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Review: Managing Change Across Corporate Cultures


Title:Managing Change Across Corporate Cultures
Authors:Fons Trompenaars and Peter Prud’homme
Reviewed by:Sharon Cooper, HR Director EMEA, IPC Information Systems

Trompenaars is one of the foremost writers in the field of cross-cultural management and his co-author in this book is Peter Prud’homme who has been published extensively on business culture.

“Managing Change Across Corporate Cultures” is one of four books in a series called “Culture for Business”. The others concentrate on business, marketing and people management across cultures.

In this volume, Trompenaars and Prud’homme argue that the business environment is much more unpredictable and unstable than even during the 1990s. From earlier work carried out by Trompenaars and another collaborator, Hampden-Turner, they propose four types of corporate cultures and examine the strengths and weaknesses of each. They also analyse cultural models propounded by other authors and detail why they prefer their own.

The hypothesis they use is that many corporate culture change initiatives fail because the hard (business) issues are either at odds or are not addressed at the same time as the soft (human) elements required to make the change. In reconciling the two sides, change can become a way of life which is essential in a dynamic business environment.

I had a specific interest in the chapter that explained the international perspective to corporate culture. Having worked in pan-European roles for US owned corporations for a number of years, I have had first hand experience of managing the issues arising from the power struggles between national cultures on the ground and corporate culture initiatives handed down from on high. Trompenaars and Prud’homme use case studies of well known companies to demonstrate how national traits can impact organisational success or failure.

Further case studies identifying dimensions of corporate culture follow. My personal jury is out as to whether I want to read, yet again, about the culture of GE, IBM and Hewlett Packard. It could be argued that we know about these from other authors over the years but it is useful to read it from a new perspective and in the context of Trompenaars and Prud’homme’s theory. Having said that, there were other organisations studied which were original for me.

I found “Managing Change Across Corporate Cultures” an interesting and readable book. For students of business, the subject builds well. For those of us who are veterans of change culture, it helps explain the theory of the practice we have experienced.

Sharon Cooper is Human Resources Director EMEA for IPC Information Systems, specialists in financial trading floor solutions. She is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management. An experienced HR generalist, she has specific interest in international HR management and has worked at a senior level in pan-European roles for a number of years.