarras introduces us to his similar work on culture dimensions and his THTConsulting expands his theory of cultural dimensions to managing cross culturally, which will be address in Parts 3 and 4 of the text. Trompenaars BBC interview Japan’s firms ‘panic’ in crisis, directly addresses the Toyota Case crisis.


Hofstede on analytical psychology and culture

We should now be prepared to begin our response to these questions: 1. What cultural dimensions contribute to the differences between how Americans and Japanese workers address management problems, including, operational or product flaw? 2. What are some ways that Japanese culture may affect operational excellence in a positive way? How might it hurt quality, especially when things go wrong? 3. How could managers from Japan and other Asian cultures adopt practices from U.S. and European cultures when investing in those regions? (p.134)

There are changes coming to Japanese corporations, as this effort to change Toyota’s cryptic corporate culture illustrates, however, this interview with Michael Woodford (GB) Former Chief Executive Officer Olympus Corporation, alerts us the challenge of changing Japanese corporate culture is going to be interesting.


Michael Woodford Former Olympus CEO

We have introduced our study of culture with Luthan and Doh textbook lead case on the impact of the Japanese Culture on the Toyota MNC. We follow the textbook’s quantitative approach and also add to it our analytical psychology approach, which began with the post on A Mystery A-Foot. Our approach is to use the world wide web to experience the Japanese culture short of going there. From Japan we will move to China that has had an immense impact on Japan and is now in the midst of renewing its historical dominance in and a renewed impact on the world! The Chinese name for its country is Jung Quo – Middle Kingdom.

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