Intercultural Training - ENSEA & TUM

A case study: Decision making in France

A few months ago, Mr S. was seconded to France by a large German group in the automotive sector to work at a subsidiary of the German parent company. After a relatively short time at his new place of work, he discovers that decision-making processes in French organisations are completely different from those in Germany. On several occasions, Mr S. has addressed questions to colleagues at his level in the company and asked them to take a decision. Although the decision was clearly in the responsibility of the colleague of the same level, to his complete surprise Mr. S. finally received the answer from his superior's superior, i.e. from the top management. Mr S. was very irritated by this.

To which cultural dimension(s) can the French company‘s approach be attributed?

  1. Bosses are at the center of French companies and have all the decision-making power and are traditionally responsible for the entire company.
  2. A personal network of relationships, including with superiors, is more important to French people than objective targets.
  3. On an individual level, the French have little entrepreneurial sense, which is why decisions are always a matter for the boss.
  4. French employees often strive for individual advantages, so in order to avoid conflicts, decisions are taken centrally.

Discuss the four answers and use cultural dimensions (see below) that could explain the situation. 

Intercultural Dimensions

POWER DISTANCE indicates the extend to which a society accepts the fact that power in organizations is distributed unequally between individuals

UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE indicates the extent to which individuals feel threatened by ambiguous situations and tries to avoid them

MASCULINITY/FEMININITY indicates the degree to which gender determines the roles men and women have in society

HIGH AND LOW CONTEXT are about the information given in a conversation. If little information is given, and most information is already present in the persons who communicate, the situation is one of high context. In low context cultures fairly large amount of background information has to be presented

PERSONAL SPACE is the distance to other people one needs to feel comfortable

MONOCHRONIC AND POLYCHRONIC TIME relate to the structuring of one’s time. Monochronic timing means to do one thing at a time, working with schedules where one thing follows the other. Polychronic timing means the opposite: many tasks are done at the same time.

INDIVIDUALISM/COLLECTIVISM is the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side you find societies in which the ties between people are rather loose and everyone is expected to look after himself and his immediate family. On the collectivist side people are integrated into strong groups, often extended families.