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

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