Activity 7: Hofstede's way of thinking about national culture
Allow 60 minutes for this activity.
Activity 6 introduced you to Hofstede's academic writing. This activity takes this further by giving you the chance to take a closer look at what he actually said.
Task: Considering motivation, leadership and organisation – a reading from Hofstede
You have already read a couple of the early pages of the following article. As you read the whole piece, think about two main things:
- What are the key features of Hofstede's approach to national culture? (You have already come across this in Activity 6.)
- Which examples does Hofstede give of the importance of taking account of national cultures when managing organisations?
You could also think about what seem to you to be the strengths and weaknesses of Hofstede's argument and analysis. I will go on to give a critique of Hofstede later in the course so, at this point, I am really asking you to do some preliminary thinking to set the scene.
It will help to take some notes as you read the piece. As I have suggested before, taking notes is often easier if you read the passage through fairly quickly first to get an idea of what it says. You can then read it a second time more slowly and take notes as you do so. This time you should find that a good deal of what Hofstede says is familiar to you from Activity 6.
You can also use the notes you made for Activity 6 as a starting point for your notes for this activity. It does depend on how you make your notes, but you may be able to use your earlier notes as a template for your notes this time. You may well find that you end up with one set of notes which covers both articles.
Now read Hofstede's article ‘Motivation, leadership and organization: do American theories of organization apply abroad?’, linked below (Organization Theory, pp. 223–50).
When you have finished taking notes, write a couple of short paragraphs in response to questions 1 and 2 above. For the time being, keep any thoughts you had on possible strengths and weaknesses in Hofstede in the back of your mind for later in the course.
As I read the article I realised that it must have been written at a fairly early stage in Hofstede's work. This is why there is no reference to his work with Bond (which Pugh and Hickson discuss in the summary you read in Activity 6).
I also realised that it is not what could be called an ‘easy read’ – so I had to concentrate quite hard when I read it.
I thought that question 1 – concerning the main features of Hofstede's approach – was covered in the first part of the article. It seemed to me that the first part was effectively a more detailed account of the points made in Pugh and Hickson's summary. For me it amounted to a statement of Hofstede's original ideas. I already had notes on the four dimensions (power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism–collectivism and masculinity) and I thought that what I had would be quite enough for both articles. Your experience may well have been different and you may have decided to develop some new notes. This is a very common occurrence in note taking. It is often useful to re-work notes so that they become more effective.
Question 2 seemed to me to apply more to the second part of the article. I thought it raised issues which were only touched on in the Pugh summary. So I needed some more notes. Hofstede gives three examples of how different national cultures may influence how organisations operate. As the title of the piece says, they are motivation, leadership and structuring organisations.
I noticed particularly how Hofstede uses his four dimensions to provide a framework when discussing his examples. I thought it was interesting that Hofstede argues that a matrix structure suits the national culture of the USA which, unlike France, does not see hierarchy and rules as essential to organisational effectiveness.
For me the most important overall point is that Hofstede believes that national culture can influence what organisations do, but he is much more sceptical about whether organisations can change culture.