Managing People Across Cultures

Reviewed by: 
Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner
Capstone Publishing Ltd
Des Gould, Founding Partner, The Success Group

Click here to purchase.
(All sales commission goes to charity)

The title of this book is in my opinion somewhat misleading as while cultural differences are addressed in parts of the book, I feel that the central theme of the book is actually the role of Human Resource Management (HRM) within today's corporate environments.

The authors provide a succinct background to the reasons why HR departments came about in the first place and then go on to explain their vision of what it needs to become in order that it should remain relevant in the future.

Because of the emphasis they place on the relevance of HR to the success of the business, I would also strongly recommend this book to CEO's as well as to HR professionals as it provides a good overview of the role that the HR Director should be fulfilling within the organisation, as well as giving HR professionals many points for reflection and thought.

In my opinion, the greatest strength of the book is the balanced perspective it offers on almost every subject it deals with and, in this way, I believe it reflects a key role that many HR departments shy away from. Namely, that the HR department should play a major part in internal conflict and problem resolution. In this regard, the book takes an analytical and dispassionate perspective on most topics, plotting the various approaches on a graph and suggesting that the optimum outcomes can only come about by binding new solutions that combine the approaches of everyone. This is not 'compromise' it is 'synergy' and, while playing this role is unlikely to make you popular, it is never the less, an important part of the HR departments purpose.

Through ten thought provoking chapters, the authors examine most aspects of human resource management. In the first chapter they look at corporate cultures and identify four distinct cultural models that exist in the workplace, with creativity and innovation being the weakest and the current 'Holy Grail'. In chapter two they addresses recruitment, selection, and assessment and suggest that many of the 'tools' often used in this context need to be complemented with other measures to provide a more balanced process.

In chapters three to five the authors look at the challenge of training managers to achieve strategic goals, the challenge of creating teams that think strategically and constructively and the need for the organisation to be constantly developing as a 'learning organisation'.

Chapter six focuses on leadership development across cultures. They argue that leaders must increasingly reconcile an ever-widening spectrum of diversities that include: different stages of economic cycles, different national cultures, different corporate cultures, different team roles, different functions, status levels, learning styles, disciplines, and personalities.

The following chapters look at dilemmas that are increasingly occurring, particularly in larger multinational organisations, and offers thoughts on the role the HR department might take in resolving such dilemmas.

My only criticism of the book would be that it is not at all an easy read. It frequently jumps from seemingly straightforward descriptions of processes into more complex and abstract concepts. This is possibly the price you pay for a book being jointly authored. However, I do believe that it is worth the effort and that, in providing new thinking in the field of human resource management, it should be on the reading list of all HR professionals.

Click here if you would like to purchase a copy of this book.