Cross Cultural Management – Apply the cultural theories to the chosen country, Japan.
CROSS CULTURAL MANAGEMENT JAPAN
<Lecturer’s Name and Course Number> <Discuss how different Cultural theories apply to Japan>
This paper applies the key themes of cross culture management, namely, Country Values, Determinants, and Theoretical Dimensions to the country of Japan, thus contributing towards a deeper understanding of the people and their ways.
Cross Cultural Management: Japan
Why is it necessary to understand the culture? Why do we study the people and the customs of the places all over the world? So far, humans are the only intelligent beings in the universe, and it is only with the mutual understanding that we will be able to succeed in all aspects of life. Ronald Inglehart talks about the changing views of the world in his study Globalization and Post-modern values. According to him, changes in society’s belief system directly impact the economic, political and social fronts of the world CITATION Ing00 p 1 l 16393 (Ingelhart, 2000, p. 1).
Japan’s contribution to the world has been unparalleled: not only is it a centre of education, but also one of the premier locations for technological developments in the world. Today, various Japanese companies have placed themselves in millions of households all over the world by contributing to sustainability and ease of life. On a cultural level, Japanese cuisine, ways of life, and festivals have been accepted by all as one.
This paper focuses on two aspects: first, it inspects the factors that drive life for the Japanese, and secondly, it examines how these very factors have had a positive on their business relations all across the world.
Determinants in the Japanese Culture
The Hofstede Centre observes and analyses the countries of the world with the aim of trying to find out the drives of each culture with respect to others on this Earth. When examining Japan through their famous 6-D lens model, six major revelations came forward. These revelations have been categorized into six streams: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and indulgence CITATION The151 p 1 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 1).
Power distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful sections of a society accept that the distribution of power among various sections is not equal. Japan scores 54 on this scale and proves the statement of the country being a hierarchical society, so much so that it often becomes cumbersome. In fact, the decision-making process in Japan is thought to be incredibly slow, which each step requiring approvals from the immediate superiors, and finally from the top authority. However, despite all this, the Japanese are a merit-oriented people. They believe in excellence and thus, encourage education. One can also say that they do not conform to the acceptable and communal levels of excellence by thinking that only some can do well in life: they believe that everyone has a fair chance CITATION The151 p 2 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 2).
Individualism refers to whether the people of society identify with the ideology of the ‘I’ or ‘we’. It deals with the extent to which interdependence exists within a society. With a score of 46, the Japanese are perfect examples of a ‘collectivist’ society insofar that group efforts are prized more than individual endeavours. They are also afraid of being shamed in public and equate it with their integrity and honour. However, individualism in Japan can be interpreted from two points of view: Japan is considerably more individualistic than its Asian counterparts. A popular tradition in Japan, for example, dictates that the family property is to be inherited by the eldest son, whereas the younger brothers are to leave home and make their own way. This is a custom different from other Asian countries, where people are inherently loyal to their family units. It is not, however, the case that the Japanese aren’t loyal: they are faithful to their individual choices more than anything. For example, they choose the company they want to work for and stay employed with it for many years as opposed to people in other cultures who are able to job hop more easily CITATION The151 p 2 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 2).
Scoring 95 on the masculinity scale, Japan is easily one of the most competitive and result-driven societies in the world. Societies who rank low on the masculinity index have as dominant traits caring and providing for others. The Japanese’s drive for perfection in all their endeavours, however, is associated with a high masculine score, as is the intense competition observed not only in corporates but also in schools and colleges. In the same sense, the Japanese are also a deferential people: it is hard for them to admit when they are wrong CITATION The151 p 3 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 3).
Apart from masculinity, uncertainty avoidance is also one of the primary driving forces of the Japanese culture: the country scored 92 on the uncertainty avoidance index. This refers to a country’s efforts to prepare for the unknown and the ambiguous future. Since the area around Japan is susceptible to natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions, the people of the country are prone to taking precautions against such situations both at the individual and at the community level. Wooden houses with bare minimums are thus common in Japan. Additionally, the country pays special attention to precedence: the people are reluctant to do anything without proper procedures and risk evaluation CITATION The151 p 3 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 3).
The Japanese avoid uncertainty not only regarding disaster but also in other aspects of life. Tradition, thus, is most respected by the country: school years start and end with similar ceremonies; weddings, funerals and other celebrations have pre-meditated etiquette that everyone is expected to follow; even corporate decisions are not made without the proper evaluation of each step. This, to a great extent, makes the Japanese highly predictable people.
Japan also scores well on the Long-term orientation index, which puts the country in the category of beneficial pragmatism: countries that rank high on this index do not view societal change with disdain and value time-followed traditions over present norms. With a score of 88, Japan, however, is one of the most practical and goal-oriented countries in the world. Japanese view their lives as very short in comparison to that of the world: thus, they focus on giving back as much as they can to society. This thought process permeates the very core of the society, from household activities to corporate atmospheres. This is also why the country consistently high on research and development and investment: the people are optimistic and accepting of the future CITATION The151 p 4 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 4).
Indulgence, lastly, refers to the extent to which factions of society try to control themselves from following through on their desires. Japan, with a low score of 42, proves itself to be a culture of restraint. Proof of this lies in the collectivist traits of people in the country, and also in how they dedicate themselves to work CITATION The151 p 4 l 16393 (The Hofstede Center, n.d., p. 4).
Country Values in Japan
The country values discussed here will be covered with relation to the individual, and to the group. With respect to the individual, Japan has consistently been ranked as one of the most rational countries of the world. More details can be found in the way the WVS determines how countries are different from each other. The survey compares two broad categories of values: survival and self-expression; and traditional and secular-rational values CITATION Wor15 l 16393 (World Values Survey Staff, 2015).
Survival refers to the extent that people care about personal security, either through finance or regarding possessions such as housing, food, shelter and so on. Self-expression, on the other hand, refers to the extent that people express their desires and opinions. Generally, poorer countries have a higher survival index, whereas richer nations rank higher on the latter CITATION Has13 l 16393 (Hashi, 2013) CITATION Wor15 l 16393 (World Values Survey Staff, 2015).
Having been included in some of the richest nations of the world, the survival ranking of the Japanese people is comparatively low. However, the country’s collectivism, at least from a western point of view, places it somewhere on the midway mark, meaning that the people aren’t really that prone to self-expression CITATION Wor15 l 16393 (World Values Survey Staff, 2015) CITATION Has13 l 16393 (Hashi, 2013).
Traditional values are valued by countries where religion, rituals, and age-old beliefs compel advancement and pragmatism to take a backseat. Secular-rational communities, on the other hand, accept people of various races and religions and adopt to changes in social, political, and economic worldviews faster and more positively than their counterparts. Japan ranks at the top regarding secular-rational values, meaning that the people, as mentioned before, adopt easily to life changes, and are amiable and stoic CITATION Has13 l 16393 (Hashi, 2013) CITATION Wor15 l 16393 (World Values Survey Staff, 2015).
These broad categories further led to the formation of nine culture clusters by GLOBE or the Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness Research Program. GLOBE has conducted detailed studies on societies all over the world, and hence categorized each into one of these categories. These clusters not only determine the general nature of the people in leadership and organizational atmospheres but are also helpful in gauging how similar or different a society is. Schwartz CITATION Shw94 l 16393 (Shwartz, 1994), Smith CITATION Smi95 l 16393 (Smith & Peterson, 1995), Hofstede CITATION Hof01 l 16393 (Hofstede, 1980/2001) and House CITATION Hou04 l 16393 (House, 2004) have further delineated on these categories in their respective papers.
Based on these, GLOBE came up with a 112 leadership categories, which were then further condensed into 21 categories on their own. These were then further reduced to six styles of leadership: charismatic/value based, team oriented, participative, humane, self-protective, and autonomous. Each of these styles further constitutes a set of values that leaders have. The values have been ranked on a scale of 1 to 7, with one being the least desirable and 7 being the most desirable. The categories on their own have been ranked on the same scale CITATION Hou06 l 16393 (House, et al., 2006).
Going by this, Japan scores highest (5.56) on team-oriented styles, which means that Japanese people value leadership that thinks about the welfare of the team. They prize motivating leaders and exemplify those who can look positive in tough times CITATION Hop14 p 5 l 16393 (Hoppe & Eckert, 2014, p. 5).
Japan also scores high (5.49) on charismatic leaders: this refers to leaders who can create a balance between tradition and practicality; who can motivate their team members to inspire for innovation and progress while still being rooted to the ground CITATION Hop14 p 5 l 16393 (Hoppe & Eckert, 2014, p. 5).
On participative and humane oriented leaderships, Japan scored 5.08 and 4.68 respectively. The first scores mean that the Japanese value leaders who would not hesitate to participate in activities with them, and who will maintain the integrity of the job without blurring distinctions or creating undue differences CITATION Hop14 p 5 l 16393 (Hoppe & Eckert, 2014, p. 5).
On self-protective and autonomous styles, Japan scored 3.61 and 3.67. Along with humane oriented leadership, these are two of the least desirable traits in a Japanese leader CITATION Hop14 p 5 l 16393 (Hoppe & Eckert, 2014, p. 5).
Cultural Values in Business Relationships: How have the Japanese’s behaviours impacted their business deals positively?
While analysing the business relations between Spain and Japan, Gloria Garcia stresses the importance of foreign cultures understanding their Japanese counterpart, especially when it comes to doing business with them.
Trading and working with the Japanese is a two-way street: they expect respect, while offering the same in return. Thus, they pay special attention to their foreign partners and take great pains in learning their ways and customs so as to facilitate a smooth transaction. Similarly, foreign partners are also expected to respect their traditions, like offering cards with both hands, and greeting someone with a bow CITATION Gar15 l 16393 (Garcia, 2015).
Garcia further details thirteen values that have made the Japanese some of the most amicable people to do business with. Not only do they strive for perfection, but they also understand the value of cultivating mutually beneficial relationships. Their honour is the most important aspect of their relationship with any entity, and they are cautious of not compromising it at any point of time. Similarly, they understand the importance of silence: they offer advice and insight only when essential. Additionally, they hold team work in high esteem, and cooperation within a group is highly sought after. This also makes them aware of the circumstances and their surroundings, and thus highly adaptable to change. They respect their peers and the immediate hierarchy, comply with social norms and strive for the best without compromising neither themselves nor their teams CITATION Gar15 l 16393 (Garcia, 2015).
This, thus, makes them some of the best business partners in the world. They are masters at keeping track of and respecting their partners’ wishes: in fact, they value inter-personal meetings outside of work. These include lunches, dinners, and even participating in celebrations. They are also very polite partners to do transactions with: the proof lies in the difficulty they face in outright refusals. They would much rather deflect than hurt their partners’ sentiments. They are not confrontational people.
It is understandable how, to other cultures, these habits may seem confusing, and even cold. However, those, who understand the culture, realize the high esteem in which the countrymen hold patience, harmony, thought and attention.
Japan is thus a country that has managed to achieve a perfect balance between culture and the corporate. Their drive for excellence has set them up to be not only some of the most intelligent people on the planet, but also some of the most humble and polite. In fact, there are very few places where one would find as healthy an atmosphere as in a business place in Japan. The country strives on competition but is not vindictive about it. It recognizes its limitations, but in no manner degrades itself over it. Instead, once the drawback has been identified, they make efforts to overcome the challenges and prove themselves to be worthy of the place that they hold.
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