Organizational Structure and Crosscultural Management: The Case of Credit Suisse's Project Copernicus in Singapore

Nina Jacob
2007 Vikalpa The Journal for Decision Makers  
This paper explores the linkage between organizational structure and cross-cultural management. It suggests that a fluid and continuously evolving structure enables effective crosscultural management. In support of this proposition, the paper reports on the experience of one of the world's largest financial services corporations -a Swiss Bank. The bank adopted a different type of organizational structure for one of its units. This new structure was different from the traditional bureaucracy it
more » ... nal bureaucracy it had used throughout the 150 years of its existence. It was observed to be an emergent structure, evolving in response to the stimulants provided by its various cultural constituents. It was also flexible, allowing it to assimilate when necessary, the inputs provided by its diverse cultural constituents, and discard when necessary, the structural features which no longer served any useful purpose. This paper discusses and analyses the experience of Credit Suisse Private Banking's Project Copernicus in Singapore, (October 2000 -December 2001. The principal findings of this paper are: • Traditional modes of organizational structure are not appropriate for the management of diversity. • Fluid and amorphous organizational structures provide the context within which crosscultural management can be effected. • There is a symbiotic relationship between organizational structure and organizational members' cultural heritage. The author had earlier highlighted (2005) the fact that current cross-cultural management research emphasises the need for multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is the management of subcultures within an entity like the nation-state. Organizational structures need to be designed keeping in mind the dynamics of interacting sub-cultures within a multicultural organization. An analysis of the case study embedded in this paper reveals that cross-cultural management is facilitated by: • The co-evolution of organizational structure and management practices. In other words, organizational structure need not be durable as has traditionally been the case. Additionally, it need not precede the creation and operationalization of management practices. • Allowing individual members' cultural heritage to influence the evolving nature of organizational structure. Thus a manager entering a multicultural organization would try and align himself/herself with the existing structure. Co-terminously, he/she would impact on the structure's design. The impact would have cultural underpinnings. • Enacting an organizational structure that overtly takes into account the cultural conditioning of individual members. Thus two managers from different cultures experiencing difficulty in interacting with each other may both have to adapt and change in order to resolve discord as well as to find a fit with the organization. Meanwhile, the amorphous nature of the organizational structure makes possible the improvisation that accompanies managers' attempts to find a fit.
doi:10.1177/0256090920070405 fatcat:uxtgypnrr5h6hpcd22sbw4s6gm