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Cultural fluency is vitally important to business in the international market. Cultural fluency denotes the enhancement of the ability to comprehend the cultural norms upon which the actions and philosophy of international coworkers rest, for instance, a Chinese businessman trying to understand Australians or Europeans, or vice versa. It is also crucial to understand numerous obvious as well as not so evident ways in which diverse cultures impact humans.
Cultures tend to differ in several aspects. Among the cultures in which dissimilar opinions and patterns of behavior may cause tension and confusion are individualism, collectivism, egalitarianism, change, mono-chronic time, poly-chronic time, action, communication styles, and power imbalances. Some of these are explained below.
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Individualism (values freedom, equal opportunities, and independence of the individual) or collectivism (values teamwork and coordination).
Mono-chronic time (is concrete and can run out, maybe wasted or saved), versus poly-chronic time (highlights completion of transactions, it does not focus on preset schedules).
Egalitarianism (deals with fair and equal opportunities for every member of society) versus hierarchy (is generally appreciated in collectivist nations as a way of recognizing innate variances and inequalities as well as simplifying communication through the acknowledgment of social ranks).
Action (some cultures largely value efficiency, action, doing the most important first) versus being orientation (commonly is more important to individuals from a more holistic cultural orientation than the awareness of actively taking steps).
Change (is becoming crucial for leading societies) versus tradition (beliefs in history sees the past as a significant guide to the present-day and the future, as well).
Communication styles (depending on cultural differences: ethnicity, race, gender, nationality, and individuals can focus on receiving and sending messages in styles).
Power imbalances (means cultures have different social classes, inequities in terms of a right to use economic and political power).
Cultural psychology and its focus on historically situated and interactional relationships between individuals provide rich sources of data that benefit both inter-and intra research, perhaps, a more accessible discipline for businesses is language anthropology, most especially in its approach to speech is culture. There is much that linguists can facilitate an understanding of the processes generating and reconstructing the blank spaces of intercultural society…we now need to extend that analysis further using the tools offered by multidisciplinarity. The notions of language and culture are inseparable, the terms languaculture and languaculture awareness are extremely important but extremely difficult to achieve in situations of intercultural background. The major trend in current thinking about language and culture is an agreement on the constructed essence of reality. The present scientific works concerning cultural studies express criticism as to the previously abstract notion of culture.
Culture is a significant notion since it manages the way society lives and solves problems in an organizational and social background. Culture is also seen as the conjoint programming of the mentality that differentiates the representatives of one category or class of people. Culture represents the result of a complicated cooperation process of attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior of the representatives of a class; values influence attitudes, attitudes in their turn exert impact on patterns of behavior, and patterns of behavior have an influence on culture, therefore, creating a consolidating annular phenomenon.. (Soutar, Grainger, & Hedges, 1999).
Similarly, cross-cultural interaction is illustrated by attitudes, patterns of behavior, and values, that consider variables such as space and time, personal responsibility and fate, face and nonverbal means of interaction.
One of the major distinctions that detach cultures as well as the ways things are done is time. For example, in western cultures, the perception of time is a mono-chronic one. In the East, on the other hand, time is perceived as if it was unlimited.
Personal responsibility and fate relate to the way people see themselves controlling their own lives, or whether they find themselves influenced by things out of their control.
In general, face illustrates social position, strength, courtesy, relations, respect, and humor, as well. In the majority of cultures, having a face is especially valuable, however, the way it is done varies.
Emotions of anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and surprise resemble their expression around the globe.
Therefore, as long as people become aware of these starting points, they are developing cultural fluency. Cultural fluency represents the understanding of the ways cultures work in intercourse and conflict, cultural fluency is also the possibility to tackle successfully the differences.
There are stumbling blocks in cross-cultural interactions and understanding: assumption of similarities, language variety, nonverbal signs misinterpretations, stereotypes, evaluating tendency, and high anxiety.
First of all, the assumption of similarities may bring you the feeling of comfort at first, yet it is rather misleading.
Communication competence studies support the idea that the language itself cannot be considered beneficial until the cultural knowledge is taken into account.
Nonverbal signs are comprehended in various cultures and patterns of behavior that cannot be learned only through language acquisition (for instance, a nodding means Yes in a majority of countries, yet it means No in countries such as Bulgaria and Greece).
Intercultural interaction is greatly influenced by stereotypes, whi9ch derive from the first contact with various cultures. Assessments are made in comparison to the known values and behaviors, which come from one’s own cultural background.
In intercultural interaction, people may undergo stress and anxiety as they have to deal with the unknown.
There is clearly no standard recipe for achieving supply chain management excellence, but experience has shown that the full supply chain management potential can be captured only with a thorough and consistent investigation of all improvement levers, followed by their implementation. This requires a learning process that is individual to each company. Whereas top-class supply chain management focuses on how to set up such a system in terms of both the design principles and the management of a possible improvement program.
Top-performing supply chain management can be an all-embracing theme that effectively and efficiently supports a company in reaching its performance goals. This requires a full understanding of and alignment with the business strategy and product-market, customer characteristics, a set of structural elements that make all functions involved work together in unison transparency of performance, clearly defined processes, accountabilities, and organization and, just as importantly, the appropriate approaches and tools.
Supply chain management needs to be aligned with and support the overall business strategy, and therefore to be in line with product, market, and customer characteristics. As different products, customers, and markets might need to be supported with different strategies, supply chain management needs to be tailored accordingly. Product, customer, and market characteristics can determine different supply chain management strategies and design implications. For example, the strategic choice to serve niche customers with high price specialty chemicals is only tenable if the high-value inventory is centralized to reduce costs, and if a fast, responsive supply chain is set up to fill customer orders within the requested lead time from central inventory.
Transparency in supply chain performance is a prerequisite for analyzing performance hitches, prioritizing any improvement efforts, monitoring the impact of the measures taken, and focusing the organization’s attention which by itself can lead to huge improvements.
Ideally, the most critical financial and operational key performance indicators centering around service level, quality, and cost should be monitored for each function. However, all supply chain management-influenced costs need to be reported to avoid distortion: for example, more frequent procurement orders would reduce the cost of raw materials inventory at the expense of inbound logistics costs, and omission of the latter would give a misleading picture.
A final observation concerns inventory, usually one of the main cost drivers of chemical supply chains. Excess inventory of raw materials, intermediates, and finished goods is often present in plants and local warehouses, and aged or dead stock can be up to five percent of total inventory. As the root causes can be widely spread, from inaccurate forecasting to long production lead times, from lack of integrated supply chain management processes to insufficient IT coverage, from lack of clear accountability to lack of performance management, inventory can be taken as a good thermometer in supply chain management health checks.
Reaching world-class supply chain management is no easy job: a program to achieve it could even take a couple of years, involving a lot of stakeholders from many different functions and incorporating many simultaneous and interactive initiatives.
The keystone of supply chain management can probably be found in the desire of supply network partners to participate in and continuously improve collaborative relationships with each other. Collaboration can be seen as an activity implemented jointly by two or more entities to achieve a common objective (Ross, 2011). This might mean anything, from raw data exchange by the most basic means to the periodic information sharing with the help of technology-based tools to the structuring of the real-time architectures capable of leveraging highly interdependent infrastructures to reach complex, tightly integrated functions ensuring planning, execution, and information synchronization.
The intensity of collaboration may vary. It can be internally driven and centered on the achievement of local goals. It also could make use of technology to drive interchannel operations linkages, drive common processes and joint development as well as foster a common competitive vision for the entire channel (Ross, 2011).
The value of collaboration is estimated by how successful companies are using the advantages of the distributed knowledge of the channel base, eliminating unnecessary functions and, sharing the common vision of the supply chain, and building the social and technical architectures, thus, allowing the entire channel networks to achieve marketplace leadership.
Several critical imperatives must be pursued if the collaboration is to reach its potential. First, individual company strategies and goals must be aligned across the supply chain. Convergence of objectives ensures network partners pursuing a common channel vision planning and execution processes, which are advantageous for individual businesses and the entire supply chain. Next, companies must segregate the various channels in which they participate.
Since each channel possesses several diverse processes, delivery dynamics, and performance indicators, a tailored strategy for each channel, rather than a forced general approach would permit channel planners a way to effectively design an integrated approach despite the presence of local variations.
As a final point, joint channel collaboration makes it easy to guarantee that all channel nodes are connected, the proper technology tools are available for information visibility and real-time transfer, common performance metrics accepted and demand patterns and expectations may be accessed as they stream across the supply chain (Ross, 2011).
While there can be little doubt that collaboration is one of the key foundations of supply chain management and is recognized as a high corporate priority, the way to effective collaboration is blocked by many hedges. According to the last survey, five barriers were selected by people as inhibiting collaboration in their companies (Ross, 2011). Seventy-five percent believed that the company’s structures promoting turf protection was the most pervasive hindrance. The four other hedges were selected as resistance to change (fifty-eight percent), conflicting measures (fifty-five percent), lack of trust (forty-two percent), and weak managerial support (forty-two percent).
In fact, the results of such a study conducted before gave almost the same measurements. Even though the results show that purely collaborative and cohesive supply chain teams are rare. Among today’s innovative supply chain leaders Dell, Proctor & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Apple, and Cisco gain competitive advantage since they realize that their success depends on perceiving themselves as the drivers of value chain collaboration.
The breadth and complexity of a lean supply chain management undertaking normally mirror the intensity of supply chain collaboration existing between channel partners. The best way to determine the extent and depth of channel collaboration is to divide it into two spheres of ascending intensity.
The first sphere is concerned with technical collaboration. Relationships here can range from manual connectivity all the way through the use of electronic data interchange and Internet tools providing visibility to data across supply networks, server-to-server links, and, internally, process management applications that enable true real-time channel information and transaction synchronization.
The second sphere is concerned with business collaboration. On the low end, forms of collaborative practices are minimal, and traditional competitive values dominate. From this level, the degree of collaboration intensifies beginning with growing communication to enable joint operations, to coordination where businesses in the supply chain make use of the capabilities of network partners, to cooperation where channel partners work together as if they were a single company (Lewis & Dart, 2010). In a similar vein, the content of collaborative relationships exists on several levels. It is comparatively easy to adapt this model to possible lean supply chain management projects.
In the first level, the internal focus is on companies that intermittently engage in collaborative relationships to reduce local costs and time or enhance customer satisfaction (Frazzon, 2009). However, they normally will not pursue a lean outside the four walls of their company. Besides, technology is not perceived as an enhancer to competitive advantage.
Companies at level two, transactional/informational collaboration, understand that channel technology enabler to dramatically shrink costs, improve cycle times, and enhance customer satisfaction by linking interchannel processes (Ackerman, 2007). Businesses at this level can launch lean projects that seek to reduce wastes in channel areas such as transportation, warehousing, and inventory.
Individuals’ actions throughout a long casual chain impel the response from other individuals. The aggregation of these actions and responses over time impel system behavior emergence. Culture is an emergent characteristic of a group of agents, socially applied, transmitted, and learned (Sternberg & Kaufman, 2001).
The emergent behavior of the logistic system is, in the same way, the combination of individual behavior and structures. Micro-level behavior matters: the rules of individual agent behavior often have profound and sometimes unexpected effects on the macro-performance of the system. Organizational routines, individual skills, modern institutions, and advanced technologies have come into being as empirical cumulative learning, partly by individuals, partly by organizations, partly by society as a whole. Individuals working in organizations within diversified contexts influence and concomitantly are influenced by the existing environment (Sternberg, & Kaufman, 2001).
For instance, agents in global supply chains have varied cultural backgrounds as well as decision-making styles, values, cognitive perceptions, and mental models. In fact, people at various organizational levels with diversified background and culture are responsible for designing, planning, and managing logistic activities and processes such as sourcing and procurement, fleet management, materials handling, warehousing, logistics network design, inventory management, order fulfillment, supply/demand planning as well as the management of the third-party logistics services providers.
Decision-makers in logistic processes and systems may have varied cultural backgrounds. The uniqueness of people and companies may represent barriers and need to be better understood. The variety of existing mental models, deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations that influence how people take actions is tightly bound with the cultural environment and background. Therefore, the strategic integration along global supply chains rests on credulous partnerships and is closely dependent on international and hence cross-cultural cooperation.
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Human nature is not uniform; it is molded by history, geography, religion, and climate. Humans around the world have various values and traditions, behave differently and create societies with different institutional systems. The more radical the grouping the deeper the culture, the greater the cultural influence on its member’s values and beliefs, the fewer are members aware of this influence.
Culture becomes crystallized in entities and organizations, tangible products of a society, which strengthen the mental programs in their turn. Management in its society is very much constrained by its context because it is not effective to coordinate the actions of people without understanding their values, beliefs, and expectations.
In fact, some cultures promote collaboration, commerce, and enterprise differently. On this background, collaboration means bridge institutional, geographic and functional boundaries. The stress on essential competencies, the rise of emergent markets, and the need for corporate agility have caused to focus on collaboration within organizations as well as among organizations.
Finally, it is important to emphasize that the culture of an organization is borrowed from and bound up with larger cultural processes is associated with the organizational environment. In fact, the most immediate source of outside influence on the organizational culture is an individual. Furthermore, due to the bound rational characteristics, human capital diversity is a decisive driver of innovation.
Cross-cultural know-how is a facet of the core competence of a firm, whereby its knowledge-sharing and organizational learning contribute to international competitive advantage. Cross-cultural know-how is considered to be a storehouse of studying for multicultural knowledge-sharing throughout the entire webs of relations of firms and is mainly internally created knowledge utilized in cross-cultural cooperation.