Academic journal article Management International Review

Cultural Context and Social Effectiveness in International Joint Ventures

Academic journal article Management International Review

Cultural Context and Social Effectiveness in International Joint Ventures

Article excerpt

Key Results

The crossing of different cultures, national as well as organizational, in the international joint venture can lead to a number of unproductive behaviours that reduce the social effectiveness of this firm. Many of the problems encountered in the international joint venture can be traced to specific cultural factors.

The importance of culture for organizational research has been recently emphasized through the explicit recognition of the potency of culture at the organizational as well as societal levels. Within the framework of anthropological theory, many researchers in organization theory developed, in the beginning of the '80s, a cultural approach to the firm. These researchers have used the concept of culture to gain fuller understanding of the subtle dynamics and forces at work in organizations. They demonstrated that this cultural approach allowed an organization to better clear its own functioning, and therefore could help to resolve more efficiently some of its internal problems. In this theoretical approach, culture is regarded as embedded in social interaction, it is as something that is produced and reproduced over time through interaction among organization's members. Additionally, it also introduces the key role played by culture in creating a consensually validated system of beliefs and values which influences organizational behaviour (Moran/Volkwein 1992, Meek 1992). Although the concept of culture is difficult to define in the practice, it is widely accepted that culture has a significant effect on organizations (Bhagat/MacQuaid 1982, Denison 1990). A fundamental explanation of what occurs in organizations can be found in the concept of culture. On the same way as the personality of an individual influences his behavior, the culture of an organization influences his functioning. In that way, culture has often been defined as "the invisible force behind the tangibles and observables in any organization" (Kilmann et al. 1985, Preface).

In his definition of culture, Thevenet (1986) suggests a distinction between two levels of analysis:

* "an external culture which is national, regional, composed of values, common perceptions, similar views of reality.

* internal cultures emerging from group mechanics, relevant in understanding the sub-populations who make up the firm" (Thevenet 1986, p. 37).

The influence of "external" or national culture on companies has often been underestimated. Some specialists in this field consider that national culture is rarely present in firms (Maurice et al. 1980 and 1992, Amadieu 1993) or that it is often overpowered by "internal" or organizational culture (Ivanier 1992). The idea has been widespread that organizational culture moderates or erases the influence of national culture. It assumed that "employees working for the same organization even if they are from different countries are more similar than different" (Adler 1986, p. 46). On the contrary, others affirm that national culture is predominant compared with organizational culture (Hofstede 1980, Laurent 1983, Iribarne 1986).

Empirical as well as theoretical research have evaluated the importance of culture factors on the functioning of organizations. These studies are based on the central hypothesis which suggests that cultural characteristics in a firm, both internal (organizational) and external (national), widely explain the behavior of its employees. The aim of our study is to analyze this relationship in a sample of international joint ventures in Hungary. The international dimension is integrated into our sample of Hungarian companies by choosing joint ventures with partners originating from several other countries (Germany, Austria, the United States, France and Great Britain). Our intent is to investigate the link between the various dimensions of corporate culture and the social functioning or organizations to determine the extent to which assumption of previous authors are supported in the specific cultural context of international joint ventures. …

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