Developing Managers: The Functional, the Symbolic, the Sacred and the Profane *.
This paper offers a new perspective on international management by examining the role of culture and management development in creating international expertise, a sense of identity and realizing organizational control. A critical analysis of the culture transmission and management development philosophy and practice of a UK-based transnational reveals how the transmission of culture accomplishes management development objectives, while management development itself serves as a vehicle for the transmission of the desired corporate values. This recursiveness is sustained by a corporate ideology that urges the creation of integrative values and, in turn, is legitimized by the quest for favourable functional and symbolic consequences.
Descriptors: management training and development, culture, ideology, functionalism, symbolism
Reconciling headquarter-subsidiary interests while maintaining a distinct identity continues to be a major challenge for multinational firms, hence the think global/act local paradox. For Ghoshal and Bartlett (1990) this problem can be addressed by effectively handling the network of exchange relationships. Other solutions include socialization and the management of expatriates (e.g. Edstrom and Galbraith 1977; Tung 1982); managing relationships between expatriates and host-country subordinates (e.g. Shaw 1990); creating cultural synergy (e.g. Adler 1980); fostering cooperative relationships and developing conflict-resolution mechanisms (e.g. Doz et al. 1981); diffusing ‘best proven practices’ (e.g. Rosenzweig and Singh 1991); reconciling organizational linkages (e.g. Borys and Jemison 1989) and diffusing and leveraging knowledge (e.g. Gupta and Govindarajan 1991; Kamoche 1996). Bartlett and Ghoshal (1989: 187) found that successful transnational firms used management development ‘to build cultural norms, sha pe organizational processes and influence individual managerial behaviour in a way that reinforced worldwide strategies and organizational objectives’. This implies a potentially integrative role for culture and management training and development (MTD).
Going beyond the typical concern with ‘better skills’, this study offers a much more complex and multi-faceted picture of MTD which reveals an intricate interplay between MTD and corporate culture. We show how managers in a multinational firm disguised as International Products (IP) account for their training and career development activities and how they rationalize such activities in terms of an integrative corporate culture. 1 Thus, MTD serves as a tool for the transmission of culture, while a putative integrative culture in turn furnishes the rationale for MTD. This recursiveness finds legitimacy in the ideological premise, promulgated by senior management, that it is in the joint interests of the firm and the managers to absorb and internalize the organizational values inherent in the corporate culture, because this helps managers to secure a high-flying career. The legitimacy of this assumption is analyzed by adopting a two-pronged approach which examines the functional and symbolic explanations for t he MTD-culture interplay. Below, we set out the three components of our conceptual model.
MTD includes personal development, socialization and organizational change (e.g. Margerison 1991; Mumford 1989) and the design and application of competencies to improve behavioural outcomes (e.g. Boam and Sparrow 1992; Boyatzis 1982; Spencer and Spencer 1993). The concept of ‘learning’ has also been central to MTD, from ‘action learning’ (e.g. Revans 1980), and ‘experiential learning’ (e.g. Kolb 1984), to the more recent developments in the ‘learning organization’ (e.g. Argyris 1996). The dominant theme in MTD is the development of managerial expertise to enhance organizational functioning. Thus, it has been argued that managerial expertise can be a source of strategic value through effective teamwork (e.g. Hambrick 1987), in so far as managers with superior skills can generate rents (e.g. Castanias and Helfat 1991), and given the experiential aspect of international networking and expatriate assignments (e.g. Roth 1995).
Others have attempted to demonstrate how managerial and professional competencies support organizational strategies (e.g. Boam and Sparrow 1992; Sparrow 1994). While there seems to be some evidence that MTD can positively affect organizational performance, especially when linked with strategy (Winterton and Winterton 1997), the difficulty of establishing such a linkage has led some to accept the value of MTD as an act of faith. In international management, the MTD agenda has to go beyond skill formation and competence creation to embrace the diffusion and transmission of knowledge across borders and cultures. The uni-dimensional view about the functional value of MTD is ripe for critical analysis. Lees’ (1992) theoretical analysis of why much of MTD exists, even though there is little evidence of improvements in corporate performance, is a useful starting point. This paper goes further, to explore managers’ explicit and apparent interests in MTD in an organization that is well-known for developing internation al expertise.
The concept of culture is now a familiar theme and will not be discussed here (see e.g. Deal and Kennedy 1982; Hofstede 1980; Schein 1985; Trice and Beyer 1993; Turner 1989). Instead, we focus attention on the transmission of culture, a less understood issue. An understanding of the processes of culture transmission is important because the acceptance or absorption of culture by organizational members tells us something about the members’ commitment to the organizational objectives. This can be illustrated in Scott’s (1987) argument that ‘strong’ cultures sustain commitment to the organization through a belief system. It is in this regard that Harrison and Carroll (1991) examine how organizations seek to maintain the allegiance and loyalty of their members. Culture transmission processes typically assume that culture comprises ‘artefacts’ and that it is the manager’s task to manage them in order to bring about desired changes in employee behaviour (e.g. Trice and Beyer 1985). This encourages the view that man agers are the objective creators and manipulators of a corporate culture that they are themselves immune to, and their task is to inculcate the corporate culture in employees through selection, performance management and socialization.
This paper therefore sheds new light on the culture transmission process by examining how and why managers generate a culture for themselves. In their culture transmission model, Harrison and Carroll (1991) consider three factors: (a) recruitment: selecting those who best fit the organization’s culture; (b) socialization: intensifying the enculturation of employees, e.g. through orientation and reward systems, and (c) turnover: retaining highly socialized employees and encouraging the departure of the rest. Thus, when the organization is able to control the ‘demographic flow’ of its members by carefully managing the entry, retention and exit phases, culture transmission is achievable.
The use of clearly defined manifestations of culture, e.g. metaphors, logos, stories, rituals, totems, and so forth, has been found to reinforce cultural values, and lead to the acceptance of organizational goals (e.g. Berg 1986; Kamoche 1995; Peters 1987; Pfeffer 1981; Wilson 1992). As for the tools of transmission, we argue that the role of training has been ignored in preference to other HR activities such as selection and rewarding. To the extent that training involves teaching and reinforcing desired forms of behaviour, it is a potentially powerful mechanism of culture transmission. This is because whatever organizational values are incorporated into the training courses, they assume legitimacy by becoming part of the ‘knowledge’ required for job performance and career advancement. This is captured in the words of an Argentinian manager at IP who said: ‘the company culture is spread by managers coming to the centre to take courses, and by having expatriates at operating companies, expatriates from all co untries we operate in’.
In an effort to bring the ideological debate closer to organization theory, Bendix (1956) sought to explain managerial ideologies in terms of historical, cultural, political and economic factors, and, in particular, how ideologies are used to advance material interests. Many writers have taken the over-simplistic view that ideology is about shared norms and beliefs. Beyer (1981: 166) defines ideology as ‘relatively coherent sets of beliefs that bind some people together and that explain their worlds in terms of cause–effect relations. Meyer (1982: 47) adopts Beyer’s (1981) definition, but goes further to suggest that the cause-and-effect is ‘circular because ideologies also shape their adherents’ worlds’. Dunbar et al. (1982: 91) define ideologies as ‘shared beliefs which reflect the social experience in a particular context and particular time’; this definition comes closer to locating ideas within a historical context, though the basis of the contention amongst different groups is not developed further. Fo r Starbuck (1982), ideologies are ‘logically integrated clusters of beliefs, values, rituals, and symbols’. Brunsson (1982: 38) takes a more simplistic view that ‘ideology is a set of ideas’ and does not explore their socio-historical context.
The tendency to treat ideology as unproblematic ignores the contested nature of the generation of ideas and thus legitimizes the assumption of ‘shared values’ supposedly inherent in ideology. Stace (1996) falls into this trap by describing ‘change ideologies’ without either defining ideology or examining its socio-political origins and/or implications. In a critical analysis of the role of ideology in fostering American market capitalism, Spich (1995) observes that ideologies are neither accurate nor honest depictions of reality. For Spich (1995: 20), ‘an ideology is a belief system and official viewpoint created, expressed and maintained through institutions … which offers explanations for the world and its working’. This opens the debate to a more critical examination of the motives and interests underpinning the creation and propagation of ideology. Similarly, Weiss and Miller (1987) emphasize the need to analyze ideology with reference to ‘its central theoretical focus on contention among groups and individuals with different social positions and material interests’ (Weiss and Miller 1987: 108). In their conception of ideology as ‘a set of beliefs about how the social world operates’, Simons and Ingram (1997: 784), recognize the role of power and politics in determining what outcomes are ‘desirable in a society’. In this regard, we examine the role of ideology in legitimizing organizational outcomes and how managers are socialized to think and act in ways that help to realize those outcomes.
The key constructs are brought together to generate a model, as illustrated in Figure 1. We analyze the model within the context of IP and then show how it is realized and legitimized through functionalist and symbolic consequences. The importance of these consequences emerged from discussions with managers and thus clearly reflects managerial practice. To understand this process, it may be useful to recall Giddens’ (1973: 69) ‘duality of structure’, which refers to the recursiveness of social life, in which ‘the structural properties of social systems are both the medium and the outcome of the practices that constitute those systems’. We theorize that MTD activities serve as a mechanism for the production of corporate culture; at the same time, the transmission of culture is itself an MTD mechanism. The organization thus comes to be constituted and reproduced through the managers’ conscious efforts to realize cultural and personal developmental outcomes. The formulation of this model is located firmly within the organizational strategies and specific policies to train IP managers into competent, high achievers. This is examined more fully in the sections below. The following section characterizes the MTD culture dialectic at IP.
Management Training and Development at IP
This description of MTD was generated from documentary materials and discussions with IP managers, in particular those who were involved in MTD planning and design (i.e. the British training and assistant training managers, the British remuneration manager and the Belgian training manager — the key informants). MTD at IP is described as:
‘The process by which managers are prepared by selection and experience to meet the present and future needs of the concern and its constituent parts: companies, departments, management groups.’ (Source: Official Training Policy documents)
It includes courses at the company’s prestigious training institute (IPI) and international assignments involving the systematic rotation of managers around the world, for 2-4 years at a time. International assignments are based on an evaluation of managers slated for senior level positions. Managers aspiring to the top echelons must expect to take 2-3 international assignments in their career, and a series of recommended courses. The training programmes resemble a mini-MBA, with staff drawn from top American and European business schools. There are four categories of courses: focused ‘workshops’ on specific topics like new accounting regulations, quality standards, etc; ‘awareness’ courses on new disciplines (e.g. introducing commercial managers to production issues); ‘functional’ for more specialized knowledge within disciplines, (e.g. advanced marketing for marketing managers); and ‘general management’, covering an assortment of strategic and policy issues for all managers. Evaluation criteria for career advancement include: academic or professional qualifications, yearly performance measures, problem solving, decision making, working under pressure, competency in key operational areas, international orientation (language proficiency and international assignments undertaken), leadership and individual potential. It also covers the extent to which they have conducted themselves in line with corporate, i.e. cultural, values. For example, to what extent has a manager upheld professional ethics?; how accessible are they to subordinates? This is designed to internalize cultural values. Career planning therefore requires a careful assessment of managers’ developmental needs and aspirations, and the organizational requirements. In this way, individual aspirations and organizational goals become intertwined through the MTD-culture dialectic.
It did not seem useful to measure the attributes of the IP culture. Following Sackman (1992) on inductive research on subcultures as opposed to a prior hypothesizing, I sought to infer the meaning of IP culture by observing managerial behaviour, listening to managers’ accounts of lived experiences and what they thought were the distinctive manifestations of their culture. A thematic analysis revealed the following as the most widely accepted features of IP culture: professionalism and business ethics; capacity to see the ‘whole business picture’ (i.e. generalization rather than specialization); cautious, risk-averse decision-making; highly bureaucratic procedures; non-abrasiveness in communication and personal relations; minimal use of obvious perks and office status symbols; accessibility to managers. 2 Views on IP culture evolved around the desired behavioural norms, especially for those involved in international assignments. Virtually all the managers interviewed reported that they ‘felt at home’ at other subsidiaries because they recognized the IP culture, which indicates that the above values represent a belief system that defines the identity of P. Culture transmission begins with selection/induction and progresses through subsequent training and career management. Managers can expect to advance through the hierarchy it by their behaviour, they demonstrate an adherence to the above corporate/cultural values.
Following Beyer (1981) and Simons and Ingram (1997), we draw from Apter’s (1964) contention that ideology is the link between belief and action (see Figure 1). This view is developed further in Wilson’s (1973) treatment of ideology in terms of how it engenders understanding and at the same time serves as a guide for action. We adopt this view of ideology to argue that the understanding of the reality of the social world of IP is achieved through a conception of cultural beliefs. These beliefs are realized in part through the actions of managers to achieve the status of an international organization as well as their own career objectives through MTD. Therefore, while the cultural values represent the belief system, MTD offers the opportunity for action. The belief system stands for the set of ideas as to how the social world of IP operates, and more importantly, what is considered to be the ‘right’ way to behave and act. Through the analytical concept of ideology, we can begin to understand the assumptions about the ‘right’ way to behave, whose interests are being served and why IP managers acquiesce in the supposedly integrative values.
By embedding integrative values within the MTD system that determines career advancement, the organization in effect emasculates potentially deviant and non-conformist individual interests. The tendency for organizations to select and socialize members in order to enhance ideological conformity or homogeneity has been observed (e.g. Dunbar et al. 1982; Kanter 1977; Simons and Ingram 1997). Dunbar et al. (1982: 97) observe that if such efforts are successful, ‘ideologies may become valued as correct, familiar, and beneficial, and the limitations of these ideologies may be unnoticed or denied’. At IP, the search for ideological homogeneity through integrative cultural values secures an even higher level of legitimacy because managers believe that MTD delivers a successful career. In a similar vein, Spich (1995: 22) argues that ‘the closer the ideology is to serving the needs for knowing of individuals, the more likely they will turn to it as an explanatory system, no matter how imperfect it might be’. To understand managers’ acquiescence in the corporate ideology, we argue that the dynamic recursiveness between MTD and culture at IP appeared to serve two specific purposes: a functionalist one which allows managers to realize career interests and networking, while at the same time serving the organization’s interests by inculcating culture and securing organizational control; secondly, it facilitates a rite of passage and appears to possess a totemic quality. These two perspectives were gleaned from in-depth interviews. We argue here that the IP ideology that harmonizes MTD and culture, assumes legitimacy through the functional and symbolic purposes it serves. Below, we detail the research process that generated these insights.
Research, using multiple methods, was carried out over a twelve-month period (during 1993-94) in the London head office of IP, a multinational firm with interests ranging from food processing to healthcare products. At the time of the research the entire group comprised 500 (part-owned and affiliated) companies in 70 countries. It had $38 billion in sales and $2 billion in profit. Initial contact took place through correspondence with the key informants. Subsequent visits involved numerous meetings with the key informants and an opportunity to analyze official documentation and archival records, MTD policies and syllabi, including training, expatriation and socialization. However, access to the training institute was denied, ‘as a matter of policy’. While it would have been helpful to interview managers taking courses at the time, this was not a serious handicap since 10 of the 25 informants were IPI graduates. The rest considered themselves eligible; a stint at head office was thought to be a good omen. Also , I was satisfied that sufficient training documentation was available at the head office.
The first phase of the research thus focused on making sense of the reality of MTD through informal discussions with managers and other staff, studying the MTD literature, and observing behaviour in the open-plan offices, seminar lounges and recreational areas. The key informants frequently helped me to select other informants randomly and purposefully (Patton 1980) — thus obtaining a sample of managers from different backgrounds (functional and national). The second phase comprised formal interviews, each lasting up to 90 minutes. A total of 25 managers were interviewed, 10 from the European region and based at the Centre. The rest were selected opportunistically from those on assignments at the Centre; they were from Asia, Africa and South America. Four of the former and 6 of the latter were IPI graduates.
IP has an integrated career development system that tracks and categorizes high-potential management as follows: (A) 10 percent, senior managers, e.g. members of corporate boards (directors), works managers of large companies; (B) 20 percent, upper middle managers, e.g. marketing managers, production managers, management accountants; (C) 70 percent, lower middle managers, e.g. departmental production managers. A profile of the informants is summarized in Figure 2. It is not claimed that the respondents form a representative sample. Rather than seeking generalizability at the level of populations, it was intended that the data would facilitate the explanation of social phenomena at the level of subjective experience using qualitative analysis. In this regard, Van Maanen (1983: 10) reminds us that such data ‘are symbolic, contextually embedded, cryptic, and reflexive, standing for nothing so much as their readiness or stubbornness to yield a meaningful interpretation and response’. Similarly, Gummesson (1988: 7 9, emphasis in original) argues that generalizability in a single case should be seen in terms of achieving ‘a fundamental understanding of the structure, process and driving forces, rather than a superficial establishment of correlation or cause-effect relationships’.
Formal interviews were followed up with subsequent visits and telephone conversations for further information, clarification and corroboration. The interview checklist included questions such as: what do you consider as the distinctive features of the way managers behave here? What distinguishes IP from rival companies? What do managers need to do to succeed? What kinds of people are most likely to have an exemplary career? How important is an international assignment for career advancement? What are managers hoping to achieve from MTD? What does the firm expect from managers undergoing MTD? What is it like to take an assignment here? What is it like to take a course at IPI? What does a visit to IP and IPI do for one’s career? The key questions were explored with appropriate probing. This approach has been successfully used in other inductive and qualitative research on culture (e.g. Hofstede et al. 1990; Sackman 1992). Through a qualitative analysis, I was able to piece together the commonly held values of IP culture and how these are linked to the major objectives of MTD, as described in the training policies and interviews. These are illustrated in Figure 3.
There was widespread consensus about the ‘integrative’ role of culture, the link between culture, MTD and a successful career. As there were no significant differences in opinion based on geographical origin, the views are treated as those of a fairly homogenous cadre of high-flier managers. 3 For example, all the informants agreed that it was more ‘prestigious’ to visit IPI than the Centre. None of the 15 visiting managers expressed an interest in a permanent position at the Centre. Only the Pakistani marketing manager admitted that he would be interested in taking up a senior position at the Centre later in his career. One noteworthy difference based on IPI status was that ‘analytical thinking’ was rated the most important dimension of MTD by WI graduates (3 UK-based; 5 Other); for non-IPI graduates, the most significant dimension was ‘broad vision’ (4 UK-based; 7 Other).
The functional and symbolic aspects were analyzed with reference to the conceptual model and illustrated with selected quotes from the interviews. Following Ragin (1994), we adopt an interpretive approach to facilitate theory building and the understanding of ‘meaning’. This, according to Ragin (1994: 92), is the ‘key to in-depth knowledge.’ This paper thus achieves depth through an incisive and detailed analysis.
‘Functionalist’ here refers both to the purposive use of policies/practices to achieve managerially sanctioned objectives aimed at enhancing organizational performance and effectiveness, and the quest for practically useful outcomes. In this regard, Burrell and Morgan (1988: 26) argue that the ‘functionalist paradigm’:
‘seeks to provide essentially rational explanations of social affairs. It is a perspective which is highly pragmatic in orientation, concerned to understand society in a way which generates knowledge which can be put to use … Concerned to provide practical solutions to practical problems.’
This rationality is a dominant theme in the management literature. Selznick (1948: 25) articulated this by describing the formal organization as ‘the structural expression of rational action’. Thus Functionalism offers a plausible explanation for the ‘commonsensical’ purposes of acquiring and utilizing managerial expertise, and disseminating corporate culture. The corporate objectives were to create a highly competent cadre of managers who accepted and shared IP cultural values, while managers sought favourable consequences in personal development and career advancement. These are examined below.
According to one IP manager: ‘companies drift a lot all the time, but not culturally. if you can educate people about your culture, you’ll stay afloat’. This perspective was evident in interviews and training manuals. Assignments are held at the Centre and business concepts are taught at IPI with a view to enhancing cultural values as illustrated in Figure 3. Specific cultural training programmes and seminars are designed to increase cultural sensitivity for international assignments. One aspect of business ethics is their policy not to engage in corrupt practices, even if it means loss of business. Various managers reported that training was not just about courses, but also about ‘allowing people to make mistakes’ in order to create trust, a learning environment, and an P perspective. According to one manager:
‘By being at the Centre you learn about the long-term strategy and culture and eventually become an IP man. Coming to the Centre has an aura of advancement, and it helps you to bring together your thoughts and beliefs which are more in line with the company. I always feel I move too fast for others, especially in Chile where the pace is really fast. But coming here slows you down, gets you to see things from the company’s point of view.’ (Chilean commercial manager)
The extent to which managers understand and absorb corporate values is measured through regular performance evaluation and review on completion of courses/assignments. The review involves reports on ‘learning points’ and a proposal on how to implement lessons learned. Career management involves evaluating managers’ capacity to train others and inculcate corporate values. Managers realize, therefore, that their own advancement is partly dependent on their ability to transmit the IP culture. One noteworthy outcome is that manager turnover was described as ‘close to nil’. This is attributable to, inter alia, the firm’s retention strategy, whereby managers accept the IP culture and can realize career prospects. The use of financial, motivational and cultural instruments to secure retention has been noted (e.g. Kamoche and Mueller 1998). The achievement of ‘ideological homogeneity’ is therefore manifest in the way people opt to work for TP, or how IP policies select people. Managers described how IP created and ta ught its cultural values by ‘teaching’ managers and subordinates, tolerating mistakes to allow people to learn, and building trust. The quotes below illustrate the diversity of these processes:
‘We want to hire people who aren’t too specialized and are excited by an international career. I wouldn’t, for example work for a UK firm, I think they’re too narrow. They see their world on very British terms, and you can’t afford to do that if you’re competing globally, let alone in Europe.’ (British commercial manager)
‘We don’t believe in hiring mavericks, you know, the types that really stick out. We want team players who really support the IP style. Once they understand the IP vision, they can respond to external pressures. So, as an IP manager, you have to be a part of this whole culture to do your job.’ (Pakistani marketing manager)
‘How do you get people to be international? We move them around jobs across the world, get them to see the world. That way they become flexible in their thinking, you get rid of the stagnation. Those who are afraid of change phase themselves out, and you’re left with the real IP people.’ (Zimbabwean marketing manager)
‘While selecting graduate trainees, it’s natural to look for those who look like yourselves. It just happens, unconsciously. It can be very dangerous, you know — discrimination, equal opportunities. And in South Africa, you see a lot of abuse everywhere; for example the development of Black managers is quite franidy abysmal.’ (South African management accountant)
The transmission of culture is not a fait accompli. The problem of transmitting culture to subordinates and those not fortunate enough to participate in high-flier MTD was widely acknowledged. While teaching business ethics and leadership is easy enough, it is much more difficult to appreciate the sense of an integrative corporate ethos second-hand. Therefore, as implied by writers who are wedded to the idea of ideology as a shared set of beliefs, the integrative capacity of culture cannot be taken for granted. There are potential difficulties in the perpetuation of an integrative ideology through culture. One West African manager said: ‘you get to the top faster if you’re British; for those not in the culture, it’s not so easy’. The manager considered this a source of resentment. For others:
‘Culture is about perceptions, and you can never know how people deal with perceptions. How do you communicate perceptions? Are people learning anything from you? You can never know. Culture has to be experienced. It cannot be taught. The thousands who don’t come to the head office can only imagine what it’s like here. You can’t teach them. Impossible!’ (Brazilian technical director)
‘It’s hard to create culture, and even harder to teach it to others, you know, new people. Of course we all know what values IP considers important, and by coming here we’re making a statement about these values. We agree with them and uphold them. But you can’t have a high-powered induction with really overt cultural signs. So I suppose IP gets the managers it deserves.’ (British production manager)
Evidently, the IP culture has been largely accepted as the ‘correct way to perceive, think and feel’ (Schein 1985) in relation to international management. However, the critical views and resentment are indicative of hidden multiple and possibly divergent interests.
Subtle Appeal To Managerial Self-Interest
This section considers the functionalist reasons why managers subscribe to the IP ideology. We argue here that although they may well have a genuine sympathy with the ideology, the functionalist analysis suggests that their own self-interest plays a central role. It would seem reasonable to assume that an obvious incentive is remuneration. Indeed, Ackers and Preston (1997) have noted the capacity of culturally sanctioned management development activities to elicit the acceptance and compliance of managers where tangible incentives are offered. This can ultimately lead to a ‘culture trap’ (Kunda 1992) which combines normative pressure with seductiveness and coercion, with the potential for ‘totalitarian control’ (Willmott 1993). Normative control and seductiveness would seem to have resonances with the experience of managers at IP. The remuneration policy was described as ‘internationally competitive’, but confidential. In international assignments, careful assessment is carried out to ensure that the manager is not worse off. However, seductiveness did not appear to arise from financial reward. An alternative explanation was suggested by frequent claims that managers who anticipated going to IPI did not expect to learn much on the IPI courses; IPI graduates also reported that they had acquired little new knowledge.
‘I can’t say I learned anything new on the course. The real training takes place at work — through years of experience. It’s like jazz music, you train hard for years, and the real test is when all the musicians are improvising together. Same thing with (MTD), we all bring something to the course, and the test is how do we get it to work?’ (Argentinian Commercial Director)
‘It’s not what’s on the course that really matters. It’s the other things you do while you’re there, the people you meet, networking, learning from each other. It’s the interaction with colleagues from the whole of the IP group. So if you ask me what did I learn about marketing, finance etc., that I didn’t know before, I’ll say, yeah, some new concepts, cases … but at the end of the day, it’s the whole package.’ (Dutch commercial manager)
Watson (1994: 161) found a similar ambivalence about management courses in a UK firm: managers were not sure what their courses were ‘good for’, and therefore sought to explain them in terms of building confidence and networking. The question is why are managers prepared to invest their time and effort on courses which, by their own admission, are somewhat at variance with the official policy? The answer appears to lie in the promise of managerial accomplishment. Managers are taught to expect rapid career advancement up the scale in line with their own aspirations and are encouraged to pursue high-profile careers.
‘The development of people at every level of its business is of critical importance to those individuals who have the potential to achieve positions in senior management.’ (Source: Official Training Policy documents)
‘Personnel policies give people incentives to come up with their own track record rather than just for the company. An excellent track record is the mark of a successful career, and this is what we very much encourage.’ (Belgian training manager)
‘We encourage people, support them and do all we can to develop them into world-class achievers. It’s very important that you have an outstanding career, it says who you are, and what you’re doing for the firm.’ (British remuneration manager)
Managers reported that IP offered the prospects of a very rewarding career; they felt ‘valued’, and in turn developed an obligation to ‘make the operation work’ in the words of one manager. As such, the firm made a promise of success to those who were prepared to internalize its values. This was frequently reinforced by exhortations to join ‘fast stream development’ and become ‘world-class achievers’. These exhortations appeared to be consistent with managers’ self-interests. They reported that they were attracted to IP by the ‘opportunity to succeed’. The task of disseminating IP ideology to people who are, for all practical purposes, converted ab initio, becomes fairly unproblematic. MTD has been shown in the literature to reinforce elitism, status and the organizational hierarchy (e.g. Anthony 1986; Lees 1992). In addition, the status and ideological aspect of learning to facilitate entry into a new role has been recognized (e.g. Holman and Hall 1996). The search for exclusivity and status within the IP co mmunity was a widely shared value. However, some managers questioned its long-term implications, as in the quotes below.
‘There’s scope to develop more people but they don’t do it. They simply ignore the benefits because they can’t see them now and they think it’s too costly in the short term. So they focus on high-fliers and ignore the other 95 percent. These are the ones who don’t contribute to the culture because they’ve never experienced it. They don’t believe in it. So what happens to them? There’s a lot of wasted potential. To release their potential you have to invest-manage time, and allow them to make mistakes.’ (Chilean accountant)
‘The firm hasn’t always been run by high-fliers. Teamwork has always been a part of who we are. But now, by identifying high-fliers, I fear we’ll eventually alienate those with limited ambition. Not everyone wants to get to the top, you know — even managers. I walk around a lot and try to stay in touch with what’s going on, see that people understand our culture. No-one should be in a dead-end job … it just creates resentment.’ (Indian General Manager)
The critics agreed, however, that career interests can override concerns about real or potential inequalities if one continues to benefit from the system. This demonstrates the role that managerial self-interest plays in sustaining the IP ideology. Next we examine how managerial accomplishment is enhanced further through networking and socialization.
Networking, Socialization and Control
Networking is considered an essential career advancement and survival mechanism for managers who are constantly on the move. Through a comprehensive system of company and personal networks, managers share information and seek new ideas on personal and professional matters, for example through the IP Expatriate Link. Practical outcomes of networking include quick acclimatization and information sharing for inter-company collaborations e.g. in product development. The key players in networking and socialization are senior executives who act as mentors and are often informally referred to as ‘Senators’. 4 Careers hinged around the capacity to make oneself visible to Senators, whose role was explained as follows:
‘The head office is like a parliament with a lot of politicians planning and discussing the future of the company. The key executives are like Senators. If you don’t know the Senators it’s very difficult to advance. You have to constantly lobby, talk to people in private, find out what’s going on, get involved. Just don’t get left out.’ (Chilean commercial manager)
‘Life is fast in Argentina, and you’ve got to take risks all the time … If you don’t take risks, you’re putting the business at risk. Here in London, life is too slow. When you come here, you feel like you’ve lost your job. Can be a bad feeling. You have no business; you feel remote, removed from the real world of business. The good thing is you make lots of contact with IP people, and share in the culture. That’s really the good part, because you’ll need these contacts. You’ll need the Senators.’ (Argentinian finance manager)
The mentors not only give advice, but also help to imbue their wards with a bigger sense of what IP stands for and to help them identify their role within that community. This is consistent with Trice and Beyer’s (1993: 130) view that ‘organizational socialization consists of social processes through which organizations transmit to members the expectations associated with their roles’. For Van Maanen and Schein (1979) this form of socialization defines the individual’s movement along ‘inclusionary boundaries’. Networking enables the IP manager to acquire the social knowledge necessary to be an ‘insider’, and to be accepted as a member of the cadre of high-fliers. Some quotes illustrate this:
‘Before I went to IPI I was actually told by my superiors to make contacts for the future, to get people’s business cards, and even photos if possible. They were really serious about it. Business cards I could understand, but photographs! It seemed funny at the time, but now I see what they meant.’ (Nigerian production manager)
‘Working in different countries and meeting different kinds of people certainly helps you to learn about other cultures that you have to deal with in your career. Most managers believe networking here at the Centre is even better, because it carries that special aura … gives you an edge … like one of the chosen few.’ (Kenyan training manager)
Networking serves an unambiguous functional purpose in career advancement:
‘In a place that’s full of very ambitious people, there’s a lot of competition. That’s where networking comes in — you might need to get someone to notice you. It happens informally, not deliberately.’ (Pakistani personnel manager)
However, networking and ‘being noticed’ can be a double-edged sword:
‘It can work both ways. You can have someone up there help pull you up. But also if you’ve messed up sometime in the past, someone will remember, and it can hurt. This networking can be tricky business.’ (Ghanaian finance manager)
Sending managers from the head office to the subsidiaries, coupled with a systematic process of socialization has long been identified as a control mechanism (e.g. Edstrom and Galbraith 1977). This was attested to by IP managers. The official policy states that the expatriate numbers should be kept at a minimum so as to develop local talent without compromising the development of international expertise. This also serves to assure local managers of career prospects at the highest levels in the country or region, in effect reinforcing their acceptance of MTD by virtue of the promise of managerial accomplishment.
‘Sending expatriates to operating companies serves to keep a London eye on things, to make sure everything’s fine. In some parts of Africa it’s necessary, but when we have more and more people coming here, it creates confidence, so the managers can be left to get on with the job.’ (Cote d’Ivorian production manager)
‘It’s inevitable that expatriates will be used as a form of control. Sometimes you need the centre to remind people about ethics and standards, which in some places can get a bit slack, to be honest.’ (Nigerian marketing manager)
‘Having expats is often essential at the beginning, but if you continue to have too many it shows you’re not developing locals. Locals get frustrated and leave since they don’t see a future there. Then the headquarters just send more because they don’t trust you. The thing to do is to get good locals, train them, give them the IP culture and let them get on with their job.’ (Pakistani marketing manager)
Control by sending subsidiary managers to the headquarters has virtually been ignored in the literature. This form of control is more subtle, because managers perceive the stint at the Centre as a privilege and reward for competence and loyalty. Visiting managers reported that, despite the rigorous evaluation system which was monitored at the Centre, it was not unusual for individuals to lobby their superiors to be ‘nominated’ for a course or assignment. Most understand that it takes more than consistent high achievement to ‘join the club’. This opens the way for political activity, which, in addition to helping the politically adept influence the circumstances that lead to their selection, also attests to their potential ‘to network’ — a cherished quality at IP. Of the 15 visiting managers 5 thought the choice was based in part on lobbying and the need to reward perceived loyalty. However, an IPI graduate criticized those who spent all their time lobbying and engaging in politics; according to him, the comp any was so big ‘it was like a paradise for those who don’t want to work’. A non-IPI graduate reported:
‘Sometimes the decision about when to train is flawed. The most important courses are reserved for key people, rather than for those who really need them. And if you select individuals on questionable criteria, it raises questions about whether you’re creating a capacity for the whole company. What sense does it make for someone who has been a marketing manager for twelve years to go on an advertising evaluation programme? You can only conclude that the company is trying to thank them or stop them from leaving.’ (Nigerian marketing manager)
The tangibility of these reward/retention mechanisms would appear to play a decisive role in legitimizing the integrative ideology. The managers’ loyalty is won because their very presence at head office signifies that their potential for senior management has been recognized. The complexity and dynamic nature of the ideology is such that the star-performers help the firm, albeit inadvertently, to secure further control over the behavioural outcomes of MTD.
The foregoing discussion has revealed the multifaceted nature of MTD at IP. On one level, managers sought after and, in the main, achieved clear-cut career objectives which were consistent with the firm’s culture transmission strategy. This process is politically charged: through networking, and socialization. By lobbying powerful executives, individuals seek to influence the circumstances that determine their career. These circumstances constitute and define the organizational structures, rules of behaviour, forms of language and cultural manifestations which are reproduced in a structurationist fashion. Riley (1983: 435) suggests that by using such structures again and again, people ‘re-legitimate what was past, provide a medium for the present and set the stage for the future’.
The MTD-culture dialectic is thus legitimized by individuals’ career aspirations, the accomplishment of which subsequently reaffirms the functional value of MTD for both the individual and the organization. This recursiveness illustrates the progressive reconstitution of the social systems that comprise career management. We argue that the firm’s capacity to deliver on the promise of a successful corporate career restrains managers from self-interested behaviour which would jeopardize the realization of this dream. Thus, potential ideological conflicts are resolved. Normative control (Etzioni 1961) over managers’ actions is in essence a fait accompli, since they willingly collude in upholding the corporate icon of the MTD system within which the notion of a successful corporate career is enshrined. Echoing Burawoy’s (1979) ‘hegemonic despotism’, whereby the firm achieves control through consent rather than force, we suggest that at IP, commitment is ‘manufactured’ through a combination of promises of manageri al accomplishment, career advancement, visits to the Centre and IPI and high financial rewards. These mechanisms facilitate the propagation of the ideology that the transmission of culture and the experience of MTD are in the interests of the firm and individual managers.
Symbolism: An Anthropological Perspective
In this section, we draw from socio-anthropology to examine how the MTD-culture dialectic assumes further legitimacy by virtue of the symbolic consequences of the training institute and how the process of MTD serves as a rite of passage. The anthropological perspective is offered here as an additional ‘analytical lens’ for understanding IP managers’ involvement in MTD. In the pursuit of alternative paradigms, earlier studies on culture borrowed indiscriminately from the social sciences, but a more critical literature has since evolved. In this regard, socio-anthropology has proved to be fertile ground. For a critique and review, see, for example, Linstead (1997). Anthropological ideas have been set out in, inter alia, Allaire and Firsirotu (1984), Kamoche (1995), Watson (1994), Smircich (1983) and Wilson (1992). According to Smircich (1983: 347), using culture as a root metaphor helps us to understand organizations ‘in terms of their expressive, ideational, and symbolic aspects’. Geertz (1973) has demonstrate d that culture can be treated as a system of shared symbols and meanings. Following Van Maanen (1973) we argue that symbols, symbolic acts and behaviour need to be ‘deciphered’, i.e. interpreted. Thus, we adopt an analytical-interpretive approach to identify the symbolic nature of the social consequences of MTD that IP managers consider desirable, and the meanings they attach to them.
For indigenous American tribes, a ‘totem’ signifies clan identity, unity and solidarity. The magico-religious qualities of a totem are well-recognized in anthropology (e.g. Beattie 1964; Durkheim 1964; Levi-Strauss 1964). The material existence of a totem is denoted in the totem-pole; the symbolic qualities that unify clan members and define social relationships amongst members are less obvious. In a socio-linguistic analysis of teamwork, Kamoche (1995: 384) found that ‘the concept of the team emerges as a totemic unifying device and a subtle way to achieve the integration of all the members of the organization’. The high symbolic value attributable to MTD in general, and IPI in particular, appears to possess a totemic quality. Here, we focus mainly on IPI. The perceived high calibre of the IPI courses and their instrumental role in career advancement have led to IPI being routinely described as ‘IP University’. The association with famous universities provides a psychological seal of approval and quality ass urance.
The name itself is not as important as the connotations it has spawned. For example, the emphasis was clearly not so much on technical expertise as on the symbolic act of attending ‘IP University’. Symbolism has been shown to be essentially expressive (e.g. Beattie 1964); and as Durkheim (1915) asserted, the expressive quality of symbolism is encapsulated in the society’s attachment to its totems. At IP, the attachment to the totem of MTD for the clan of high-fliers on ‘fast-stream development’ accords them a coveted identity that unites them in the unique status they enjoy within IP. It is this sense of identity and status that they are expressing. The experience of having gone to ‘P University’ is, according to one IP graduate, ‘wom like a badge’. The sense of a shared identity is reinforced further through culture transmission, socialization and networking. A heightened sense of identity within the ‘inclusionary borders’ is achievable by those who are mentored by ‘Senators’ who can be said to be dispensing symbolic as well as tangible rewards.
‘Going to IP University is something you look forward to from the time you join the management ranks. Once you get there, it reinforces your sense of belonging, and it’s like you’re assured you’re a permanent member of the club.’ (Dutch commercial manager)
‘We don’t send any average performers to IPI. Only the cream. So everyone know you’ve been there … it shows you stand out, you’re unique. You go there for the course but once you’re there, it’s all about expanding your networks, building a sense of who you are in the firm.’ (South African management accountant)
‘Being sent to IPI says that the company has recognized your potential. That’s what symbolizes. When you’re there, it’s not about acquiring any real skills, you should b good at what you do anyway. It’s networking that matters, and the idea of just being there. Just being there is very important for your career, so if you want it you know you have to work hard for it.’ (Argentinian commercial director)
Questions remain, however, about how closely the ‘thousands who do not go to the head office and IP University’ really identify with the totem and corporate culture. While it clearly acts as an inspirational force for ambitious managers, some managers admitted there was some resentment amongst ‘outsiders’. It may be reasonable to speculate, therefore, that the importance of the totem of IPI is shared by managers who believe they have a fair chance of getting there, and may not necessarily apply to all managers. In this regard, the symbolic aspect of ‘IP University’ (and, more generally, MTD for international expertise) must be treated, at least initially, as the totem of a clan of high-fliers rather than the flag of the IP community.
The symbolism attributable to MTD and ‘IP University’ is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, its putative integrative nature denies the existence of a political and ideological dimension. On the other hand, networking and lobbying signify a highly contested conception of MTD, as noted above. The distinction between the cultures at the Centre and the subsidiary companies shows how the reality of politics has emerged. While the subsidiary companies are described as ‘hyperactive, fast-paced and results-oriented’, the Centre is ‘conservative and bureaucratic’. Resourceful managers put political activity to good personal use, while rationalizing it on the basis of its value for social integration and business success. The totemic construction of reality at IP is thus achieved through overt political behaviour, whereby the legitimacy of the MTD/culture ideology comes to be defined, not merely in terms of shared values, but in terms of political activity to reconcile and satisfy individual and corporate interests .
The element of ‘passage’ is implied by, inter alia, the mechanics of socialization and the dynamics of career advancement through the IP community. Van Gennep (1908/60) applied the concept of ‘rites of passage’ to the elaborate ritual processes associated with the individual’s passage from one phase to another in the society. He posited the twin notions of the ‘sacred’ and the ‘profane’ to highlight the socio-spiritual dimension of these passages. Hence, the passage removes one from the mundane world — the profane — to the sacred world in which they are imbued with the spirituality, status and responsibilities of their new social condition.
Anthropologists have tended to focus on events such as birth, adolescence and initiation, marriage and death. Glaser and Strauss (1971) have identified the prevalence of ‘status passage’ to other areas, such as the medical field, sociology and organizations. One could also include college matriculation and degree ceremonies, promotion ceremonies, street-gang initiation beatings, and suchlike.
Rites of passage are defined by three main phases: separation (or preliminal), transition (liminal) and incorporation (post-liminal). The liminal phase is the most relevant one for our purposes here: MTD is a transition phase towards senior positions and the high-status ‘club’. Trice and Beyer (1984) argue that rites of passage define transitions into social roles and status. Thus, we interpret liminality in terms of the social consequences it has for the neophytes: socialization and culture transmission prepare them socio-psychologically for a distinguished career. The reported consequences of the rites of passage can be summarized as follows: behave differently; set an example for subordinates and other managers; acquire the authority to preach the gospel of IP culture; strengthen one’s membership of the club of high-fliers; acquire privileged corporate knowledge from the oracle of IPI. The idea that managers should ‘behave differently’ due to their increased visibility, and that the visit signalled a highl y symbolic shift in their personal circumstances was particularly marked in the case of those from less-developed countries where opportunities for international travel and training are more limited. Some specific quotes illustrate this:
‘People have a strong urge to come to London. It’s something you want from the time you become a manager. It’s kind of inculcated in you by your superiors … If you don’t do it you feel ordinary, non-unique. If you do it you’re a completely new person.’ (Kenyan training manager)
‘Coming here changes you. You know everyone’s looking up at you. To them you’re special, you’ve joined an exclusive club. So you basically serve as an example. But to make it real to them, you have to teach them how you did it, tell them what it’s like, do seminars, write-ups … It’s like you’re coming back with some special knowledge.’ (Indian general manager)
‘I would say many people think of IPI as a Mecca. It’s like going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Something you have to do once in your career. It sets you out against the rest. Once you get there, this whole feeling about being on a pilgrimage is reinforced by everyone, including the independent instructors — the professors. It’s like you leave the place feeling kind of holy. It’s a very unique experience.’ (Zimbabwean marketing manager)
The last two quotes imply the possible existence of religious or quasi-religious implications in managers’ quest to achieve a transformation and ‘enlightenment’. Ackers and Preston (1997) apply the Christian notion of ‘conversion’ to the transformative powers of MTD. Lees (1992) suggests that the rituals of MTD have more to do with ‘enriching the inner psyche’ than functional performance. It is not claimed that the IP head office and IPI were considered ‘sacred’ per Se. These insights suggest the need for a fine-grained religious or quasi-religious analysis of organizational phenomena, especially given the religious roots of the profane-sacred dichotomy.
Van Gennep (1908/60) contends that the incompatibility between the profane and the sacred is so great, that one cannot pass from one to the other without going through an intermediate stage. This is clearly borne out at IP: one cannot advance from grade C to B, or B to A without MTD. It was generally agreed that the most significant liminal experiences were o ffered at the Centre and IPI – most significant since they had the most profound effect on the initiates’ careers. Going through courses/assignments linked to career advancement takes managers through a series of transitions defined by Management Grades. The normal promotion ladders are contained within the three broad bands e.g. from assistant brand manager to brand manager within grade C. It is important that a manager undergoes the training and acquires the certification to rise to the next level. Anthropologists argue that, during the transition, the neophytes have to temporarily suspend their ‘normal’ life and engage in processes of bonding to absorb the knowledge pertinent to the next social role. In much the same way, youths undergoing initiation rites may be taken away to a sacred forest where they have no contact at all with the profane world they have left behind. The separation is surrounded by all manner of taboos about things they must not do, and new ways in which they are expected to behave. In addition, they may witness totem ceremonies and recite myths (Van Gennep 1908/60). MTD appears to serve as an initiation rite in which novitiates are imbued with new knowledge (including the corporate culture) that will allow them to fulfil the more challenging duties of their next career level. A comparison of tribal initiation and MTD is depicted in Figure 4.
Unlike the Kurnai and other Australian aboriginal tribes, where the novitiates are considered dead (Van Gennep 1908/60), the managers at IP are simply in a state of limbo: they have been removed from the previous office and career level, but have not yet acquired the status and trappings of the next. They have left the profane behind, but have not yet acquired the sacred. The liminality of their sojourn at the Centre and IPI confirms the neophytes’ imminent membership of the high-flier corps. Thus, the liminal nature and desired consequences of MTD can be said to legitimize the corporate ideology that urges managers to participate in MTD activities and subscribe to the corporate culture.
This paper has analyzed the use of culture transmission processes to train and develop a cadre of managers, and how this training and development in turn serves to reinforce the shared beliefs about desired managerial behaviour. This recursiveness is sustained by an ideology that urges the creation of shared values and acquires acceptance and legitimacy because it is consistent with managers’ career aspirations, and because it yields desirable material and symbolic outcomes. The MTD-culture dialectic thus emerges as a potentially powerful mechanism for managing headquarter-subsidiary relations by creating a sense of identity and potentially integrative values.
In developing these insights, we encountered some limitations. First, this study is based on interviews with a small sample of high-flier managers; a bigger sample might have helped to explore the wider diversity of views that probably exists amongst IP managers. We are, however, mindful of Yin’s (1989) view that qualitative analysis facilitates ‘generalization’ across theoretical propositions, rather than across populations and universes. Also, the adequacy of small samples has been noted where the emphasis is on phenomenological experience, use of language and analysis at the level of ‘meaning’ (see, e.g., Easterby-Smith et al. 1991). The extent to which career expectations are consistent with the internalization of the dominant culture amongst low-achievers is a possible area for further research. Second, we should treat with caution the argument that self-interest alone drives managers to accept the ‘integrative’ corporate ideology. Clearly we need further research to examine how managers would behave if the ideology was no longer able to deliver desirable material and symbolic consequences, and if popular support for organizational values declined. An interesting parallel is found in Kraimer’s (1997) argument that when one has very strong beliefs in his/her own values, this may negatively impact on the outcomes of socialization to the organization’s goals and values. Third, it would have been helpful to interview managers at IPI at the time of the research and to know from the ‘senators’ exactly what their role was in managers’ career development. Informal discussions suggested that ‘getting to know senators’ was an euphemism for politics. Given the role of senior executives in shaping culture, further research could examine the role of management teams in fostering corporate ideologies, particularly at the global level where multiple national/economic ideologies exist.
In spite of these limitations, it is evident that bringing together functionalist and symbolic analytical perspectives allows us to reconstruct the reality of culture and MTD at the transnational level. Next we propose some implications for practice and some additional directions for further research. The use of MTD to generate integrative norms and values, clearly has advantages over merely using culture alone or the more nebulous organizational commitment, since MTD has tangible and symbolic consequences for individuals. The differing perceptions of status and behavioural outcomes associated with the Centre and IPI suggest the need to vary training courses or assignments depending on the objective. This is especially important for MNCs and hybrid organizations struggling to achieve a sense of identity and synergy amongst geographically dispersed units in a multicultural world. For transnationals, the task of integration is not merely a question of strategic management and ensuring compliance with centrally- defined goals. It has to take into account the subjective aspects of managing people which we apprehend through ‘interpreting’ meanings embedded in social action; hence the management of symbols.
Meanings and values are ideologically loaded, and people’s actions consist of a complex process of enacting and reproducing the values and structures that in turn define and legitimize those actions. This recursiveness implies that a uni-dimensional approach to apprehending social phenomena is clearly inadequate. It is hoped that the approach adopted here offers a way forward. For example, research on career management might identify how career progression and promotion policies can be made more meaningful symbolically if treated as a rite of passage, and how they can be used to accentuate the importance of the responsibilities and roles at higher levels in order to develop confidence and a sense of belonging. Research might also examine how best to cultivate integrative mechanisms with totemic qualities which offer all organizational members (as opposed to a small clan) a sense of identity and solidarity beyond existing efforts at ‘teambuilding’. Clearly, the resentment created by exclusivity is inconsistent with efforts to foster ‘shared values’. Research into organizational totemism as an integrative mechanism or a way of reproducing culture should eschew the unitarist approaches found in related areas such as commitment and culture.
The sacred-profane dichotomy suggests the need to explore further the existence of religious or spiritual aspects in organizational reality. Likening visits to IPI to ‘going on a pilgrimage’ and the suggestion of having attained ‘special knowledge’ akin to ‘spiritual enlightenment’ suggests that there is further scope to explore the effect of religious images and metaphors on organizational action. This will hopefully lead to a more incisive analysis of the political and ideological underpinnings of managerial attempts to cultivate symbolism and spirituality. The Weberian historical–sociological tradition is instructive in this regard (e.g. Weber 1930). In closing, we note that, ultimately, MTD and the transmission of culture serve not merely to create and disseminate international expertise and corporate culture, but also to affirm and reaffirm ideologically-loaded organizational values and to legitimize the power structures that have institutionalized the creation of a privileged cadre of high-achievers.
Ken Kamoche is an Associate Professor at City University of Hong Kong. He received his D.Phil. from Oxford University. His research interests include strategic and international HRM, management in developing nations and organizational improvization. His work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Management Studies, Human Relations, International Business Review, International Journal of Human Resource Management and International Journal of Management Reviews. His book Sociological Paradigms and Organizational Analysis will be published by Ashgate in 2000.
Mailing Address: City University of Hong Kong, Department of Management, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
(*.) I am grateful to the Editor and OS reviewers and the following for useful comments on an earlier draft: John Schaubroeck, Sam Aryee, Andrew Chan, Robin Snell, Agnes Lau, Mary Pang and Jia Lin Xie.
(1.) In their worldwide operation, IP executives recognize that only by being decentralized can they fully cater for the vast differences in consumer tastes, economic, competitive, cultural and political environments. This, in turn, creates a need for some form of ‘integrative glue’, and hence their quest for an ‘IP culture’.
(2.) These were the manifestations of IP as conceived at the headquarters. It is reasonable to assume that each subsidiary had a sub-culture which would not necessarily resemble the IP corporate culture in its entirity. One such difference is the general view that the centre was ‘slow/conservative’ and the subsidiaries ‘fast-paced’. It was explained to me that the inculcation of a conservative/risk-averse approach was to harmonize standards in making reasonable and realistic decisions.
(3.) Though some managers were critical of the training rationale and the elitism associated with MTD, they accepted the objectives of MTD. Two examples are noteworthy — the Nigerian marketing manager (non-IP graduate), and the Brazilian technical director (IP graduate).
(4.) Informal discussions with two such ‘Senators’ confirmed that the term is used by some managers visiting the Centre to signify the power of executives. However, they did not accept that lobbying and similar political activity played a role in career development, preferring instead to see it in terms of ‘managers getting to know’ the senior people if they believed they could learn from them. The generalizability of these views is impossible to establish because access to senior executives was very difficult.
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