Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Organizational Structure in the Middle East: A Comparative Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Organizational Structure in the Middle East: A Comparative Analysis

Article excerpt

GEORGE A. MILLER [*]

BAM DEV SHARDA [*]

ABSTRACT

Despite the very large number of comparative organizational studies evidenced in the literature, few have been undertaken in the Middle East and only two involve a direct comparison of organizations in the Middle East with organizations in the West. In their comparison of organizations in pre-revolutionary Iran and the United States, Miller and Mahmoudi found strong support for the culture-free hypothesis and concluded that Iran could now be added to the growing list of countries showing a similar pattern of relationships among the major components of organizational structure. However, Miller and Sharda found support for the culture specific hypothesis in their comparison of organizations in Jordan and the United States. The purpose of this research is to show that Miller and Mahmoudi's conclusion may have been premature. Data were obtained from a matched sample of organizations in Jordan, and the causal model proposed by Miller and Mahmoudi is reanalyzed for all three countries employing a more rigorous met hodology. The results suggest that a model constraining all parameters to be equal, fits the data in both Iran and Jordan, but not in the United States. This finding is not consistent with the culture-free hypothesis and suggests instead that organizational structure is conditioned in important ways by the unique culture and institutions of the nation-state.

FOR MANY YEARS researchers have studied the impact of culture on organizational structure. In their review of the management literature, Adler and Bartholomew (1992) found that 70 percent of the articles discussed the role of culture. Of these, nearly all concluded that culture was important for understanding organizational behavior and management. On the other hand, in his review of comparative management theory Redding (1994) concludes: "This review inevitably leads to the conclusion that thirty years' work has make little impression on the immensely complex problem of cultures and organizational behavior" (p. 331).

Two contrasting perspectives and approaches characterize much of the research concerning the impact of culture on organizations. The first is best represented in the work of Hickson and associates (1974, 1979, 1981) with the advancement of their "culture-free" hypothesis. They argue that the relationships among the major components of organizational structure are similar across very different societies. Miller (1987), in his cumulation of the comparative studies, demonstrated that the effects of size on the major dimensions of organizational structure were remarkably consistent across very different kinds of organizations in very different societies.

A second approach is represented in the work of those who argue that different national environments and cultures influence significantly the way in which organizations are structured. This approach is evident in the comparative research undertaken by the Industrial Democracy in Europe (IDE) research group (1981a, 1981b). Their research assessed whether differences between organizations reflected the underlying socio-political structures of the different societies within which they are located. They found that societal differences explained much more of the variance in industrial democracy than did components of organizational structure. A similar conclusion was reached by Geert Hofstede (1980:372) on the basis of his comparative study of organizations in forty different countries: "The main finding is that organizations are culture-bound. This applies not only to the behavior of people within organizations and to the functioning of organizations as a whole; even the theories developed to explain behavior in organizations reflect the national culture of the author, and so do the methods and techniques that are suggested for the management of the organization".

Despite the vast number of such comparative studies, few have been undertaken in the Middle East (Ayoubi 1981; Badran and Hinings 1981), and only two involve a direct comparison of organizations in the Middle East with organizations in the West (Miller and Mahmoudi 1986; Miller and Sharda 1995). …

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