The Impact of National Cultural Factors on the Effectiveness of Process Improvement Methods: The 3rd dimension1



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The Impact of National Cultural Factors
on the Effectiveness of Process Improvement Methods:
The 3rd dimension1

Dr. Miklós Biró


Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration
Hungary
miklos.biro@informatika.bke.hu
Dr. Richard Messnarz
ISCN
Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
rmess@iscn.ie
Dr. Alfred Gerald Davison

QPAC

Skive, Denmark



gerry@marlab.dk

Abstract

Adopting the practices of the world’s leading economy is a desirable and sensible strategy, since these practices are based on the largest existing pool of experiences. The question is whether these practices will be equally effective in other areas of the world where different national cultures condition different value systems.

CMMISM 2(Capability Maturity Model (CMM®) IntegrationSM) is a framework from which models can be generated for different organizations. It is open to considerations regarding all kinds of circumstances including differences in cultural value systems which were characterized in his seminal work by G.Hofstede. The statistically identified clusters of characteristics of national cultures are the following:

Power distance

Individualism versus collectivism

Masculinity versus femininity

Uncertainty avoidance

Long-term versus short-term orientation

With this paper, we intend to contribute to the international success of CMMI and of all other process improvement methods by proposing to work towards a 3rd dimension of the CMMI/SPICE architecture: the cultural dimension, in addition to the process and capabilty dimensions of the existing models.


Introduction

A value system is the deepest of four layers of culture considered in social anthropology. Layers and dimensions of national, organizational, and other group cultures have been identified by thorough scientific research. Layers of national culture from the most superficial to the deepest are briefly summarized here [Hofstede, 1994]:



Symbols: words, gestures, pictures, objects that carry a particular meaning which is only recognized by those who share the culture.

Heroes: persons, alive or dead, real or imaginary, who possess characteristics which are highly prized in a culture, and who thus serve as models for behavior.

Rituals: collective activities technically superfluous in reaching desired ends, however socially essential.

Values: broad tendencies to prefer certain states of affairs to others.

The first 3 layers are visible to an outside observer; their cultural meaning, however is invisible. The 4th layer, that is values are acquired so early in our lives, that they remain for the most part unconscious. Therefore they are not normally discussed, nor can outsiders normally directly observe them.

In order to illustrate the impact of value systems on views about the right management of organizations which are the subjects of process improvement, we refer to [Hofstede, 1994] lining-up four distinguished scholars from France, Germany, the US, and China. We first observe the differences in their value systems reflected by their views. We then briefly present Hofstede’s model of national cultures, which we validate on its power in predicting the previously observed differences. We examine the impact of national cultural value systems on the effectiveness of process improvement models in general and on CMMISM (Capability Maturity Model (CMM®) IntegrationSM) in particular, whose continuous representation is compatible with the ISO/IEC 15504 (SPICE~Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination) model. We propose a 3rd cultural dimension in addition to the process and capabilty dimensions of the existing models. Finally, we observe the generic practices of CMMI from the cultural dimension.

It is obvious that the effectiveness of process improvement methods is also influenced by organizational culture. Nevertheless, the focus of this paper is on national culture.


Views about the right management of organizations

Henri Fayol (1841-1925) was a French engineer. His key work was Administration Industrielle et Generale, 1916. He belongs to the Classical School of management theory and was writing and exploring administration and work. The following quotation is from [Fayol, 1916] translated by G.Hofstede [Hofstede, 1994]:

“We distinguish in a manager his statutory authority which is in the office, and his personal authority which consists of his intelligence, his knowledge, his experience, his moral values, his leadership, his service record, etc. For a good manager, personal authority is the indispensable complement to statutory authority.”

It is clear that in Fayol’s value system a person is a good manager if his power is both accepted by people and formally assigned by its organization.

Max Weber (1864-1920) was a German sociologist. He was the first to observe and write on the bureaucracy which developed in Germany during the 19th century. He considered it to be efficient, rational and honest, a big improvement over the haphazard administration it replaced. A quotation from [Weber, 1921]:

“The authority to give the commands required for the discharge of duties should be exercised in a stable way. It is strictly delimited by rules concerning the coercive means... which may be placed at the disposal of officials.”

In Weber’s value system the management of an organization is good if it is strictly governed by rules. This is the original meaning of bureaucracy without the negative sense attached to it nowadays.

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) was a US pioneer of organization theory. In the 1920's, her comments and writing on leadership, power, law of the situation, conflict integration and circular behavior, empowerment, teams, and networked organizations, importance of relationships within and among organizations, authority, control, etc. were way ahead of her time. She writes [Metcalf, Urwick, 1940]:

“How can we avoid the two extremes: too great bossism in giving orders, and practically no orders given? ... My solution is to depersonalize the giving of orders to unite all concerned in a study of the situation, to discover the law of the situation and to obey that... One person should not give orders to another person but both should agree to take their orders from the situation.”

According to Follett an organization is well managed if it is governed by neither accepted nor formal power but the market situation in today’s terms.


Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) was a revolutionary ahead of his time. He devoted his life to bringing democracy to China. He extensively studied the political systems of European countries and America in formulating the Three Principles of the People: Nationalism, Democracy, and Social Well-being. After failing on several attempts to unite the people to revolt, Sun finally succeeded with the Wuch'ang Uprising on October 10, 1911, leading to the successful overthrow of the Ch'ing government and the establishment of the Republic of China.

Dr. Sun was a contemporary of the other scholars even if he did not address industrial but political organizations. The government structure of Taiwan builds on his ideas integrating the western separation of executive, legislative, and juridical powers with the Chinese tradition by making all of these dependent on the President, and adding an examination and a control power supposed to audit the government.



Dimensions of national cultures

The seminal work [Hofstede, 1994] identifies the generic factors, which characterize value systems in different national cultures, including those of software and systems developers’, applying statistical cluster analysis. The analysis was based on questionnaires from more than 50 countries. Each of the countries could be given an index score for each of the following dimensions of national cultures briefly described below:


Power distance characterizes the extent to which people consider it natural that power, status, and privileges are distributed unequally among individuals or that this distribution has no high significance in their lives. In small power distance countries subordinates and superiors consider each other, as existentially equal and decentralization is popular, while large power distance countries subscribe to authority of bosses and centralization.


Individualism versus collectivism characterizes people’s esteem of individual activities and successes versus the importance of their belonging to a social group. In an individualist culture people are supposed to take care only of themselves and their immediate families, and remain emotionally independent from the group. In a collectivist culture people distinguish between in-groups and out-groups, expect their in-group to look after them, and individuals define their identity by relationships to others and group belonging. The individual and the group have a mutual obligation of protection in exchange for loyalty.

Masculinity versus femininity is better expressed as confrontation and quantity orientation versus compromise and quality orientation. In masculine cultures importance is placed on assertiveness, competitiveness and materialism in the form of earnings and advancement, promotions and big bonuses. A feminine culture indicates the concern for people, the quality of life, nurturing and social well being.

Uncertainty avoidance characterizes people’s attitude towards ambiguous or unknown situations. Innovation usually involves a lot of uncertainty; it is by consequence easier in weak uncertainty avoiding cultures. A strong uncertainty avoiding culture creates high anxiety in people who usually like to work hard and like establishing and following rules. The actual implementation of the results of innovation is an activity, which exactly requires this attitude.

All the four dimensions are a continuum between two extremes and no national culture is at one or the other extreme. Furthermore, the index scores are statistical results, which means there are always individuals who are not conform to the general model. By consequent, the model is not meant to and should not be used to stereotype people from various cultures.

In addition, the dimensions are a group of characteristics which were found to have significant correlation using statistical analysis. This means for example that a typical person, representing a culture on the femininity end of the masculinity-femininity dimension, is by no means feminine in the traditional sense, but bears characteristics which correlate with characteristics mostly women possess. Cultural conditioning may be so strong that members of a masculine culture may attach an offending meaning to the term "feminine" itself, demanding for a different expression for these values.

There is in fact a fifth dimension identified only later due to the natural western cultural bias of the experts themselves compiling the questionnaires used for the study. This is


Long-term versus short-term orientation or Confucian dynamism [Hofstede, 1994] which means persistence, establishment and observation of priorities, thrift, and a sense of shame on the long-term orientation pole, personal steadiness, protection of “face”, respect for traditions, reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts on the short-term orientation pole.

The individualism-collectivism, and the masculinity-femininity dimensions are more oriented toward persons, while the power distance and uncertainty avoidance dimensions relate more to organizations.

Let us position the four scholars in these two organization-related dimensions.

Personal power as well as formal rules are important for Fayol whose culture is likely to have a high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance index.

Power is not but rules are important for Weber whose culture is supposedly of low power distance and strongly uncertainty avoiding.

Follett rejects both power and rules, which lets us presuppose a low power distance, weak uncertainty avoiding culture.

Dr. Sun’s political structure is built on power, which on the other hand is supposed to be controllable. These are characteristics of a large power distance, weak uncertainty avoiding culture.

Let us see Figure 1 with the position of 50 countries and 3 regions in the two dimensional space of power distance and uncertainty avoidance established in [Hofstede, 1994].



F


igure 1

Abbreviation


Country

Abbreviation

Country

ARA

Arab countries (Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates)

JPN

Japan

ARG

Argentina

KOR

South Korea

AUL

Australia

MAL

Malaysia

AUT

Austria

MEX

Mexico

BEL

Belgium

NET

Netherlands

BRA

Brazil

NOR

Norway

CAN

Canada

NZL

New Zealand

CHL

Chile

PAK

Pakistan

COL

Colombia

PAN

Panama

COS


Costa Rica

PER

Peru

DEN

Denmark

PHI

Philippines

EAF

East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia)

POR

Portugal

EQA

Ecuador

SAF

South Africa

FIN

Finland

SAL

Salvador

FRA

France

SIN

Singapore

GBR

Great Britain

SPA

Spain

GER

Germany FR

SWE

Sweden

GRE

Greece

SWI

Switzerland

GUA

Guatemala

TAI

Taiwan

HOK

Hong Kong

THA


Thailand

IDO

Indonesia

TUR

Turkey

IND

India

URU

Uruguay

IRA

Iran

USA

United States

IRE

Ireland (Republic of)

VEN

Venezuela

ISR

Israel

WAF

West Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone)

ITA

Italy

YUG

Yugoslavia

JAM

Jamaica





By examining the position of France, Germany, the US, and countries with strong Chinese cultural influence like Hong Kong and Singapore in the four quadrants of Figure 1, we can clearly conclude as Hofstede did, that his model is powerful in predicting differences in views about the right management of organizations among others.

Considering the above historical examples, one might argue that the conclusions are losing their validity as a result of globalization, and that today's cultures are converging. The fact is that national cultural values are so deeply rooted in our minds that any change is very slow. "Research about the development of cultural values has shown repeatedly that there is very little evidence of international convergency over time, except an increase of individualism for countries that have become richer. Value differences between nations described by authors centuries ago are still present today, in spite of continued close contacts. For the next few hundred years countries will remain culturally very diverse." [Hofstede, 1994]

The 3rd Dimension

The following discussion is based on the CMMI framework, it can however obviously be applied to any method intending to improve the processes of an organization.

CMMI is a framework from which models can be generated for different organizations. “Although process areas depict behavior that should be exhibited in any organization, practices must be interpreted using an in-depth knowledge of the CMMI model, the organization, the business environment, and the specific circumstances involved.”[CMMISM-SE/SW/IPPD, V1.02 Continuous Representation/lines 559-562]

The above statement bears a striking resemblance to Mary Parker Follett’s way of thinking which is not surprising because of the obvious fact that CMMI was developed in the U.S. cultural environment. It is fortunate that at the same time, this statement clearly demonstrates the intention to be open to considerations regarding all kinds of circumstances including differences in cultural value systems.

CMMI Continuous Representation is often illustrated as having a two dimensional structure with the process dimension on one side and the capability dimension on the other. This is a sound approach, since each (process area, capability level) pair has a well defined meaning and implies suitable improvement actions.

With this paper, we propose to work towards a 3rd dimension (see Figure 2) in the CMMI architecture: the cultural dimension. This model extension is valid, since the national cultural position of the company may determine a different meaning and suitable improvement actions for every (process area, capability level) pair, or even every (process area, specific or generic practice) pair using a finer granularity of CMMI where process capability levels are achieved by performing the specific or generic practices on the process areas. In short, the effectiveness of various practices depends on the national culture where they are performed. In fact, this model extension can be fully accomodated by even the current version of the CMMI since all practices are only expected and not required model components [CMMISM-SE/SW/IPPD, V1.02 Continuous Representation/lines 824-825].

Figure 2


We have seen that the cultural dimension itself is multidimensionally determined by Hofstede but there are other models of national cultures which are also valid and which we intend to leave the new model open to.

In order to remaining consistent as far as possible with the structure of the CMMI continous model, the new cultural dimension has model components similar to those of the capability dimension of CMMI. Nevertheless, we use the old "maturity level" terminology instead of "capability level" for the cultural dimension, since it has a better descriptive power in this case. The model has also similarities with the ancestor of CMM [Paulk, 1995] [Messnarz, Tully, 1999]: Crosby’s Maturity Grid [Crosby, 1979].



Cultural Maturity Level 0 (Closed)

The cultural maturity level of a process area at a given capability level is 0 if the specific and/or generic practices, leading to the achievement of the specific and/or generic goals of the process area at the given capability level, are prescriptive to the extent where no differences in cultural value systems are allowed.



Cultural Maturity Level 1 (Open)

The cultural maturity level of a process area at a given capability level is 1 if the specific and/or generic practices, leading to the achievement of the specific and/or generic goals of the process area at the given capability level, are open enough to allow for differences in cultural value systems.


Cultural Maturity Level 2 (Model based)

The cultural maturity level of a process area at a given capability level is 2 if the consideration of cultural differences is based on a scientifically established model. Hofstede’s multidimensional model is an example, but other models are also acceptable in case they are useful in distinguishing the differences in cultural value systems which have an impact on the performance of the specific and/or generic practices.


Cultural Maturity Level 3 (Comprehensive)

The cultural maturity level of a process area at a given capability level is 3 if the scientifically established cultural model is comprehensively applied to all specific and generic practices leading to the achievement of the specific and/or generic goals of the process area at the given capability level.



Cultural Maturity Level 4 (Tailored)

The cultural maturity level of a process area at a given capability level is 4 if the depth and complexity of the application of the cultural model to the specific and generic practices is based on quantitatively managed experience and business needs.



Cultural Maturity Level 5 (Competency driven)

The cultural maturity level of a process area at a given capability level is 5 if the cultural model applied to the specific and generic practices is refined, extended, or fully changed on the basis of competency acquired through quantitatively managed long-term model experience and business needs.


Level 1 Generic Cultural Goal

Create an organizational culture where specific and generic practices allow for differences in cultural value systems when the need is identified.

A level 1 Generic Cultural Practice is to scan specific and generic practices for cultural restrictions and relieve the identified restrictions.

An excellent example of a practice in CMMI where cultural restrictions are already partially relieved is Generic Practice 2.4 (Assign Responsibility) [CMMISM-SE/SW/IPPD, V1.02]. The description of the practice contains the following wording: “Responsibility can be assigned using detailed job descriptions…” Strongly uncertainty avoiding German engineers will love this approach as opposed to weakly uncertainty avoiding Swedish engineers. GP 2.4 states however that “Dynamic assignment of responsibility is another legitimate way to perform this practice…”. We can claim by consequent that GP 2.4 can actually be adapted to both weakly and strongly uncertainty avoiding national cultures.


Level 2 Generic Cultural Goal

Specific and generic practices take cultural differences into consideration on the basis of a scientifically established model.

A level 2 Generic Cultural Practices is the application of an element of the cultural model to selected specific and generic practices.

In the case of the Hofstede model, Generic Cultural Practices (GCP) could be the following:



GCP 2.1 Consider the power distance factor in selected specific and generic practices.

GCP 2.2 Consider the the individualism versus collectivism factor in selected specific and generic practices.

GCP 2.3 Consider the masculinity versus femininity factor in selected specific and generic practices.

GCP 2.4 Consider the uncertainty avoidance factor in selected specific and generic practices.

GCP 2.5 Consider the long term versus short term orientation factor in selected specific and generic practices.

In CMMI Generic Practice 2.4 of the above example, the consideration of the individualism versus collectivism factor of the Hofstede model (GCP 2.2) leads to another cultural restriction of this practice which should be relieved.

The assignment of responsibility is strongly related to the individualism versus collectivism dimension. Should the responsibility be assigned to people or rather teams? The wording of GP 2.4 reflects cultural conditioning:

“Confirm that the people assigned to the responsibilities and authorities understand and accept them.” [CMMISM-SE/SW/IPPD, V1.02 Continuous Representation /lines 1744-1745]

In order to illustrating the importance of this issue, we quote [Hofstede, 1994] referring to a management researcher from the U.S., Christopher Earley who performed an enlightening laboratory experiment on a group of 48 management trainees from southern China and 48 matched management trainees from the U.S. Half of the participants in either country were given group tasks, the other half individual tasks. Also, half of the participants in either country, both from the group task and from the individual task subsets were asked to mark each completed item with their names, the other half turned them in anonymously. “The Chinese collectivist participants performed best when operating with a group goal and anonymously. They performed worst when operating individually and with their name marked on the items produced. The American individualist participants performed best when operating individually and with their name marked, and abysmally low when operating as a group and anonymously.”

In addition to GP 2.4 and many other parts of CMMI, the above experiment has an obviously profound impact on such IPPD process areas like Organizational Environment for Integration and Integrated Teaming.


Level 3 Generic Cultural Goal

The scientifically established cultural model is comprehensively applied to all specific and generic practices.

A level 3 Generic Cultural Practice is the systematic application of an element of the cultural model to all specific and generic practices.

In the case of the Hofstede model, Generic Cultural Practices (GCP) could be the following:



GCP 3.1 Consider the power distance factor in all specific and generic practices.

GCP 3.2 Consider the the individualism versus collectivism factor in all specific and generic practices.

GCP 3.3 Consider the masculinity versus femininity factor in all specific and generic practices.

GCP 3.4 Consider the uncertainty avoidance factor in all specific and generic practices.

GCP 3.5 Consider the long term versus short term orientation factor in all specific and generic practices.

CMMI Generic Practice 2.8 (Monitor and Control the Process) and Generic Practice 2.10 (Review Status with Higher-Level Management) are both affected by GCP 3.1 and GCP 3.4. CMMI Generic Practice 2.7 (Identify and Involve Relevant Stakeholders) is on the other hand affected by GCP 3.3, and Generic Practice 3.2 (Collect Improvement Information) by GCP 3.5.


GCP 3.1 (Power distance) considered in GP 2.8 (Monitor and Control the Process) and GP 2.10 (Review Status with Higher-Level Management)

Both of these generic practices require a review involving communication with either the immediate level of management or higher-level management. Power distance has a determining impact on the communication considered appropriate in a given culture.

Referring again to [Hofstede, 1994] let us quote a senior Indian executive with a Ph.D. from the U.S. [Negandhi, Prasad, 1940]:

“What is most important for me and my department is not what I do or achieve for the company, but whether the Master’s favor is bestowed on me. ... This I have achieved by saying “yes” to everything the Master says or does. ... To contradict him is to look for another job. ... I left my freedom of thought in Boston.”

It is obvious now that the way of performing generic practices 2.8 and 2.10 must take into account the power distance index in the national culture where the organization is located.


GCP 3.4 (Uncertainty avoidance) considered in GP 2.8 (Monitor and Control the Process) and GP 2.10 (Review Status with Higher-Level Management)

"Track corrective action to closure" is an important subpractice of GP 2.8. Precision and punctuality required by this subpractice is a natural characteristic of strongly uncertainty avoiding cultures, which will by consequent be better in this respect.


GCP 3.3 (masculinity versus femininity) considered in GP 2.7 (Identify and Involve Relevant Stakeholders)

The paper [Atwong, Lange, 1996] gives account of a virtual classroom experiment with students of the California State University-Fullerton and Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland. The subject of the experiment was a marketing research project, which is irrelevant in our context. The important is that “the project combined the American and Finnish students into one virtual classroom with cross-national teams. Students used the Internet extensively for data collection… and conducted Internet chat with foreign team members when necessary.” The message of the story can be summarized with the opinion of a Finnish student: "It was interesting to see the effect of cultural differences, even in a relatively simple project like this. When we first established contact with our American teammates, they wanted first to introduce themselves and chat about their interests and hobbies, which we thought was strange. Later we realized that this was their way to establish rapport with small talk. The Finns are used to getting immediately down to business. In the oral presentations, the American students seemed to emphasize presentation technologies more than us. However, in my opinion the quality of the work was roughly equal."

The above observation is due to the difference between the U.S. and Finland on the masculinity versus femininity scale, which is the only dimension where the U.S. and Finland are significantly different. Assertiveness is a characteristic which correlates more with masculine, while modesty with feminine characteristics. The involvement and the resolution of the conflicts of stakeholders from even these two otherwise close cultures requires a careful handling of the cultural differences without which both the assertive U.S. students and the modest Finnish students may find each other ridiculous, strange, shocking or even hateful.

This issue has of course to be taken into account while stakeholder involvement is planned in the Project Planning process area.


GCP 3.5 (long term versus short term orientation) considered in GP 3.2 (Collect Improvement Information)

Process improvement as a whole and especially this GP 3.2 clearly requires long-term orientation, that is persistence, establishment and observation of priorities, and thrift. Short-term orientation, that is protection of “face”, respect for traditions act against process improvement.



Level 4 Generic Cultural Goal

Experiences with the consideration of cultural differences are quantitatively managed, and the depth and complexity of the application of the cultural model is based on the quantitatively managed experiences and business needs.

Experience may indicate the need for a deeper application of the Hofstede model. In fact, Hofstede himself examined pairs of cultural factors in addition to the single ones as demonstrated on Figure 1 of this paper. GCP 4.1 considers such a pair for example. The number of pairs of the 5 cultural dimensions is 5C2 = 10. We have to be careful however with increasing the number of considered combinations, since the number of cases may increase exponentially which is not useful for our purposes.

GCP 4.1 Consider the pair of power distance and uncertainty avoidance cultural factors in all specific and generic practices.

CMMI Generic Practice 2.7 (Identify and Involve Relevant Stakeholders) will be affected by GCP 4.1.


GCP 4.1 (power distance and uncertainty avoidance) considered in GP 2.7 (Identify and Involve Relevant Stakeholders)

The preferred way of resolving conflicts between stakeholders can be predicted from the position of a culture in the two dimensional space of power distance and uncertainty avoidance shown on Figure 1 just as the views of the distinguished scholars.

[Hofstede, 1994] describes the results of an organizational behavior course examination reported by Owen James Stevens, an American professor at INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France. A mixture of French, German, and British students received a case study where they had to resolve a conflict between two department heads within a company. A sales and a manufacturing manager for example have usually conflicts since sales tries to satisfy changing customer demands, while manufacturing is more efficient if batches are larger and changes are less frequent.

“The results were striking. ... The solution preferred by the French was for the opponents to take the conflict to their common boss, who would issue orders for settling such dilemmas in the future. ... The solution preferred by the Germans was the establishment of procedures.” The British solution was the registration of both department heads to a management course to develop their negotiation skills.

In summary, the French with large power distance and strong uncertainty avoidance prefer to concentrate the authority and structure the activities, the Germans with strong uncertainty avoidance but smaller power distance want to structure the activities without concentrating the authority, while the British with small power distance and weak uncertainty avoidance believe in resolving conflicts ad hoc.


Level 5 Generic Cultural Goal

The cultural model is refined, extended, or fully changed on the basis of competency acquired through quantitatively managed long-term model experience and business needs.

For example, there may be a need for the consideration of cultural factors which are impractical to evoke from the existing cultural model. Below are the discussions of Generic Cultural Practices for two such factors.

GCP 5.1 Consider the discrepancy in perceived understanding

In [O’Suilleabhain 2000], a practical example of the Johari window is described showing how discrepancy in perceived understanding is measured in the “OSIRIS” project.

The Johari window is a tool originally designed for conceptually distinguishing between 4 different possible states with regard to knowledge of oneself, these states are shown in the diagram below:


Things I see

Things I do not see




Open for discussion

My blind spot

Things they see

Their blind spot

Shared blind spot

Things they do not see

Figure 4

The same principle can be applied to measure 4 different possible states with regard to knowledge of one’s culture, and the understanding of other cultures in the project team.

Respondents to the OSIRIS survey were asked to rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, the discrepancy between the understanding cultures in the ISIS project have of themselves, and the understanding others have of them. The questions asked were based on the Johari Window.

The table below shows the perceived discrepancies between each culture’s understanding of itself and the understanding other cultures have of it. Note that the ratings for each culture are by the other two cultures not by own culture.





N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Discrepancy between German respondent's own understanding of themselves and that of respondent

4

3.7500

.5000

Discrepancy between Irish respondents' own understanding of themselves and that of respondent

12

2.3333

.7785

Discrepancy between Greece's respondents' own understanding of themselves and that of respondent

10

2.4000

.8433

Figure 5

The bigger the discrepancy the smaller the incidence of perceived shared understanding and, implicitly then, the fewer issues “open for discussion”. It is interesting that Germany was the only culture with an above-average mean score which may imply that other cultures more often than not find their own understanding of German culture to be at odds with that of the Germans’ own and that “blind spots” , which can hinder effective interaction, may be greater than the Germans themselves believe.

A typical sign when this Johari problem happens is that during a certain project some results have to be re-agreed a number of times although the Germanic group feels that clear definitions have been agreed already.

This problem can be solved by moderating workshops in a way which allows to explain the different viewpoints and identify synergies, finally resulting in common solutions.


GCP 5.1.German. Do the managers understand that the once agreed business model might change driven by stakeholder inputs and new demands, and that cultural difference requires understanding different viewpoints on the same.

GCP 5.2 Consider the SPI approch in relationship with company culture and size.

As outlined in [Davison 2001] the movement of a large multinatinational organisation towards higher capabilty is a long lasting agreement process where step by step you must win the confidence of the managers and staff. Many tactics are needed to achieve this.

Example:

GCP 5.2.Large. Are the stakeholder agreements achieved step by step so that all involved parties are convinced and the joint mission is clear.

Conclusion

CMMI intends to be effective in all national cultures. By consequence, it should consider the way its practices can most effectively be performed in different national cultural environments.

This paper draws attention to the deep relevance of this issue to the international success of CMMI and of all other process improvement methods. The eye-opening ideas are validated in a general sense and are meant to be a justification
for undertaking a more extensive study which would require considerable
resources and a worldwide collaboration.

The authors of this paper encourage the establishment of a forum of people and organizations interested in sharing their ideas and experiences on process improvement in different cultural environments for improving effectiveness and suppressing conflicts due to unawareness of differences in value systems.


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1 Edited version published in:

Biró,M; Messnarz,R; Davison,A.G. The Impact of National Cultural Factors on the Effectiveness of Process Improvement Methods: The Third Dimension. Software Quality Professional (ASQ~American Society for Quality) Vol.4, Issue 4 (September 2002) pp.34-41.


(http://www.asq.org/pub/sqp/past/vol4_issue4/biro.html)

Ideas published in: Biró,M; Messnarz,R; Davison,A.G. Experiences with the Impact of Cultural Factors on SPI. In: Proceedings of the EuroSPI'2001 Conference (ed. by R.Messnarz). (International Software Collaborative Network, Limerick, Ireland, 2001).

and in: Biró,M; Messnarz,R; Davison,A.G. The Impact of National Cultural Factors on the Effectiveness of Process Improvement Methods: The 3rd Dimension. In: Proceedings on CD-ROM of the 11th International Conference on Software Quality (ASQ ~ American Society for Quality, Pittsburgh, USA, 2001).


2 Capability Maturity Model and CMM are registered trademarks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. CMM Integration and CMMI are service marks of Carnegie Mellon University.





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