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Intercultural Management Skills for Service Managers

In an increasingly global world, the role of framewors and universally recognized best practices has become more important. More over this affects companies facing its internationalization strategy through acquisitions and mergers. Also this applies when companies simply incorporate international investors among its shareholders.

Many years ago, IBM hired a Dutchman, Gerard Hofstede, to help them to improve efficiency in a wide global organization. As a result of his research work, he developed a great impact on many areas of management, especially in negotiating, managing and developing multicultural teams of internationalization strategies.

The 5 cultural dimensions of the Hofstede model

Hofstede analyzed 70 countries and simplified complex cultural patterns of conduct into five key simple indicators:

Power Distance Index (PDI)

The index of power distance refers to the degree of acceptance in the less powerful members of a culture, the differences in power or inequality. The PDI will be greater to the extent when such differences in social or hierarchical structures (such as companies, institutions or families) are more pronounced and generally accepted.

Individualism (IDV)

The IDV defines the degree to which individuals are integrated into society and the sense of belonging to the group. In a society with high IDV, for example, people tend to worry about themselves and their immediate family, while a very collectivist society, group ties are wider and the family unit is much larger (includes uncles, cousins ​​and grandparents).

Masculinity (MAS)

This indicator defines the tendency of a culture towards behavior patterns of greater masculinity or femininity. Hofstede’s study revealed that female values ​​were similar between different cultures than masculine values. Masculine societies were more assertive and competitive with regards to women, generally more modest and empathetic. In masculine societies there is a greater gap in male and female values, and women tend to be more competitive and assertive.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

The IAU is the societal acceptance of uncertainty and ambiguity versus absolute truth. According to Hofstede, a country with high UAI tries to avoid risks, unstructured situations, or get out of the usual. These countries are more emotional, often reinforce security with strict laws, and philosophical and religious level, believe in absolute truth. By contrast, countries with low UAI are usually more thoughtful, tolerant and relativistic.

Long Term Orientation (LTO)

This last dimension, added later, refers to the long-or short-term culture. The long-term orientation societies suggests thriftiness and perseverance. And for the short term, Hofstede talks about more traditional societies, which are concerned with social obligations, characterized by greater diplomacy, and tact in dealing (avoiding bluntness in speech, for example, and speak more bluntly).

Countries map based on Hofstede intercultural management

Although some indices seem to have a very clear connection, it is interesting to compare countries and see how successful are the studies of Hofstede:
Another interesting study comparing the professional cultural diferencies between countries is the Linkedin Top 10 Overused Professional Buzzwords.

Hofstede intercultural management applied to service management

When we address the provision of a comprehensive Service, whether due to the internationalization of production units or delivery, or both (such as in some cases), bear in mind the cultural differences that intervene in every geographical location of the Service.
In this sense, the implementation of ITIL best practices by the GSMO (Global Service Management Office) helps greatly to mitigate the “culture gap” and manage the integration of all production units involved to provide Global Services. The aim is to work in all countries equally and especially to deliver services in the same way to all international Customers (in a way that they know well, because it is based on the best practices recognized by the market). 

The combination of Intercultural Management with a GSMO and a Service Model based on ITIL best practices are key to success in a global world.

For more information, I recommend this case study about “Cultures And Organizations  –  Software of the Mind” (based in the book with the same name) and also this practice exercise. There are also organizations in Europe and USA about this matter.

Thus, the mission of a GSMO is to catalyze the “Corporate Culture” in Insourcing/Outsourcing operations, in order to facilitate the governance and management methods needed for proper performance/operation of Global Services.

Do you think is it important to recognize, develop and exploit our Intercultural Management skills?