Developing Managers

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Developing Managers: The Functional, the Symbolic, the Sacred and the Profane [*].
Author/s: Ken Kamoche


This paper offers a new perspective on international management by examining the role of culture and management development in creating international expertise, a sense of identity and realizing organizational control. A critical analysis of the culture transmission and management development philosophy and practice of a UK-based transnational reveals how the transmission of culture accomplishes management development objectives, while management development itself serves as a vehicle for the transmission of the desired corporate values. This recursiveness is sustained by a corporate ideology that urges the creation of integrative values and, in turn, is legitimized by the quest for favourable functional and symbolic consequences.

Descriptors: management training and development, culture, ideology, functionalism, symbolism


Reconciling headquarter-subsidiary interests while maintaining a distinct identity continues to be a major challenge for multinational firms, hence the think global/act local paradox. For Ghoshal and Bartlett (1990) this problem can be addressed by effectively handling the network of exchange relationships. Other solutions include socialization and the management of expatriates (e.g. Edstrom and Galbraith 1977; Tung 1982); managing relationships between expatriates and host-country subordinates (e.g. Shaw 1990); creating cultural synergy (e.g. Adler 1980); fostering cooperative relationships and developing conflict-resolution mechanisms (e.g. Doz et al. 1981); diffusing 'best proven practices' (e.g. Rosenzweig and Singh 1991); reconciling organizational linkages (e.g. Borys and Jemison 1989) and diffusing and leveraging knowledge (e.g. Gupta and Govindarajan 1991; Kamoche 1996). Bartlett and Ghoshal (1989: 187) found that successful transnational firms used management development 'to build cultural norms, sha pe organizational processes and influence individual managerial behaviour in a way that reinforced worldwide strategies and organizational objectives'. This implies a potentially integrative role for culture and management training and development (MTD).

Going beyond the typical concern with 'better skills', this study offers a much more complex and multi-faceted picture of MTD which reveals an intricate interplay between MTD and corporate culture. We show how managers in a multinational firm disguised as International Products (IP) account for their training and career development activities and how they rationalize such activities in terms of an integrative corporate culture. [1] Thus, MTD serves as a tool for the transmission of culture, while a putative integrative culture in turn furnishes the rationale for MTD. This recursiveness finds legitimacy in the ideological premise, promulgated by senior management, that it is in the joint interests of the firm and the managers to absorb and internalize the organizational values inherent in the corporate culture, because this helps managers to secure a high-flying career.

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