Global OD-Lesson Eight: How various cultures view organizing

In the Western world, the assumption is that “organizational systems probably work”.
Once one has a structure, roles and responsibilities, competent people, good team work on well-defined interfaces, governance, processes ensuring work flow and management which inspires and leads- off we go to do business. (The currency is also probably stable, judges are not on the take (perhaps even empowers)
In many parts of the world however, there are several ways to get an organization to work. The importance of the formal visible manifestations of what makes an organization work varies vastly.
In small countries like Singapore and Israel, everyone knows everyone, and so “relationships” get things done better than formal systems do. For example, if I know my bank manager, he will open the branch for me even if I come late.
In countries where folks do not respect authority (Australia, Israel), recourse to “the org chart” may backfire.
In massive China where formal systems work very partially, things get done in organizations via relationships almost exclusively. People seek “safely” in folks with whom they have a friendly relationship and lots of trust. The Chinese sometimes use the term “lo pan yao”, i.e. people/friends who they know from their home town. An understanding of the lo pan yao relationships map is critical to understanding how things get done in organizations in the Middle Kingdom.
I remember I was with a client in Bangkok and a cop stopped her for jumping a yellow light. She gave the cop a hundred baht (3 USD). She explained to me that the government cannot afford to pay cops well and this informal system “adjusts” the imbalance without strikes and inflating the budget. (She called it “so called corruption”)
It is safe to say that many Westerners do business and then develop relationships, although there are many exceptions.
Many people in the East first develop relationships, and then do business. There are exceptions to this, but not too many. Often, favors are exchanged. Purchasing favors can occurs as well. (Of course this happens in the West as well, but it is much more subtle, and the West has double standards for the rich and poor.)
For global OD the above has ramifications.
To understand what is going on in many organizations and subsidiaries in the world, one must master the map of relationships, who knows whom, and have a deep understanding of what enables things to get done.
Having a team building session, a strategic offsite, changing roles, responsibilities, and issuing a revised mission statement has no impact if another system is at play.
Interventions in the Western world need to address the formal and informal structure. Interventions in other parts of the world need to address whatever system is being used, and it may well not be the formal system. A massive amount of work needs to be develop OD interventions for this context.
When doing global interventions, it is very important to have a very clear diagnosis, plan what can be done openly, and plan what needs to be done discretely.

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