Decision making in inter‐corporate projects : A qualitative and quantitative study of project workers in automobile research and pre‐ development projects in Japan and Germany

Master thesis English OPEN
Markkula, Petter (2009)
  • Publisher: Linköpings universitet, Projekt, innovationer och entreprenörskap
  • Subject: inter-corporate projects japan germany automobile industry | Industrial engineering and economy | Industriell teknik och ekonomi

This thesis is dealing with the integration of Japanese and German project workers in automobile inter‐corporate research/pre‐development projects. The focus is on better understanding the respective decision making process. As cultural differences play a big role in the way that people behave an extra focus was put on investigating this. The methods chosen for this study were quantitative research in the form of a questionnaire and qualitative research in the form of an interview series. For the quantitative research, literature in the cross‐cultural field was studied and from different cultural dimensions suggested by various authors, a synthesis was derived. This was then used as the base for a questionnaire. The data both enabled a quantitative research study and supported the qualitative study. A number of questions with a more straightforward approach to decision making in projects were also a part of the questionnaire. The data was processed using the statistical software SPSS and the results were analyzed using factor analysis and ANOVA. The factor analysis of the quantitative data had only one factor which had a significant difference between the German and the Japanese sample. The dimension was called individuality reward and describes to which degree a society reward competent group behavior versus competent individual behavior. The German sample showed a strong tendency towards favoring competent individual behavior whereas the Japanese sample leaned towards favoring competent group behavior. The questionnaire questions directly linked to decision making showed no significant differences between the samples showing that individual attitudes within the German and Japanese sample varies more than the cultural differences between the two groups. This shows that you cannot expect a Japanese or German person to act in a certain way in a certain decision making situation just judging on their cultural background. In order to get a deep understanding of the decision making process a qualitative series of interviews were conducted. All interviews with Japanese and other people on location in Japan were conducted in‐person at different locations around the Tokyo area. Interviews with people situated in Europe were made over the phone. The interviews were recorded and later transcribed and interpreted to gain a thorough understanding of the decision making process. From the qualitative material several differences in how German and Japanese people work and make decisions were found. More time is put into sharing information and getting consensus before a decision in Japan than in Germany were discussions and arguing in meetings are more tolerated. The reason for this behavior in Japan is to not lose face and as well as making it possible to make a decision fast once brought up in a meeting. Germans remain more flexible to revisions after a decision has been made because of the shorter preparation phase. There is big overlap of members between different inter‐corporate research projects in the automobile industry. Japanese project members tends to be older than their German counterparts which makes them more stable as younger people might disappear from a project as they move up the corporate ladder. In Japan there is a greater emphasis put into after‐work activities compared to Germany where it is seen as beneficial but not as often used as a way to gain a personal relationship. The thesis concludes that by relatively small measures common decision making between Japanese and German project workers can become smooth and with few misunderstandings. Introductions to respective cultures as well as keeping an open mindset and non assertive attitude should help avoid some of the worst case scenarios. A kick‐off in the beginning of a project in order to build a personal relationship and trust would surely help the project come off to a good start. Setting common goals for the project and confirming data with people involved in a decision process will facilitate common consensus decision making. Also confirming decisions as simply as paraphrasing what has been said or by informal one‐on‐one discussions in a break or after a meeting can keep misunderstandings due to the language barrier to a minimum.
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