Continuing the series of posts that began with a brief overview of cultural diversity in virtual teams , Long Term Orientation sits along with Power Distance, Individuality, Cultural Masculinity and Uncertainly Avoidance as one of the measured cultural differences from Hofstede’s research.
As the name of this characteristic suggests, long term orientation is a measure of a culture’s perspective of the future, how the future is felt to impact on life and business, and how life and business impact on the long term view of the culture.
Characteristics of Long Term Orientation
The cultures with the highest ranking on Hofstede’s Long Term Orientation index, who were determined to hold the longest view of things are primarily the Asian cultures of China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, with Brazil and India coming along next on the list, at the other end of the scale are Pakistan, Nigeria, Spain, Canada, Great Britain and the United States as cultures with the least long term orientation.
The cultures in those countries with high long term orientation are structured to expect rewards and returns for their efforts to manifest at an undetermined point somewhere in the future and as such place high social value on perseverance, thrift, willingness to subordinate themselves for a higher purpose and adaptiveness. The cultures with the short term oriented societies place their values on short term returns and rewards, regard spending as normal behaviour and while these societies also have a high regard for traditions, they also place a high value of social status and obligations. An example of short term views held in these cultures are the brief accounting reporting periods and attaching rewards to business leaders to immediate and “next quarter” organisational performance as opposed to longer term performance indicators.
When applied to business, many of these differing views are readily visible. In today’s marketplace, Chinese and Indian businesses, with their long term views can be seen engaged in acquiring access to many of the worlds natural resources from the short term oriented companies and countries, who, in turn are equally delighted with the short term gains their societies are making through the sale of these national assets.
From a virtual teams perspective, the question is how best to manage relationships and communications between cultures with divergent long term views?
- Cultures with high ranking long term orientation rankings tend to value understanding how the business and project objectives will benefit the company’s market position and its future, they have a preference toward formally structures, familial organisations and feel more comfortable when they and their colleagues are treated more alike, they also have an interest in training and development opportunities that will benefit both themselves and the organisation/project. Also, individuals from these cultures are more likely to join a company for the long term relationship they believe will be forthcoming, so communication styles that are inclusive, open and work toward building a relationship will be most effective.
- Personnel from lower ranked long term orientation cultures will me inclined to value more individual freedom and a meritocracy. As such, they are likely to be more interested in how the business or project will benefit the company’s immediate bottom line, the current years profits along and their own immediate rewards and prospects. These individuals are more likely to be motivated by their own status within the organisation and their loyalties will be oriented more to themselves rather than the organisation. Communicating with them as individuals rather than as units will typically be more effective, and when required, individual and immediate motivational techniques will typically be more effective than long term career opportunities.
On the surface, long term orientation appears to be relatively straight forward in different societies. As such it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that it is easy to manage, however, the nuances of its impact on the societies and individuals is very complex. I would caution not jumping to any fixed conclusion but to carefully observe the development of relationships and communication patterns across the life cycle of the project and adapt communication styles to reflect developments.
Ulfire specialises in assisting organisations develop high performing virtual teams, please feel free to contact us for any assistance or guidance you may need in establishing or managing your team or project.
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