Monash University
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An Analysis of the Cross-cultural Transferability of Western Motivation Theories to the Developing Eastern, China Region

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-06-05, 06:19 authored by Townsend, Peter, Wrathall, Jeff
With the increasing globalisation of complex organisations, the need to understand cross-cultural issues and the gap betweeen theory and practice is crucial to organisational effectiveness. This research examines the question of the extent to which western motivation theories can be successfully transferred to other regions, and the extent to which the relevance and organisational utility of management education is constrained by cultural variables. The majority of academic theories about organisational effectiveness have their findings based on empirical data from U.S. and European cultures, usually during the last fifty years. In contrast, significant practical management and organisational activity now occurs in Asian, Chinese cultures. Changing both the historical and geographic assumptions and interactions of research may negate the value of accepted management theories. More specifically, academics and researchers have attempted to provide the relevant data for management theories about the relationships between organisational strategy, structure and behaviour, and between structure and culture: essentially stating that "alignment" is essential for improving organisational effectiveness. Data obtained from over thirty organisations in the sample demonstrates that these general theories concerning the alignment of structure and culture cannot be applied universally. Essentially, this negates the academic basis of the currently espoused management theories and restricts their general applicability. The conclusions from this research are supported by other researchers (Adler 1986; and Steers and Porter 1991), who agree that management theories, including motivation and leadership theories, are "culture bound". Organisational culture is strongly influenced by environmental factors and constraints; the cross-cultural transferability of these and other management concepts and theories is related to the degree of similarity and relative importance of these variables. The vital question for practicing managers is the extent to which these espoused management principles can be cross-culturally transferred to China. This research reviews the fundamental environmental constraints and variables from both an empirical and experience perspective. The paper concludes that management and organisational theories should be conveyed in terms subject to these constraining variables, not used as simplistic universal solutions.


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Department of Management.

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