From the Ask Tom mailbag:
I am Karthi from India. I would like to ask you a simple question. We talk about theories in management. But, people with experience in management say that, well defined theories will not work. I, myself, agree with this. Considering human resource management, a single management strategy will not work for people from various geographical locations. For example, you cannot deal with Indians and Japanese in the same way, right?
Karthi, thank you for the question. There are levels where you are accurate, where there are distinct differences and levels where management strategies are identical. Let’s explore both, and discover.
There are certainly differences in customs between Indians and Japanese. In the United States, there are customs that are different between people from New York and people from Texas. These differences can easily be observed in greetings, dress, pace. Each of these will be important for a manager. Handshakes, bows, hugs, kisses, smiles all create a platform for communication.
And there are some elements which I believe are identical from one culture to the next. One element, is the way in which, we all need to work. I believe, in each culture, individuals require, for their own self concept, the ability to contribute, through work. The goal for every manager is to discover in each team member, the type of work on which, the team members places a high value. We all have this need and it can only be satisfied through work.
What is work? It is the same in every culture. Work is solving problems and making decisions. Often, we see manual work as shoveling, digging, putting things on shelves, filing, copying, answering emails, going to meetings. But that is not the work. The work is in solving the problems and making decisions during each of those activities. And that work is the same in India, Japan and Alabama.