Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

A Comparison of Native Culture, Non-Native Culture and New Management Ideology

Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

A Comparison of Native Culture, Non-Native Culture and New Management Ideology

Article excerpt


Based on a case study of a Native-operated criminal justice organization, this article uses Hofstede's five dimensions of national cultural differences to examine the connections between cultural values and management practices. It concludes that Hofstede's dimensions can provide insights into the differences between Native and non-Native cultures and how Native organizations may draw on traditional cultural values to improve organizational effectiveness. In general, Native cultures are described as collectivist, egalitarian, adaptive, and tolerant. The argument is made that the cultural context in which Native organizations operate is in many ways more compatible with the new management ideology than is the society in which this ideology prevails.

With the globalization of product markets and the expansion of economic activity across national borders, crosscultural differences are emerging as a critical factor in the management of organizations. Equally important are cultural differences arising from the diversification of the workforce and emerging cultural identities within national borders. For instance, the cohesiveness and prominence of Aboriginal' groups is increasing as the decolonization process accelerates (Frideres, 1993, p. 20). Self-determination initiatives are leading to, among other things, the development of Aboriginal-operated organizations in a wide variety of profit and nonprofit sectors. Entrepreneurial activity among Canada's Aboriginal people has been increasing as have partnerships and alliances with non-Aboriginal businesses (Thomas, 1996). For Native and non-Native organizations alike, economic self-sufficiency and participation in the global economy are viewed as essential to the goals of selfpreservation and development (Anderson, 1995; Dana, 1996a; Thomas, 1996).

On the other hand, among non-Native organizations, traditional Native values are usually perceived as an impediment to economic development and organizational effectiveness. Reluctance to compete, a different orientation toward time, an emphasis on consensus decision making, and putting family needs before business goals are characteristics that are difficult to reconcile with modern capitalism (Anders & Anders, 1986; Dacks, 1983; Dana, 1996b). Historically, it has been assumed that non-Native people2 must teach Native people how to run their own organizations. The First Nations of Canada see things differently. They believe that traditional culture, values, and languages need not be compromised in the process of building a self-sustaining economy and that their core cultural values may actually assist them in making a successful transition toward political and economic autonomy (Anderson, 1995).

The literature on the development of indigenous communities tends to support this point of view. A major reason for the failure of many intervention programs is that they do not recognize the validity and effectiveness of existing social and organizational structures (Blunt & Warren, 1996). Basic managerial concepts, generally thought to be Euro-American in origin, are evident in the languages of most indigenous cultures. Local knowledge, structures, and systems, often disregarded by outsiders, can and should be used effectively for planning, organizing, and innovative problem-solving (Warren, Adedokun, & Omolaoye, 1996). In this paper, we go a step further and suggest that the management structures and leadership styles of Native organizations closely resemble those advocated by current management ideology.

We begin by reviewing some of the major cultural characteristics of Native societies, using a model for the cross-cultural analysis developed by Hofstede (1980, 1983, 1993). Hofstede (1993, p. 16) acknowledges the applicability of this model to regional or ethnic subcultures within countries. Aboriginal cultures are profoundly different from any other regional culture within a dominant culture, a factor that increased our interest in using this model as a basis for comparison (see, for example, Bopp, Bopp, Brown, & Lane, 1984; Dumont, 1993). …

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