Organizations are made for employees to work there and not opposite: employee should fit the organization. As the organization grows larger and more complex, management at the top lead and decide less by firsthand experience, but rather more and more on heavily processed data. From their standpoint they rarely see business flowing in the same way as do people down in production or on the sales floor. To understand huge amounts of data and information that is streaming toward them, after a throughout long training, they finally achieve to see the reality through the distorting glasses they’ve had to put on. Decisions they make and the responsibility they shoulder relies on tangible data. But these glasses somehow filter out emotions, feelings, sentiments, moods, and almost all the nuances of human situations that are part of everyday organizational culture consequently filtering or better losing all the tacit knowledge that drives business processes.
Organizational culture is the sum of values and rituals defined by rules. It is also a part of a “bigger picture” that surrounds an organization. This poses some problems if organization shock-wave through different cultures.
Four decades ago IBM tried to unify corporate culture in its subsidiaries all over the world. Geert Hofstedecarried out a world-wide survey on employee values. The result was very informative and demonstrative. There were other researchers of the same topic too. A common conclusion of all those studies is that “we are definitely different”.
In his book »Great Boss Dead Boss« Immelman wrote that most leaders have experienced the conflicts between functional ‘silos,’ or inter-departments, between corporate and division, management and union, and also parent company and subsidiary. These conflicts stem from a universal behavior pattern so deeply ingrained in our socio-organizational makeup that we are not able to see it from the inside. Immelman’s insights into tribal behavior, in how the dynamics of individual and collective security and values can truly be practically understood (and applied) are almost precious to improving corporate culture.
There exist other management tools that deal with corporate culture unification suggesting solutions of cross-functional teams, decentralization/centralization, and more frequent/better employee communication. They help on a short time, but for the most part the conflicts remain.
Obviously, there is still a missing piece in the puzzle. Talking about organizational culture and the intonation that a leader brings in with his subjective “cultural background noise” is what shapes the new shift in organizational culture. How a leader does it is motivated by the culture he was raised in: Western / Eastern / South or North … and by the how well he is open and prepared to understand the differences. For instance, in the U.S., people love to call other people by their first name, Koreans and others remain largely as ‘people with no given names.’ In Western culture, we say ‘my’ school or office or country, as opposed to Eastern where ‘our’ would be used, even for such things as ‘our’ husband.
But then again our human behavior is framed with a “cultural background noise” – the one we are brought to and which normally influences, mentally and subconsciously, our values, ethics and morals. In multicultural environment it is not enough “to listen” but it is vital “to hear” (I’ve recently had a TEDx talk about it)!
At their core people are similar no matter where they come from. This is mostly used in martial arts. Martial arts in the East have a focus on the martial way, on the mental culture that makes one with the body, while in the West the perspective is sportier and competitive and winning becomes the main objective. But how and what martial arts’ philosophy has to do with a leadership process in multi-cultural environment? The answer is plain to see: they are practiced all over the world no matter of the background, ideology, color, gender. And for all of them the philosophy stays the same.