Culture and Management in the Americas

Culture and Management in the Americas

Culture and Management in the Americas

Culture and Management in the Americas

Synopsis

Latin Americans are culturally different from North Americans in ways that so far have been inaccurately portrayed in the management literature. In Culture and Management in the Americas, Alfredo Behrens argues that these differences merit a substantial overhaul of management theory and practice to make the best of the significantly untapped Latin American potential for creativity, innovation, and teamwork. This applies in organizations with North American ownership and management, whether they are based in the U. S. or Latin America.

Behrens, a management consultant and academic who has studied, taught, and practiced in South and North America and Europe, explains why the use of traditional North American research methods to capture cultural traits in the multi-cultural workforce is inappropriate. This practice produces a false picture of the cultural attributes and capabilities of Latin American managers and key staff. And this, in turn, leads to serious shortcomings in the development of appropriate motivation and leadership strategies and of appraisal and control instruments.

Rather than relying on standardized surveys for measuring cultural attributes to underpin and develop such strategies and tools, the author suggests that managers look to the arts- particularly literature and cinema- for a richer and more useful alternative. He illustrates his points by reference to literary icons such as Argentina's Martin Fierro, Brazil's Macunaima, and America's Captain Ahab. He uses a variety of case studies to demonstrate what we can learn from these iconographic characters and what we can expect of each other when we apply these lessons- whether we are leading, following, or working in self-directed teams. This readable and enjoyable book will be an invaluable, engaging, and practical tool for anyone charged with managing at any level in workforce that combines both North American and Latin American cultures.

Excerpt

How does culturae matter when it comes to management? This substantive and complex issue has rarely been addressed from a Latin American perspective. Indeed, the general, working assumption appears to be that culture does not really matter very much. the world is populated by people motivated by very similar aims and methods. Yet this book by Alfredo Behrens is an erudite, engaging, and provocative challenge to the modern orthodoxy. Behrens has a number of powerful arguments to make: notably, that the universalistic view of humanity—at least in its economic dimensions—is both naïve and misleading. one manifestation of the orthodoxy is the raw transplantation of models of behavior and management from North American to South American locations. This practice, Behrens argues, is doomed mostly to failure and confusion. He points to substantial economic costs to the reliance on this model, such as a tendency for firms and workers to be less productive than elsewhere, and other associated signs of inefficiency. in its place, Behrens suggests, systems of management and organization that take into account long-lasting social or cultural attributes are warranted. in making these arguments, Behrens draws on historical precedent and patterns. He gains inspiration from a variety of intellectual . . .

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