Cultural Differences and Improving Performance (How Values and Beliefs Influence Organizational Performance)

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Written by Jason Yeomanson on 1 February 2010 in Review

This month Jason Yeomanson reviews 'Cultural Differences and Improving Performance (How Values and Beliefs Influence Organizational Performance)' by Bryan Hopkins.

Bryan Hopkins

Gower Publishing

ISBN 978-0-566-08907-7

Hardback £60.00

You may be forgiven for thinking, having read the title, that this book is going to be a difficult read.

Well, it is not. Author Bryan Hopkins writes in an engaging and easy-going style. Right at the start he describes what the book is and what it is not. For instance, he says it is "an attempt at explaining how different cultural characteristics may affect how people behave and perform in their workplace, leading to ideas about how diverse workforces can be managed effectively" but is "not about how to promote cultural diversity in the workplace, although I would like to think that this is implicit within what it says".

The book is divided into two parts: theory and practice, with theoretical information contained in the former and practical guidance in the latter.

Part one discusses why cultures differ, set in the context of the workplace. This throws up some interesting insights into why we may find working with people from different cultures a challenge.

Hopkins avoids direct stereotypes but does inform the reader why people from differing cultures behave differently in certain situations.

He has tried to avoid any exact prescriptions to solve workplace problems involving specific nationalities because he is the first to agree that a large amount of management theories are developed in the United States and tested within a Western context. So he is aware that what may work in a Western culture may not bring the same results when used in Asia or South America, for example.

The chapters that follow in part one look at the importance of analysing work-based behaviour, culture and workplace activities and discuss how cultural differences can affect everyday workplace activities such as negotiation, decision making, team-working and leadership. The Systems Approach - how systems thinking can help find solutions to performance problems - is also discussed and there is an interesting section on solving work-based problems,which examines why problem solving can be difficult and what obstacles need to be considered within environmental, intellectual,physiological and cultural factors.

Part two concerns itself with working through a seven-step process for solving workplace performance problems. If you area fan of 'problem-solving'-type publications, the solutions will be familiar but you can't fault Hopkins' attention to detail and excellent use of relevant case studies. In fact, the chapters within part two can be used to inform the reader on how to use specific processes to solve problems even if he does not need to consider cultural differences.

Hopkins writes with great clarity,which is a triumph in itself as you can see where he could so easily get bogged down in the subject matter.Despite the book running to more than 300 pages, the subject matter is 'chunked' into digestible pieces and the uncluttered page layout encourages you to keep reading.

I would have preferred to have seen some colour used, especially due to the extensive use of diagrams and tables, but this was really the only negative point I could find.

There is a very useful further reading section is at the end of the book. I must admit, some sections I found useful and will want to research further.

In summary, I think this is a very interesting and useful book to add to any manager's library. I know for sure that it has given me new things to consider, and that I feel I should be more culturally aware when delivering training to a diverse group.


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