The Grey Chronicles

2009.May.22

Cultural Performance Management Analysis, Part I



This post, continued from yesterday’s Cultural Performance Management Analysis, discusses the opposing pairs of cultural characteristics, Group vs. Individual, in terms of GSPI’s corporate scenario. Following an example as explained by Buytendijk (2008) and featured in Profit Magazine (2009), instead of two companies, the cultural performance management analysis below considers two cultures.

Global Steel Holdings Ltd. [GSHL], an Indian-based company acquired National Steel Corporation [NSC], the premier steel manufacturing company in the Philippines, in 2004. With that acquisition, GSHL formed a local subsidiary named Global Steelworks Infrastructure, Inc., which was later came to be known as Global Steel Philippines (SPV-AMC), Inc. Thus, a clash of two cultures: Indian and Filipino came to exist in the corporate scene at Global Steel Philippines.

GSPI became a multi-cultural corporation with Indian expats, mostly Hindi, dominating much of the management decisions while mostly ex-NSC employees, Filipinos, constitute the majority of its employees. Instead of companies, the cultural performance management analysis below is performed on two entities, Indian expats and Filipino workers.

The Filipino mind had been molded by a mixture of several cultures: from our Indo-Malayo forebears, three centuries of catholic Spanish rule, and half a decade of protestant American governance. The result is unique. Meanwhile, the Indian mind has been shaped by remarkably diverse forces: ancient Hindu tradition, myth and scripture; the impact of Islam and Christianity; and two centuries of British colonial rule. The result is, equally, incomparable.

Although this analysis opted to group certain ideas into the six opposing pairs, the discussion on the cultural characteristics often overlapped, thus some repetitions were only made for emphasis.


A. Group vs. Individual

Filipinos are generally group persons. They tend to be in a group rather than be alone. A Filipino value, Pakikisama (group loyalty), is ingrained to each of them. But during its existence, NSC corporate culture had a very individualized orientation, merits based on individual performance are given more weight.

Being regionalistic (grouping by region) is also a Filipino trait which has been blamed as the bane of being Filipino first. Some Filipinos, think of being Bisaya or Tagalog first, rather than claiming to be a Filipino. At NSC, however, these regionalistic tendencies are somewhat relegated to the background, as the major linguistic-ethnic group is Bisaya. The more common distinction in this part of the Philippines is whether one is Christian, Muslim or Lumad.

Gorospe (1994), however, admonishes:

“A Filipino value or disvalue does not exist alone, in isolation or in a vacuum. Filipino values like bahala na, utang na loob, hiya, pakikisama, pakiusap are clustered around core values like social acceptance, economic security, social mobility, and are always found in a definite context or set of circumstances.” [Emphasis mine]

Guevara (2005) in his essay on Pakikipagkapwa (being-with-others), describes:

Pakikisama is about sameness, not about “equality.” Collectivism shuns individuality, discourages individual differences, and promotes sameness. In Pakikipagkapwa, we are the “same” by virtue of being different. . . [it] overcomes egocentrism and reaches to the other in his otherness. . . [it] transcends egotism in a radical way.”

Thus, having intimate understanding of these Filipino values and traits, NSC’s productivity programs balanced this individualism with cohesive small group in teams of five to eight members. This cemented the value of Pakikisama (group loyalty), turning it into a positive, where one lives for others; peace or lack of dissension is a constant goal, and ultimately became Pakikipagkapwa. The publication of its Corporate Philosophy further cemented the bond of individuals into one team: Team NSC! Each employee was proud to belong to Team NSC, even at times when various media were throwing fits of its monopolistic tendencies, and a barrage of nasty rumors. NSC employees came to defend NSC’s honor and credibility.

Several corporate programs also highlighted NSC’s quest to be one: corporate-sponsored summer excursions; Kaibigan seminar-workshop, designed to create a common corporate culture; the yearly Christmas pageant; and the Anniversary celebrations.

Indians are also group persons. But within a group, arguments are soon to break out on deciding one thing. Amartya Sen even made a book out of this Indian trait, The Argumentative Indian, an academic study done by a detached observer, where he notes:

“India is an immensely diverse country with many distinct pursuits, vastly disparate convictions, widely divergent customs and a veritable feast of viewpoints. . . .heterodoxy has been championed in many different ways throughout Indian history, and the argumentative tradition remains very much alive today.”

There is even a popular joke which states: One Indian is silent, two Indians are a debating team! As such, there is a natural inclination of the Indian manager to over-intellectualize and his tendency toward too much debate at the expense of action maybe a deterrent.

Then there is the question on caste. Nicholas B. Dirks (1992) writes:

“When we think of India it is hard not to think of caste. . . [It] has become a central trope for India, always resisted political intrusion. . . it is not a residual survival of ancient India but a specifically [British] colonial form of civil society. . . Caste not only subordinates the political; it also reduces the individual to a position of relative unimportance.”

Although numerous literatures and discourses discussed its merits and demerits, one even hoped that “caste may in course of time group themselves into classes representing the different strata of society” [see for example: H.H. Risley’s The People of India (London, 1908)], caste in modern-day India is alive and kicking. As hope would have it, presently, the caste system evolved from a composition of interdependent occupational groups to a stratified, hierarchical, socio-economic class system. Modernity, moreover, brought caste to being politicized, as well.

Dr. Li Choy Chong (2006), Director of Asia Research Centre at the University of St. Gallen, discusses the transformation of Indian management from traditional to contemporary. Traditional management involved three fundamental and mutually reinforcing concepts: Caste System: rigid social stratification system; Karma: predestination related to past life and Dharma: social duty. Unfortunately, although there are practitioners of the contemporary style as discussed by Dr. Chong, a lot of Indian expats here still manages traditionally.

Chong and Argrawal (2006) contributing to the research on the emerging contemporary Indian management style, observe:

“Based on six case studies of family-owned and multinational companies with a total of 36 interviews, we found that Indian managers tend to value relevant educational background and experience higher than caste belonging for employment decisions.”

It should be noted, moreover, that Chong and Argrawal research imply that although statistical generalization from a sample of six cases to a universe of all Indian companies is not possible, the generalizability of their findings remains on an analytical and not statistical level.

Yet, Shahi Thaboor (2007) typically explains that:

“Ethnicity further complicates the notion of a majority community. Most of the time, our Indian names immediately reveal where we are from and what our mother tongue is; when we introduce ourselves we are advertising our origins. . . Affinities between Indians span one set of identities and cross into another I am simultaneously Keralite (my state of origin), Malayali (my linguistic affiliation), Hindu (my religious faith), Nair (my caste), Calcuttan (by marriage), Stephanian (because of my education at Delhi’s St. Stephen’s College) and so on.”

The above takes ethnicity at an extreme, compared to similar arguments taken by local employees.


Notes:

Buytendijk, Frank (2008). Performance Leadership: The Next Practices to Motivate Your People, Align Stakeholders, and Lead Your Industry. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008. back to text

Chong, Dr. Li Choy (2006). Management in India. Lecture presented at St. Gallen, Switzerland. Singapore: University of St. Gallen, Singapore Management University, 2006. back to text

Chong, L.C & Agrawal, N.M (2006). Rediscovering Indian Management. Singapore: University of St. Gallen, Singapore Management University. 12pp. back to text

Dirks, Nicholas B. (1992). Castes of Mind. Representations, No. 37, Special Issue: Imperial Fantasies and Postcolonial Histories. University of California Press: Winter, 1992. pp. 56-78. back to text

Gorospe, Vitaliano R. S.J. (1994). Understanding the Filipino Value System, Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change, Series III, Volume 7: Values in Philippine Culture and Education,Philippine Philosophical Studies I. Manuel B. Dy, Jr. [ed.]. Washington, D.C.: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 1994. back to text

Guevara, Jaime P. (2005). Pakikipagkapwa, Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change, Series IIID, Volume 4: Filipino Cultural Traits: Claro R. Ceniza Lectures, Rolando M. Gripaldo [ed]., Place: Washington, D.C.: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 1994. back to text

Mehta, Monica (2009). Performance Leadership: A Q&A with Frank Buytendijk, Profit: The Executive’s Guide to Oracle Applications, 14:1. Skokie, IL: Oracle Publishing, February 2009. p. 32-33. back to text

Thaboor, Shahi (2007). A Culture of Diversity, Resurgence Magazine. Online: Resurgence Magazine, 2007. back to text

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.

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