A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Management Skills of Chinese, Iranian, Pakistani, Thai, and American Managers

Article excerpt

Abstract

To help expatriate managers understand the commonly used managerial skills in these five, culturally diverse countries, a survey was conducted regarding the respondents' technical, human relations, and conceptual skills. The 2,436 valid responses explored the influences of education, gender, race, management level, and years of experience in the context of their country's prevalent management structure and cultural characteristics. Results in the form of five-point Likert scales were tested for reliability and validity and analyzed using multiple regression analysis. Significant differences emerged, but overall younger managers demonstrated higher technical skills than older ones, and higher levels of education tended to correlate with higher conceptual skills. Skill differences often focused on gender and management experience levels.

Introduction

Professional managers' technical, human relations, and conceptual skills tend to affect the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the organization; therefore, mastering these skills and their proper application in a timely manner can have a profound impact on business performance. Katz (1955) first proposed that effective management reflects technical, human, and conceptual skill in different degrees. As can be predicted, the skills of managers tend to have profound effects on everyone in the manager's department and company. As emphasized by Tom Peters, management guru and author of In Search of Excellence, almost all quality improvements in our jobs and organizations tend to come via simplification of design, manufacturing, layout, processes, and procedures that enable us to get the job done. Similarly, interpersonal improvements can happen if management skills and techniques are studied, analyzed, enhanced, and practiced effectively.

While many researchers focus on skills of managers in the Western countries, we include managers from China, Iran, Pakistan, and Thailand in this study. Through an exploratory investigation and empirical analysis of management skills in China, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand, and the United States, this article studies the structure of management skills at different levels using public and private sector managers and the demographic factors that influence these skills, while carrying out a comparative analysis through regression equations. Since a convenient sample is used to increase the response rate, the study is not limited to any specific industry.

Culture and Management Skills

The influence of culture on work behavior and organizational structure has attracted attention, especially in the past three decades, due to rapidly changing economic and social conditions such as workforce diversity, business activities across national borders, availability of telecommunication, and global competition (Erez, 1993).The important issue is to what extent and in what ways culture influences individual and group phenomena in organizations. One of the most frequently cited conceptualizations of culture is that of Kluckhohn (1952), who explained that culture consists of patterned ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly through symbols. Constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and their attached values.

Culture has the role of driving behavior, making one's actions more predictable and shaping organizational practices. Some authors who take a more holistic and integrationist perspective suggest that culture influences some aspects of organizational practices more than others (Tayeb, 1988; Drenth and Groenendijk, 1984; Child and Keiser, 1979). About two decades ago, Lytle, Brett, Barsness, Tinsley, and Janssens (1995) provided a state-of-the-art assessment of cross-cultural research in organizational behavior. Earley and Singh (1995) pointed out that the empirical literature in cross-cultural research is plagued with "confusion concerning the role of culture and national context. …