Culture and Negotiated Meanings
Edited by Henriett Primecz, Laurence Romani and Sonja Sackmann
Chapter 6: When American Management System Meets Tunisian Culture: The Poulina Case
6. When American management system meets Tunisian culture: the Poulina case Hèla Yousfi1 INTRODUCTION Can companies in developing countries modernize despite their local cultural context, by struggling against it or by simply importing so-called ‘universal’ standards developed in the West? Or can such companies leverage valuable aspects of each local culture and use them to modernize management practices? Scholars who focus on management in developing countries generally fall into two camps: ‘Organizational Theorists’ and ‘Culturalists’. The former hold that the theoretical principles underlying organizational behaviour are universal in all countries. The latter argue that management practices in developing countries are rooted in local cultural values. However, when it comes to recommendations for modernizing firms in developing countries, the gap between the two camps is not as large as it first appears; both advocate a best practice – or ‘one best way’ – approach (Leonard, 1987). Several examples show that simply adopting ‘best management practices’ will not improve developing countries’ economic performance (Yousfi, 2007a). Some management tools that experts propose do not have the desired effects, and companies often abandon them after the experts leave. Furthermore, while some companies do achieve substantial technical and financial success (AFD, 1998), most reformers promoting developing countries’ integration into the global economy ascribe the results solely to ‘universal’ methods: few will examine the concrete aspects of these singular successes and their effective achievements. This makes it impossible to distinguish what is genuinely universal in so-called ‘universal’ management methods from elements that reflect the unique features of...
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