A „way of gathering knowledge about the social world‟ is the methodology notion referred to by Stauss and Corbin (1998). To study the implications that emerge out of a cross-cultural acquisition and its influence on decision making process, we want to take advan-tage of the theoretical fundamentals and researches that have already been done in the realm of decision-making and cross-cultural acquisition implications. We also want to take that knowledge further through the qualitative method by taking into account the inter-views conducted with Company A. It was acquired by an Austrian firm and has realized decision-making differences between the two units after the cross border Acquisition .
Determining the „why‟ and „how‟ of decision-making in a cross cultural context of an ac-quired firm can be done by finding the first-hand experiences of employees in Company A. To serve the purpose of our study we chose interviews as the primary source of data collec-tion. We felt that person-to-person interaction with semi structured questions will be best in acquiring information. Moreover, considering the characteristics of our investigation and that all the employees could be reached within a close proximity and in a single premise, the „interview schedule‟ was chosen instead of a „questionnaire‟.
Since culture can be a sensitive topic and the interviewees can be reluctant in answering, we ensured anonymity at the start of the interview process to make them comfortable, as also stated by Kumar, Ranjit (1996). Through primary data we know the reasons behind a cer-tain management decision. Most appropriate way of learning about opinions and behavior that are relative to culture is by asking questions directly to people involved. (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2005) Information on the Austrian acquisition of a Swedish firm can be ga-thered by asking people who have been involved or have observed the process i.e. of ac-quisition. (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2005)
Additionally, research problems which are focused on uncovering a person‟s experience or behavior and understand a phenomenon which we know little about are also an example of qualitative research (Ghauri, 2005). Similar is the nature of our decision-making and cross-cultural research which includes social and behavioral sciences.
The approach as stated is to use a qualitative research methodology of investigation, data collection and analysis. Decision-making is not a fixed and static concept to measure and it has a cognitive process. Besides, not being a „steady state phenomenon‟ it changes erratical-ly with time and environment, as described by Mintzberg (1976). Considering this, quan-titative research does not suit our study as it emphasizes on the quantification of data col-lection and analysis as argued by Bryman and Bell (2007) and it observes social world as an external and objective reality. Holloway (1997) advocated of qualitative research for cap-turing the way the individuals experience, interpret and make sense of their environment. Also, Auerbach (2003) claims that qualitative research involves analyzing and interpreting texts and interviews among others, in order to investigate specific patterns, i.e. examining decision-making amidst cross-cultural challenges in an acquisition. The purpose of the re-search inquiry is behavioral, as the research focused on discovering and understanding the role of cross-cultural factors in decision-making hence interconnected. This provides a strong basis for pure quantitative analysis.
Interviewing is the most widely utilized method in qualitative approach of investigation, as stated by Bryman and Bell (2007) and this instrument suits appropriately to find answers to our research questions, .i.e. cross-cultural influence on decision-making in M&A‟s.
The choice of people that were needed to be investigated for our research questions was crucial. Collins, Onwuegbuzie and Jiao (2006) stated that researchers should decide sample size in both quantitative and qualitative studies. In the sample, from Company A we were looking for people that were cooperating with Austrian counterpart and were involved in some kind of decision-making. It was very kind of our contact person at Company A, whom after explaining our research necessity, arranged fourteen people from mangers to engineers involved with their cross-border counterpart. Considering this we used purposive sampling technique which as mentioned by Maxwell (1997) is used in qualitative studies to select e.g., individuals or institutions based on specific purpose.
The technique and construction is also very important in the formulation of interviews. The interviews can be unstructured, semi-structured or structured (Saunders et al. 2007). As we were more interested in „theory of a particular reality‟ (Wengraf, 2001) instead of the numerical data, we chose to settle on semi-structured interviews using open ended ques-tions.
Semi-structured interviews permitted us to probe relevant issues which emerged during the interview. We were very particular in formulating the questions as two cover both aspects of cross-cultural implications and decision-making. The questions were developed keeping both the notions in mind, and critically looked at the relative literature to see what aspects should be covered. We found out that it was important to understand the reasons for the acquisition, the involvements between units at different stages of the integration process, the cultural-differences and the difference in decision-making processes. The interview questions were then sent out to the contact person at Company A, to be distributed to the interviewees in advance. This was done so the interviewees get a hands-on familiarity of what is expected especially when the study involved a sensitive topic like cultural observa-tions. We aimed at making the data reliable; to ensure this we recorded the interviews upon permission and also took notes to reduce the chance of misinterpretation. In an attempt to motivate the respondents to co-operate with us and obtain factual data with their trust we ensured the anonymity and confidentiality of responses. We skipped a few questions in two interviews due to shortage of time. We completed a total of ten interviews in a session of three days with an allotted time of thirty minutes each
A well retrieved data is vital for an authentic research. Throughout our study we took measures to ensure this. During the interviews we did not rely on perceptions which would affect the accuracy of our observations and used constant probing to have clear answers. We remained unprejudiced and flexible to have quality working data.
Respondents sometimes perceive risks and may believe interviews to be jeopardizing their emotions and privacy, as also mentioned by McCracken (1988). Knowing this, we assured the interviewees about the privacy and academic purpose of interviews at start of each in-terview. So they were at comfort in providing the information conveniently. To avoid po-tential bias of our preconceived notions and theories we transcribed only what the inter-views said, which we stored it in the form of recordings and written notes taken at the time of the interviews. We claim to have a plausible study, considering all the measures we took responsibly in terms of organizing and conducting the interviews.
Our analysis was exploratory as asserted by Creswell et al. (2003) aiming to understand the influence of cross-cultural factors on decision-making process in an acquired firm. Like in most of the qualitative analysis we refer to the inductive approach, as claimed by Bryman and Burgess (1994). Raw data, as mentioned was in the form of interview recordings and notes taken during the interviews. The recording was listened to and exact words were transcribed to create texts. We read the transcribed data attentively to derive concepts, themes, or a model which is common in qualitative data analyses, especially grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). To identify specific cross-cultural factors in an acquisition and how it had an effect on decision-making, we let the theory to develop from data; the theory building element is an inspiration from the grounded theory though we don‟t intend to use this as our method.
The analysis subsequent to this section was organized as follows:
Interview description: We read the transcripts many times to get familiar with descriptions and understood how interviewees expressed and explained their expe-riences in relation to the questions.
Identifying discourses and theme generation: Later, we recognized relevant discourses from the transcribed interviews, and excluded other irrelevant descrip-tion. Following this we observed the core information and concluded some pat-terns of behavior/theme. Categories were formed with summary of data sets (i.e. „employee‟s organizational behavior‟) along with appropriate quotes from the res-pondents to reach a quality analysis and conclusion.
Discussion: In this section we explored the meanings explicitly or implicitly in-cluded in our empirical findings and looked for links of cross-cultural difficulties and decision-making. We also put forward suggestions of future research in this clause.
Empirical Data & Analysis
This section has empirical evidences combined with the analysis. The italic part represents empirical data as it was collected during our study and discourse following that covers the analysis. Moreover, the data and analysis has been divided into subheadings, as also identiti-fied in the summary of frame of reference earlier. The aim is to have a constructive analysis in light of researches identified in frame of reference.
Employee’s organizational behavioral
„Here we want to be able to say what we think and we like consensus. And sometimes this makes us slow and also in the eyes of other a bit blurry. Sometime we are afraid of decision if we have different opinions. In Austria it is more like „this is the way‟. My opinion is that they don‟t listen so much to everybody they take decision form a higher, they sort of discuss in a smaller group‟, Interviewee at the acquired firm said.
Swedes in an organization generally work in groups and are independent individuals at the same time. They also have a freedom to express views, owing to a less hierarchical system. Mutual agreement, consensus, structure and logical reasoning are very important to them for which they have a lot of meetings and discussions. Moreover, Swedes are solution-oriented and are usually calm.
„One thing I learned from that course(cross-cultural diversity) is that people is Austria are more problem oriented and here in Sweden we are solution oriented and that affects how we are able to communicate and cooperate‟, an interviewee evokes.
The essence of usual Swedes vs. Austrian behavior was narrated by Interviewee 5 as:
„There is a great difference in the decision-making process. In Sweden everyone should agree and we ask a lot of people of what everyone think. Then we make decision after hearing all the opinions. And its opposite in Austria, you do not ask the employees if you are working as a manager. I think you are seen as a weak leader if you ask people of what they think. Its positive and negative in both ways I think Swedish way is better for working in a team and but in Austria you really make the decision and you come forward‟.
Another interviewee stated: „Generally we are pushing responsibility rather low in the organization. When we have communication on a low technical level and quite quickly it tends to escalate on the Austrian side then on our side. Because we are usually more authoritative when we make decisions at a lower level‟
Austrians on the other hand don‟t have much freedom of expression due to a hierarchical system in the acquired firm point of view. Another common view observed was that man-agers in Austria alone make decisions and value of consensus is less there.
„I have been learning by working together with them. The first impression is that Aus-trians are like Germans, but not at all. But they are most like east Europe or more oriental like or Russians like. They are for example more social. At many times rela-tions are very important for them‟.
Austrian‟s are social and build relationships. A lot more emotion is involved than facts in their reasoning. Moreover, Austrian‟s are problem-oriented and get usually stressed under a problem.
This observation can be further emphasized by few statements of the interviewees.
„They have a lot more emotions and we like to base our decisions on facts.‟ Interviewee said.
„They have much hierarchy. More power distance. There is a very large distance be-tween the manger and the individual member in the group‟. Interview affirmed.
„Austrian employee has more commitment to work, in trouble situations get nervous, get stressed quickly; a manager would not involve the employees in the decision making. A weakness mentioned that they are not good leaders. They are afraid to admit their mis-takes and try to cover up the mistakes‟. Interviewee explained.
Additionally another interviewee expressed, „Generally speaking they have less to room to maneuver. As they require some kind of an authority and it depends on whom their boss is and what freedom do they have. It‟s very controlled in a department. So they have to report every detail and want to be informed about every detail that is an influ-ence of how people react at a lower level‟
Empirical data on employees‟ organizational behavior supports the study of Humprey et al (2009), who stated that consensus is relative to hierarchy of decision making teams which impacts social relations and team cohesiveness. In Sweden mutual agreement and consen-sus is important and also has flat organizations(less hierarchy). Contrary to this, in hierar-chical Austrian company, managers alone are the decision-makers.
The calmness of Swedes and Austrian‟s stressed nature under problems is the difference in emotions that Chang & Safney (2008) researched on, and its influence on the decision-making process.
Decision-making process structure
The cooperation between units was narrated in the following manners:
„On a developer level its works well, we are not so different in thinking and how we work but as soon as the management level is involved, that when the problem often starts. That is because they often decide on things without knowing the technical side. But maybe their boss has said to them that you must decide today and they make a deci-sion but make not the right decision that is my view‟
„I think when you are accepted in a specific project and there are people working on same level, project is well as they work in project teams but decision making may take longer time. The efficiency of the company has declined‟
„Even if you are an expert in your technical area you cannot take the decision it has to be taken by your manager. They have to escalate the problem up in the hierarchy to get a decision. We communicate directly and we have a more efficient way of communicat-ing. We have a smaller distance we trust our employee. I n Austria they have common and control attitude‟
The decision-making process depends on the type of decision. If it‟s a higher stake deci-sion, the process is followed through formal procedures of contracts and agreements com-pared to daily operational level decisions which are simple. This can be confirmed through the feedback from a respondent.
„If its formal decision like starting a project then it‟s a formal process, signing docu-ments and agreement and it structure is rather well define. When you take a day to day decisions (technical coordination‟s), it that can be handled on a day to day contact‟
In Swedish unit agreement has to be reached through consensus whereas in Austrian unit, managers give a decision which is to be followed. More decision-making authority lies with managers in Austria than Swedish ones who work more as a support function.
„Line managers have much more power in Austria they are more deciding which project to start or not. In Swedish it doesn‟t happen like this its decided by product mangers and line manager are more like service function‟, Interviewee.
Thus, the role of managers „authority‟ or „support function‟ inherited in culture also has dif-ferent affects on the decision-making process. For example, at the operational level, deci-sions are more based on facts and therefore easier to decide on, irrelevant of whether these decision are taken by lower lever employees alone (less hierarchical organization) or through an approval process of managers first (hierarchical organization). Whereas tactical decisions have observed to be more conflicting where managers decide on the department‟s progress and functioning, cultural factors have had most of the influence here. The conflicts arose due misinterpretations of conversations adhering to different mother ton-gue. Sometimes time lag was seen to slower the decision process, in the Swedish unit owing to reaching an agreement with everyone on all decisions (tactical or operational). In Aus-trian unit, the decision escalating to the managers if they are operational decisions which is time inefficient. Otherwise tactical decisions are decision taken by managers alone and so the process is more efficient.
Interaction & Communication between units
Cooperation at the technical or the lower level works well. At the management level coop-eration is difficult where decision making takes longer. Some employees expressed that even with electronic facilities available communication across the border is difficult. Em-ployees cooperating for a longer period developed relationships of trust which helps in co-operation amidst the cross-cultural differences It doesn‟t work well when we can‟t sit together and discuss, makes harder to communi-cate over cross borders even though facilities are provided like Skype ,video conferences, but it kills the team spirit as it‟s not the same as for sitting together‟ Interviewee recalled.
„The cooperation works well if it‟s on a developer level but as I have understood it doesn‟t work well on the management level and there have been some conflicts but I have not been directly involved with that‟
Also another mentioned, „I had been in discussion with my technical counterpart and we had agreed on everything on how components should work. But at the end we came to a discussion of the labeling of the product, what market it should be on, layout on the ma-nual and it was terrible. And then all the CEO‟s were involved and it took a lot of time. So all the technical issues were solved smoothly but the commercial stuff, it became very hard‟
Practically, the interaction between units is informal. But it depends on the type of decision as well, i.e. starting a project, would follow a formal procedure of interaction. Project man-agers have a closer contact compared to the rest. Informal day to day technical decisions are handled on a daily basis. It is also hard to predict a response to an interaction from across the border, some interviewees responded.
„It is scary sometimes how the information will be interpreted in another culture. It‟s hard to predict specially at lower level when send off the paper to the other organiza-tion (Austria)‟
Through data it was also understood that is easier to agree on factual information, which all can straightforwardly agree to. Language barrier has seemed to affect the agreeability due to misinterpretations sometime. This data analysis is also congruent to the view of Pauline (2005), assumptions and interpretation may distort information and knowledge communi-cation affecting decision-making. Also, confirming the influence of culture and language on decision-making, the research of which is limited, Irrman (2005). The technical side of the decisions is easier to agree on, compared to the decisions made at management level i.e. commercial issues.
This can be analyzed from the figure (Hendricks, 2009)below. The tactical decisions have been observed to have most complications whereas operational decisions are easier under cross-cultural implications of an acquisition.
Table of Contents
2 Frame of Reference
2.1 Summary of Frame of Reference and New Model Development
3.1 Research Method
3.2 Qualitative Research
3.4 Data validity
3.5 Data Analysis
4 Empirical Data & Analysis
4.1 Employee’s organizational behavioral
4.2 Decision-making process structure
4.3 Interaction & Communication between units
4.4 Cultural Influence on Company A
4.5 Cultural Adaptability and Difficulties in Company A
4.6 Structure, Norms, & Cultural Transformation in Company A
5 Conclusion & Discussion
6 Further Studies
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A Study of Cross-Cultural Decision-Making Processes in M&A’s