January 2002
Book Review
Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. By Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner
Written by two of the leading management consultants, Riding the Waves of Culture essentially covers the impact of culture on business and business management and the basis behind cultural differences and finding solutions to overcoming cultural barriers.
My first impression of the book was that it was too 'corporate' orientated to be of any practical use in the day to day life of a Data Manager. However, on persevering with the reading, I found it gave a good overview of people's perception of culture and how differences impact on business and managing people.
The authors discuss in detail how to challenge these conceptions and consider international differences in attitudes to time, the environment, reconciling cultural dilemmas, diversity within cultures and how making assumptions based on our cultural differences may affect organisations.
To support this, there are a number of interesting case histories and studies of scenarios that help to put the theoretical discussions into perspective. In particular, the case studies are useful to relate to similar scenarios, that many of us will have experienced during meetings or contact with colleagues across the globe.
The book also focuses on the effect of different cultural styles and moral opinions when reacting to certain issues. Again, the case studies provide a fascinating insight into what stance different cultures take in different situations.
The book does not focus solely on cultural issues from a race point of view, but also looks at the differences between national culture and corporate culture. It provides practical tips for dealing with different styles of business management and reconciling cultural styles, with the use of humour and language.
Whilst I wouldn't recommend reading this from cover to cover, selected sections certainly gave an insight into understanding and dealing with different cultures and styles in the workplace today. With the continuing increase in working within teams globally, it may provide useful background information for Managers co-ordinating international teams or teams with a mixture of cultures, for the more effective management of people and projects.
Lisa Goodwin
Covance CRU, Leeds