East vs. West: A Cultural Perspective into Business Process Management

Given the ever increasing speed of information exchange, the competitive landscape continues to evolve in how business problems and solutions are addressed within the global environment. Customers now have a world of knowledge at their disposal from product and service pricing to end user reviews. With increasing customer awareness, organizations worldwide face a bigger challenge of engaging and educating customers. To overcome this challenge organizations typically invest in initiatives that drive performance and efficiency. However, it is too common the “big picture” related to the “organizational culture”, which is vital to sustaining change, is often ignored.

 

The Eastern Perspective

Eastern organizational culture places focus on developing long term partnerships and sustained respect for people. Chinese and Japanese cultures reflect this philosophy both in their personal and professional relationships. Indian counterparts face a bigger challenge of retaining the best talent. With a population over 1 billion and a growing talent pool, organizations have to continuously improve and engage employees while improving customer satisfaction.

Management styles have a significant impact on how an organization assesses and takes action on opportunities to self-improve. Asian and Indian companies are significantly hierarchical in their organizational structure. This influences employees to revere and even have inhibitions in approaching their superiors and managers. Senior leadership measures employees on their willingness and ability to embrace change. In such complex and competitive environments, discipline backed by performance monitoring enables Eastern companies to more easily implement change initiatives.

 

The Western Perspective

Western companies tend to maintain a “flat culture” promoting open door policies to build relationships and camaraderie. While effective on other fronts, this typically makes it more difficult to implement change due to informal working environments. It is easier to follow the benevolent dictator through difficult times versus the friendly manager whom everyone gets along with.

Western culture promotes “Individualists” who are highly task oriented and focused on getting things done. While this ensures meeting objectives, it does not help in cultivating a culture of employee ownership which is the driving force behind any continuous improvement initiative.

A critical question remains, does the management style of driving performance solely by immediate business objectives equate to success?

 

Achieving success through best of both worlds

No particular culture is a definite answer to successfully implementing change, but organizations in the West should look for opportunities to emulate their Eastern counterparts and promote a philosophy of “Together We Can”. Organizations need to drive change by adopting a structured framework that not only focuses on “getting things done” but also promotes discipline, responsibility and ownership amongst employees. Employee empowerment is a great message for any organization to drive, but Western companies often forget that change can only be achieved when senior leadership holds employees accountable for their actions and rewards those who are successful change agents.

 

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By Sumit Punjabi @ hiSoft Technologies | October 11, 2012

4 Responses to East vs. West: A Cultural Perspective into Business Process Management

  1. Pingback: East vs. West: A Cultural Perspective into Business Process Management - BPM Leader | Creative Management | Scoop.it

  2. No offense, but some fallacies in the article merit addressing. This article is about 15-18 years out of date; and from a Western Cultural perspective, few facts need bearing out.

    For example, it alludes to a flat culture in the West that “makes it more difficult to implement change due to informal working environments”. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    It is because of this “informal” culture it makes it easier to collar performance. Ownership of projects is tested in the recruitment process itself and is bedrock of performance evaluation. The Bonus or the ESOP that is embedded in contracts confers ownership plans to employees, invented in the West, but imported into the EAST.

    Excellent communication skills to articulate a business problem, is considered a skill superior to business process management. CEOs in Asia are astonished by this statement. I have had take pains to explain that it actually requires consummate business knowledge first for a person to simplify abstract concepts into succinct decision points!

    In fact, the difference between these two spheres that you speak of comes down to this:

    In the West, you DEFINE the problem, in the EAST and ASIA; you are expected to solve the problem AFTER it is defined. It is a bit perplexing that despite a million Indians in I.T. and the top IT consulting companies in the world, we don’t have a FaceBook, Google, SIRI, Android or any product that is a result of assessing the environment and fulfilling the gap?

    I would like any CEO of the top “I.T” companies to challenge or agree with me on this: India does not have a competitive business environment; it has a business process environment. IMO, the BPO phenomena are a result of cost advantages thank to globalization, and the cultural issue stated in my preceding paragraph, not for lack of BP talent in the West.

  3. Dear David,

    Thank you for your comments, very valuable insights.

    I do agree with your argument; however it is rather surprising to see that a lot of Western organizations are still stuck in the traditional ways

    The point that stands out and compliments my message is Western organization need to focus on “Solving” the problem after it is defined. Asian and Indian organizations do this particular well. For any change to be successful there has to be a dedicated effort on employee driven problem solving. This drives the culture of process ownership and accountability

  4. Pingback: Why Asians Do Everything Fast | Mabel Kwong

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