Intercultural Management, a Swedish Example

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Introduction :

Geert Hofstede defines culture as the particular feature of the nations. Thus the nationality is likely to set up the basic values and believes of every one's mind. A generally accepted definition is that offered by Kroeber and Kluckholm :

"Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit of and for behaviour acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiment in artefacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as a products of action, on the other as conditioning elements of future action."

In this last perspective one can assess that culture, defined in accordance to Hofstede's view, has dramatic effects on the way firm are organized. Barnard and Selznick argue that the first interest in the impact of nationality on the firm's organization appeared after the great success of the Japanese products, after the Second World War, as their cultural basis were totally different from the occidental ones, which were supposed to be the most, if not the only, effective ones. In the 1950s and 60s, the dominant belief, at least in Europe and in the USA, was that management was universal, and do not depend on national environments. During the 1970s, the belief in the unavoidable convergence of management practices waned. It slowly became clear that national and even regional cultures do matter for management. Nowadays, these differences are still increasing and their impact is even deeper on the way firms are managed.

Therefore two main points have to be exposed, first why and how the national cultural values and believes have an impact on the private management? Second, is the national belonging a major and determinant factor to explain the organizational culture of the private companies?

In a first part we will study the theoretical thought that analyses the relation between the nationality and the firm's framework and culture. Two authors have described this link. The Dutch Geert Hofstede, who is the main reference on this topic. We will focus on four factors that determine a national culture: power distance (the rate of inequality among the employees of a same firm), individualism and collectivism, social masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance. Afterwards, we will explain the theoretical thought of the French scholar, Philippe D'Iribarne, his study relies on the basic underlying logic that determines the organizational framework. According to him "the habits of the different cultural groups characterise what its members respect or despise and in this particular perspective it is not possible to govern without taking into consideration this believes and values" . P. D'Iribarne argues that each nation has a particular value or system of belief that makes it different from the others; the organizational framework as well as the social relations are the result of this basic assumption. Nowadays these two scholars are the main references in the national approach of the private organization's culture. However critics have also been formulated against their work, and we will take them into account.

In the Second main part of the present Bachelor's Thesis, we will put the theory into practice. The base of this empirical study will be Sweden, and especially the firm Ikea. First we will have to qualify the Swedish culture thanks to the theory developed in the first part. Afterwards we will study Ikea's history, its economic development, and of course its culture. The main aim of this part is to know whether the Swedish culture has had an impact on Ikea's organization. Moreover we have to put into question the official "Ikea Spirit" to know if the increasing size of the firm, the retirement of the creator, or the actual economic situation, have an effect on the firm's culture. So...
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