Decision-Making in Global Organizations
In today's business environment, there is sustained pressure for companies to maximize productivity in order to be competitive in the marketplace. Many businesses are moving a variety of activities, such as manufacturing and product development, to countries with low labour costs. They are also opening up sales channels in many new markets. The resulting global organizations need to structure themselves, so that they can effectively manage operations across numerous locations. This paper looks at how the organizational structure of a global company influences decision-making at the regional level, and how this can affect the business performance. This paper will: -
Consider whether centralized and decentralized business structures will make different business decisions depending on the cultural values in the region. -
Explore how a transition from an autonomous structure to a centralized structure affects regional performance. -
Examine how a global company can delineate decision-making responsibility that balances a corporate code of conduct with regional cultural differences to achieve optimal business results. -
Recommend steps that global organizations can take to optimize regional decision-making, and corresponding business results, across regions with different cultural backgrounds. Large corporations have been attempting to find a balance between the traditional hierarchical structure and the flexible local entrepreneurial structure for many years. Increasing global competition has made it critical that multinational enterprises be both globally integrated and locally responsive at the same time (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1988). Sohn & Paik (2004) describe the efforts of Toshiba to achieve a hybrid of centralized control and localized autonomy. Irrespective of the structure chosen, corporations can all be placed somewhere along the continuum between centralized and decentralized management. A centralized structure will be slower to respond to changing market conditions but provides stability and control. A decentralized structure provides autonomy for local businesses to make their own decisions quickly, ; however, the decisions may not align with the parent organizations' strategic objectives and ethics. Many business decisions involve conflict between making money and ethical treatment of employees, customers, and the environment. Centrally managed organizations are more likely to align decisions with a universal corporate code of conduct. Autonomous subsidiaries will make decisions that are reflective of the local cultural values. The risk to the parent organization is that some of these decisions may severely conflict with shareholder values. Treatment of women, children, and respect for the environment are some areas where regional differences exist. Bribery and use of kickbacks are relatively common practice in certain cultures. An autonomous subsidiary may allow these practices to occur, whereas a centralized management structure would likely not allow . Even with a strong company policy on values and ethics, ethical decisions are open to interpretation by the regional organization. Thus, the incentive for global organizations to maintain a centralized management structure may be significant; however, there are several drawbacks to this structure. Global corporations assimilate smaller businesses on a regular basis. If they enforce a centralized organizational structure upon recently purchased businesses there can be some significant challenges. Taking away decision-making authority from people who are used to being empowered can result in conflict, loss of key employees, poor business decisions, and a rapid decline in business performance. Key employees, who remain, will struggle with the lack of empowerment and will be unsure of which decisions they can make and which the centralized management should make. This confusion can have a significant...
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