Paper Example on Cultural Differences in Hana

Paper Type:  Term paper
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1503 Words
Date:  2022-05-16


In the "Global Age," a period of increased interconnectedness among human beings, there has been the integration of economies, opening up of borders, better diplomatic ties and ease in socio-cultural exchanges. Consequently, with globalization, there has been ease in doing business, increased foreign direct investments and the emergence of multinational corporations. Nonetheless, it has not been all well for individuals and enterprises due to cultural differences. In fact, Hana, a joint venture between Health Snacks and Toka Foods, shows how a clash of cultures can impede successful joint ventures in a global context. Disagreements emanating from cultural differences among executives characterized Hana's management team. This paper investigates cultural issues (context cultures, individualism and collectivism, and the differences in power distance) that threatened the joint venture and at the end elaborates on whether the venture could be saved which efforts by either party could save the venture.

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Individualism and Collectivism

According to Brewer and Venaik (2011), working relationships between individuals in a group can be best understood through individualism and collectivism. Different cultures replicate the two concepts with individualism being an ideological outlook based on the worth of an individual where individuals make own choices, and in an organizational context, relate to others as individuals (Triandis, 2018). On the other hand, collectivism views a group as a primary entity and expects people to identify with a group, and work well in groups which protect them in exchange for loyalty and compliance, without valuing individual uniqueness and self-determination (Kelly, 2012). In the case of Hana, these ideological differences were replicated in the different approaches to management and were a main cause of challenges in the joint venture.

According to Weber, (2013), capitalism and individualism are closely related. Since the United States embraces the capitalistic form of business approach, it was only natural for its business to utilize this ideology through individualism. Health Snacks adopted a similar approach to business utilizing ideologies central to individualism. On the other hand, many Asian countries are based on communist ideologies and in this case, the Japanese leaned towards collectivism. From the start, the Americans felt that they were not sufficiently included in discussions relating to the joint venture. The perceived seclusion of the American partners by their Japanese counterparts arises as a result of a conflict of culture where the collective approach used by the Japanese whose view laid more emphasis to the new venture than to individual opinions. Besides that, according to Guss, and Dorner (2011), individualism allows for faster decision making process and this is illustrated when Ron Cater took it upon himself and decided it was time to fly to Nagona to resolve who was supposed to get copies of written communication. Carter's individualism came in handly, had it been a member from the Toka Food side he or she would have first had to consult others.

The threat of unsustainability of Hana as a result of misunderstandings lied in the different collectivist and individualist views on succession issues. Following the death of Mr. Hyashida at the age of 63, Mr. Carter felt that he was supposed to be part of the succession debate. Mr. Sony, the Toka Foods president, informed him that the Japanese had nominated Mr. Hiromitsu for the position of president of the joint venture. Mr. Carter was annoyed for the nominee. In so doing the Japanese who composed a majority of the executives felt that their decision was final as it was a joint decision. Therefore, the opinion of others did not matter.

Mr. Ota appointment also highlights an inherent flaw of the collectivist approach to management which Sekerka, Marar Yacobian & Stimel, (2014) reveals that it rewards loyalty and dedication over the competency of an individual. When choosing Mr. Ota, Mr., Sony was well aware of the facts that not only was Mr. Ota a not a visionary manager but also was not the dynamic person. Nonetheless, they chose him for his charisma, got along with people easy and was highly committed to the company; all these are ramifications for collectivist attributes. In fact, it was an indicator of the Japanese concern for an individual of the right seniority who could build consensus and move the entire group. Moreover, ethically speaking, Baumeister, Ainsworth, & Vohs (2016) reveal that the collective perception that the group is higher than the individuals denies rewards to the right people; despite being highly competent, katsuki sacrificed for the group.

Large Power Distance and Small Power Distance

Discrepancies in power distance are partly to blame for the chaos in Hana. The Japanese illustrate high levels of consent and do not question hierarchies or the status quo (Hofstede & Minkov, 2010). In this case, Mr. Ota Hiromistsu is a beneficiary of an employment for life program that is entrenched in the Japanese culture. Consequently, employees, in spite of their proficiency, have to go through this system without questing it. For example in Mr. Sony's explanation on why Mr. Ota was the individual of choice, it is revealed that promoting Mr. Katsiku would not only end his career, but also attract hatred from his peers and seniors. Nonetheless, Mr. Carter is not contempt with the response as he is from a country with a relatively small power distance where, according to Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, (2013), it allows one to challenge authorities and probe unclear circumstances. Consequently, Carter believes in independence, equality, opposition to autocracy and an approachable chain of command; therefore in preferring Katsiku, he is deemed to be going against the norm to the extent that Mr. Ota thinks of terminating the venture.

High-Context Culture and Low-Context Culture

In Hana, the Japanese have high-context culture while the Americans have low-context culture. Members from the Taka side (high context culture) communicate in ways that are implicit and primarily transmitted through the use of contextual elements such as a person's status (Kittler, Rygl, & Mackinnon, 2011). On the other hand, Mr. Carter represents low-context cultures that do not use contextual essentials, for example in trying to solve the issue of production schedules and marketing plans; they use electronic communication, faxes, and emails. Besides that, differences in context culture affect the choice of the joint-ventures president. High-context cultures appreciate interpersonal relations. Consequently, Mr. Ota was chosen for how he relates with people unlike Mr. Katsiku who was anti-social; did not play golf with colleagues, and he chose to spend time with his family.

What Both Sides Could Do To Avoid and Overcome the Problems

Cultural differences are to blame for the challenges in the venture between the two companies. Nonetheless, by studying each other's cultures, the employees from the two companies would be able to understand the implications of cultural differences on realizing organizational goals and would have thus prevented and overcome the problems. Secondly, through effective communication from either party, the groups would be able to easily exchange thoughts and ideas concerning varying issues raised. For instance, on the issue of succession, Mr. Carter and Mr. Sony needed to engage in meaningful dialogue on their preferred choices of candidates. With good communication, there is feedback which is a prerequisite for organizational success. This would have not only overcome the problem, but also prevent it.


The cultural differences between Japan and America are too difficult to overcome and it is quite hard to solve the problems in the joint venture. The Japanese have a high-context culture while the Americans have low-context culture that contributes to the choice of Mr. Ota and the subsequent succession debate. Secondly, differences in power distance contribute to disagreements in the company. Thirdly, collectivism and individualism affects interactions between the Japanese and Americans and is also to blame for the challenges in Hana. Nonetheless, these challenges would have been solved had members of either party taken time to read and understand each other's culture as well as developed effective communication strategies with each other.


Baumeister, R. F., Ainsworth, S. E., & Vohs, K. D. (2016). Are groups more or less than the sum of their members? The moderating role of individual identification. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39.

Brewer, P., & Venaik, S. (2011). Individualism-collectivism in Hofstede and GLOBE. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(3), 436-445.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2013). Primal leadership: realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Guss, C. D., & Dorner, D. (2011). Cultural differences in dynamic decision-making strategies in a non-linear, time-delayed task. Cognitive Systems Research, 12(3-4), 365-376.

Hofstede, G. & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations : software of the mind : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kelly, J. (2012). Rethinking industrial relations: Mobilisation, collectivism and long waves. Routledge.

Kittler, M. G., Rygl, D., & Mackinnon, A. (2011). Special Review Article: Beyond culture or beyond control? Reviewing the use of Hall's high-/low-context concept. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 11(1), 63-82.

Sekerka, L. E., Marar Yacobian, M., & Stimel, D. (2014). Business Ethics In A Transnational Economy: Embracing The Tribal-Collectivist Perspective. Global Business & Economics Anthology, 1,42-56

Triandis, H. (2018). Individualism & collectivism. Boulder: Westview Press.

Weber, M. (2013). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Routledge.

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