When I see that the first port of use of managerial justification, particularly difficulties, is ‘cultural differences’, I smell a rat. It’s not that these differences do not exist, but they are the easiest things to invoke for people who don’t want to think too much. If French management is going to be hierarchical, the Spanish will go for long lunches and a siesta, Italians will be chaotic, Americans will be excessively matter of fact with zero social interest, Germans will be Germans, British will muddle through and Chinese, Japanese etc, well, pick a stereotype, then it’s all done. My glasses will dictate which reality to see. It’s a very bad start. Cheap and lazy.
I have seen more striking differences between one American company and another American company, than between an American company and a French company. Yes, there are some national idiosyncratic elements, but it’s a bad idea to predict behaviours solely based on national stereotypes.
Experts in inter/trans-culturalism will be more sophisticated than this, and will use national differences as one of many parameters.
Good management will know how to navigate through differences, national or otherwise, and will be good enough to park stereotypes and still take into account any cultural factor. Doing business in India is not the same as doing business in Portugal. If you deal with both, you need to learn about both. But don’t start with the national-cultural stereotype glasses on. See the reality first, suspend judgement, try to make sense, and then put the cultural glasses on to see if this sense increases or not.
In a multinational and global context, things are even more complex: loyalties are blurred, the sense of belonging may surprise you, the affiliate sub-culture may be different from what you expect. Incidentally, I’ve seen Spanish affiliates of US companies, ‘more American’ than HQ itself. Odd but true. Not always of course, but, when this happens, you can see the desire to belong ‘somewhere else’ in the air people breath.
Do yourself a favour as a leader. Take a national-culture-explains-it-all sabbatical and enjoy what you see and hear. It’s called Leading Outside The Passport.