Gislen Cultural Challenges seminar

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Information about Gislen Cultural Challenges seminar
Business & Mgmt

Published on March 10, 2014

Author: MikaelGisln



This is a short version of my seminar on cultural challenges when working with IT outsourcing between Scandinavia and India. It discusses different constructs which can help to understand cultural differences but does not suggest stereotyping cultures since every culture is far more heterogeneous than our generalizations. Nevertheless we need generalizations to understand so these can be used as a start. The seminar is normally delivered with a number of anecdotes and suggestions for how to avoid specific challenges.


Who am I? • Studied engineering at Chalmers for 1 year in the early 1980’s • IT experience from Sweden from the 1980’s and early 1990’s • Went to India in 1993 and started Gislen Software • Broad personal experience of Requirement Acquisition, Software Architecture and design and development • Education B. Sc. Economics and M. Sc. Informatics • Researched cultural challenges as well as challenges between Agile development and TQM 2

Gislen Software • Gislen Software works with well known Swedish and Norwegian clients such as TNS-Sifo, SKF, SAS, Swedish Match, ABB, PostNord, Q-Free (Road Toll) and Fara (Public Transportation) • Also with various start-ups; Intreat, ArchOver • Green field Development mainly in Microsoft Dot Net, Apple and Android technologies • Integration Services using Tibco and Biztalk

How others see Sweden... “Effectively a one-party state – albeit supported by a couple of shadowy industrialist families – for much of the 20th century, "neutral" Sweden (one of the world largest arms exporters) continues to thrive economically thanks to its distinctive brand of totalitarian modernism, which curbs freedoms, suppresses dissent in the name of consensus, and seems hell-bent on severing the bonds between wife and husband, children and parents, and elderly on their children. Think of it as the China of the north.” The Guardian 27/1/2014

Agenda • Challenges • What is culture • Cultural dimensions • Some typical challenges • How to mitigate and get result • Anecdotes and experiences will be mentioned throughout

Challenges with outsourcing • Non defined expectations • Unclear requirements • Poor governance • Cultural challenges


What is culture? “The total way of life of a particular group of people.” “Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another.” Geert Hofstede, 1980

In principle ... there is a generalized framework that underlies the more apparent and striking facts of cultural relativity. All cultures constitute so many somewhat distinct answers to essentially the same questions posed by human biology and by the generalities of the human situation. ... Every society's patterns for living must provide approved and sanctioned ways for dealing with such universal circumstances as the existence of two sexes; the helplessness of infants; the need for satisfaction of the elementary biological requirements such as food, warmth, and sex; the presence of individuals of different ages and of differing physical and other capacities. Clyde Kluckhohn, 1962 What is culture?

What is culture? Cultures consist of behavioural patterns that can be identified and measured. These patterns form a framework for analysing cultures. You can use the framework to your competitive advantage to promote trust and predict how people will respond to situations. Geert Hofstede, 1980

Clashes Indian/Asian  Swedish/Western Hierarchial  Flat Learning through listening  Learning through questioning and dialogue Management resp for outcome  Management resp for supervision Worker resp. to do what told  Worker resp. for outcome Focus on great past  Focus on exciting future Collective improvement  Individual achievement

Model for how we understand and act 18 Δ Individualism Δ Face saving behaviour Δ H/L Context Geogr. distance Δ Time Zone Δ Uncertainty Avoidance Psychic Distance Stimuli Decision maker’s sensitivity to PD stimuli Δ Power Distance Perceived Psychic distance Managerial Decisions Education International Exprience Age Δ Education system Having worked with your culture before Δ Legal System Source: Dow & Karunaratna & Gislen

How to understand the constructs • Cultural dimensions can be used to understand your own and others culture, but the individual variation is huge so don’t stereotype • People relate to some kind of norm in society • India is a very heterogeneus culture and is changing • Most studies were done in 60-70 and the people participating may not have been representative

Cultural Dimensions • Economic, technical and cultural development • Proximity (Hall) • High/Low Context - Implicit/explicit communication (Hall) • Individualism – Collectivism (Hofstaede) • Power distance (Hofstaede) • Masculinity vs. Femininity– Quantity or Quality of life (Hofstaede) • Uncertainty Avoidance (Hofstaede) • Long Term Orientation / Pragmatic Versus Normative (Bond/Hofstaede) • Indulgence vs. Restrain (Minkov/Hofsteade) • Diffuse vs. Specific (Trompenaar) • Attitude to time (Trompenaar) • Attitude to environment (Trompenaar) 20

Political correctness – in Individualistic cultures...

Impact of UAI & PDI 28 From Hofstede

Similar patterns • High Power distance – Latin, Asian and African countries • Low Power distance – Anglo, Nordic and Chinese countries • Individualism – Western countries • Collectivism – Rest of the world • Masculinity - Japan, Germany, Austria and Switzerland • Femininity - Nordic & Netherland, moderate in France, Spain, Thailand and India • Long term orientation – East Asia • Short term orientation – Anglo, Muslim, Latin America and Africa • Indulgence – Latin America, Parts of Africa, Anglo world and North Europe, • Restrain East/South Asia, Estern Europe and Muslim world


Swedish culture • The Jante law • Group mentality • Very dependent of what others think about you • Lagom • Very Informal (flat organisations) • Humility and simplicity • Love of nature • Extremely well planned • Introspective • Secular Society • Intolerant to differences • Very calm (no temper) • Understates ability • Down to earth • Good design • Delegated authority • Low profile & withdrawn • Good quality (without defined processes, but may not like to define them) • The Royal Swedish Envy • Caring Society (Folkhemmet) • Egalitarian society • Faithfulness • Punctuality • Direct communication (mostly...) but less direct when it comes to criticism than US & Norway • Managers gives directions rather than orders, does not oversee and control • Extremely honest culture but not always straight • Good English skill • Few but long term friends • Not very good at small talk

South Indian Culture • Happy • Relationships / Community • Simplicity • Stretchable time perspective • Not introspective • Religious • Tolerant • Generous • Fatalistic • Superstitious • Overstates ability • Good English skills • Honest (but not always straight) • Loving • Hierarchical • Outspoken • Managers needs to give orders, monitor, check and look after • Face and self-esteem • Culture is much more Indirect • Bad to say no, nalekee may mean no... • Small talk first during meetings • Often missing the last touch • Good quality (with defined process) • Not talking while eating

Conclusions • Understanding and respect differences • Walking half way each • Discuss the differences - If there is a problem, speak! • Main dimensions Power Distance, Individualism & Uncertainty Avoidance • The impact of High/Low context • Tacit Knowledge & Assumptions 37

QUESTIONS We can do it together!!!

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