Values Must Blend in Overseas Operations

By Lazar, Eli | Personnel Journal, February 1993 | Go to article overview

Values Must Blend in Overseas Operations


Lazar, Eli, Personnel Journal


National Semiconductor, Israel, is a subsidiary of Santa Clara, California-based National Semiconductor. The general set of values and goals is similar in both companies. The organizational culture and management style of the Israeli subsidiary, however, are different from the culture and style of its parent company in California.

As an American-owned company in Israel, three different factors influence the culture of National Semiconductor.

Israel: * The U.S. parent company

* Israeli society

* The individual characteristics of its gold-collar workers (highly skilled employees who set their own priorities and desire autonomy but don't aspire to be leaders of the organization).

For example, the American culture its foundations in the Protestant of Western societies. This ethos concentrates on private enterprise and places the individual in the center. The emphasis is on the individual, not on the group. The cultures of both Eastern Europe and Islam, on the other hand, influence the Israeli culture. In Israeli culture, the emphasis is on the group. The individual acts primarily within--and as part of--a group. (See "Differences Between U.S. and Israeli Workpage 69.)

Management principles at National Semiconductor, Israel, therefore, must compensate for the weaknesses of the Israeli culture and take advantage of its strengths. These principles must capitalize on the high technical ability and personal integrity of the Israeli worker, and compensate for the low managerial ability that results from a tendency toward informality, openness and indistinct lines of authority.

At the same time, management at the Israeli company must try to introduce the strengths of the U.S.-parent-company culture without introducing its weaknesses. Management must introduce the tendency to be systematic, which is characteristic of the American gold-collar worker, but exclude features that would be inappropriate for the Israeli culture.

This was the challenge faced by the company as it implemented a new decision-making process that impacted the organizational culture at its R&D Center. (The R&D Center includes 150 engineers, who develop and design such products as integrated circuits, software, fax machines, modems, answering machines and other technologies.)

A survey conducted in April 1990 revealed how employees at the center felt about the company, and, in particular, the organization's decision-making process. The survey revealed that:

1) Individual workers were dissatisfied with their ability to influence events in their own departments. They indicated that they were excluded from all stages of the decision-making process, including receiving information on the final decisions.

2) Because the team didn't participate in the decision-making process, the decisions didn't reflect the accumulated knowledge of the team.

3) The procedure for making decisions was unclear, as it was for following up on final decisions to verify that they were being implemented properly.

Management set up a committee to investigate the problem. Its goal was to improve the decision-making process so that it would be appropriate to the existing organizational structure while accommodating the cultural characteristics of the Israeli gold-collar workers. The group included senior management members, the human resources manager of the design center and two consultants from outside the organization.

The committee members talked with employees and managers throughout the design center about the issues. They came to the conclusion that how decisions were made was the central issue of everyone concerned. They decided, therefore, to clarify this process in theory before developing techniques to improve it.

The committee first produced a set of management norms to describe how managers in the organization should make decisions. Then they identified methods that managers could use to implement these norms. …

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