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Exploring the national and organizational culture mix in service firms

Abstract

Using representative samples of U.S. and Japanese retail service firms, this study explores whether one particular type of organizational culture is the best with respect to business outcomes (performance and customer satisfaction) or whether the optimum culture depends on the national context in which the firm is embedded. The findings suggest that there is a significant interaction effect of organizational culture with national culture on outcomes. Specifically, the relationships between the importance placed on the cultural values of stability, people orientation, and detail orientation and outcomes are significantly greater for Japanese than for U.S. service retailers. On the other hand, the relationships between the values of aggressiveness, innovation, and outcome orientation and outcomes are greater for U.S. retailers. Further, the findings show that firms whose cultures match those of their home countries exhibit lower levels of outcomes when they operate in other countries with different cultural values. Implications are given for how service retailers might be designed and managed for purposes of improving business outcomes.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There are three advantages of this semi-idiographic approach to measuring organizational culture: (1) since each item is implicitly compared to every other item, the outcome of a Q-sort is a realistic profile with items arranged in an order that reflects the relative importance of each item to each other item; (2) culture strength is captured by assessing the similarity of members’ perceptions of organizational values (tested with reliability coefficients and interrater correlations) and the intensity with which values are held (examining the most extreme items such as the top and bottom items); and (3) meaningful comparisons across profiles (individuals, firms, or individuals and firms) are possible (Chatman 1989). On the other hand, one possible drawback of using a Q-sort method to assess organizational culture is that items are not strictly independent of one another. That is, raters are constrained in the number of discriminations they are allowed to make. But computing the number of different ways in which the 54 culture items can be arranged into the designated categories reveals that there are many different ways to sort the items (3.1 × 1042). Thus, any two items are relatively independent (the intercorrelation of each item with each other item is approximately − .02). Researchers who use the Q-sort method argue that item analysis, in a conventional rating scale, is therefore acceptable (Block, 1978).

  2. 2.

    The individual samples were comprised of the following quadrads: 75 sets of two buyers from a Japanese vendor firm and two of its buyers; 75 sets of two sellers from a U.S. vendor firm and two of its buyers; 52 sets of two sellers from a Japanese vendor firm in Japan and two of its buyers and 52 sets of two sellers from a subsidiary of that firm located in the U.S. and two of its customers; 72 sets of two executives form a U.S. vendor firm in the U.S. and two of its customers; and 72 sets of two executives from a subsidiary of that firm located in Japan and two of its customers.

  3. 3.

    The authors thank an anonymous reviewer for these comments.

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Correspondence to Cynthia Webster.

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Webster, C., White, A. Exploring the national and organizational culture mix in service firms. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 38, 691–703 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-009-0185-6

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Keywords

  • National culture
  • Organizational culture
  • Business performance
  • Customer satisfaction