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Procurement Across Borders – Managing Situations In Which Culture Can Influence The Outcomes

Differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour…

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In the previous articles, we began looking at CQ Knowledge which relates to your personal knowledge and understanding of other cultures. We introduced the idea that differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour and provided a cultural mirror which plots Nine Dimensions of Culture.

Having already discussed the first six dimensions, this month we will move onto the seventh, eighth and ninth dimensions, explore their application and give some tips and ideas on how to navigate these dimensions in cross cultural situations.

Dimension Seven: Polychronic- Monochronic.

Polychronic and monochronic are the terms used to describe the time orientation in cultures. The terms were coined by Edward Hall. People coming from Polychronic cultures view time as being very loose compared to monochronic cultures who view time as needing to be managed very tightly.

In monochronic cultures, people believe that time is money and it should not be wasted. Meetings tend to start on time and there is an orderly sense to the way people do things such as queueing and traffic movements. There is a methodical logic in how things work. Countries that are monochronic include the UK, Taiwan and Switzerland.

In polychronic cultures, people believe that time is life – there is plenty of time and you need to be in the present. A meeting set to begin at 9am may in fact start later than that or once everyone has arrived. In these cultures, people don’t generally queue for things and traffic can be chaotic and arbitrary. Cultures with a polychronic approach have a different sense of time which can be one of the most challenging aspects to working across culture. Countries that are Polychronic include Indonesia, Chile and Portugal.

Tips for those coming from a Monochronic Culture when working with Polychronic cultures:

1) Be fluid with timelines

2) Ensure flexibility in setting up appointments and meetings

Tips for those coming from a Polychronic Culture when working with Monochronic cultures:

1) Be punctual

2) Establish timelines for projects and ensure you deliver on them

Dimension Eight: High-Low Context Communication

High and Low context refers to the way in which cultures communicate. People coming from high context communication cultures understand that communication is multi-dimensional. In low context communication cultures, you say what you mean and mean what you say. In these cultures, “yes” means yes and “no” means no. Countries that have low context communication styles include the USA, Germany and Finland.

In high context cultures, “yes” may mean yes, it may mean no or even maybe depending on how the yes is articulated. It is not just about the spoken word, it is also about the facial expression, tone of voice, pitch and body language. Countries that have high context communication include China, Greece and Algeria.

Tips for those coming from a Low context culture and working with a High context culture:

1) Be patient and listen carefully to what is the message being communicated

2) Use metaphors and analogies to describe situations and outcomes

Tips for those coming from a High context culture and working with a Low context culture:

1) Be direct and straightforward in your communication

2) Do not be offended by the directness of responses.

Dimension Nine: Femininity – Masculinity

In feminine cultures, there tends to be more of an appreciation of values around cooperation, communication, teamwork, and collaboration. In feminine cultures, males and females will often do all sorts of similar jobs and gender roles are less clearly defined.

When discussing Femininity – Masculinity in terms of the cultural mirror continuum, we refer to the attributes that are most prevalent and valued within a culture.

Some examples of countries with feminine cultures are Denmark and Sweden.

In masculine cultures, there’s a far greater emphasis on competition, being assertive and ambitious and having a strong point of view. In masculine cultures gender roles are highly differentiated. Some examples of countries with masculine culture are Japan, Venezuela and Hungary.

Tips for people coming from feminine cultures when working with Masculine cultures:

1) Be assertive and convey your point of view

2) Be concise and rational in your discussions

Tips for people coming from Masculine cultures working with Feminine cultures:

1) Avoid being overly aggressive

2) Be willing to compromise

In order to be more effective when working across culture we need to be culturally intelligent and develop a repertoire to be able to manage situations in which culture can influence the outcomes. Regardless of where you sit on each element of the continuum it is essential to have the agility to adapt yourself.

Procurement Across Borders: Do You Have The Drive?

Do you have the drive, interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation?


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In the last article in this series we discussed what cultural intelligence (CQ) is and how it is an important tool in working effectively across distance, culture and time. I described the four main components of CQ, which are CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ strategy and CQ Action. In this article I will be focusing on CQ Drive.

CQ Drive is the interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. There are three main areas of CQ Drive, these being:  

  • Intrinsic drive which is what motivates some people to have interactions with other cultures.  People with intrinsic drive have a deep, personal interest in different cultures and want to understand or experience the different foods, languages and cultural practices of others
  • Extrinsic drive describes those people that may want to gain experience interacting across cultures to improve their credentials, gain experience or gain a promotion in their organisation. People with extrinsic drive are more motivated by the ways in which having interactions with other cultures can benefit them
  • Self efficacy refers to having the confidence to deal with intercultural situations should they arise, especially when you are not in a position to know the best course of action. Often this entails navigating the cues you are receiving and interpreting them to the best of your ability

To further exemplify CQ drive in action I would like to share a story about a client. I was engaged recently to work with a scientist who is on a one year assignment in Australia from Germany. He works for a Biopharmaceutical organisation that has operations in both Australia and Germany. Apart from the technical side of his role, his brief is also to help bridge the different operational styles in the laboratory between the two countries.

 In terms of his intrinsic motivation, he really wants his assignment to be a successful one, has an interest in being of service and helping the organisation to grow through gaining experience in Australia and understanding how the business can operate optimally in a different context.

His extrinsic motivation is through knowing that having this experience will help him further his career and gain recognition and promotion in the future. This international exposure will be an essential component of his ambition to become a global leader.

He has also shown a high degree of self efficacy. Upon arriving in Australia, the organisation provided him with an apartment in a high rise development located in downtown Melbourne. He found over the first few weeks that he was quite lonely and had few people to talk to. Having had previous experience travelling through Europe, he decided to register himself at a Youth Hostel to enable him to meet other travellers and increase his friendship circle.

So, this is an example of someone with high CQ drive in all aspects. I encourage you to reflect on your own levels of CQ Drive in terms of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. In my article next month, I will share some tips and techniques on how you can improve your CQ Drive and the kind of outcomes this can bring.