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The Handy Guide to the Gurus of Management
Charles Handy was, for many years, a professor at the London Business School. He is now an independent writer and broadcaster. He describes himself, these days, as a social philosopher.
cross-culture projects
Episode 13: Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden Turner
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For twenty years these two academics, a cross-cultural Anglo-Dutch partnership, have been interviewing managers around the world, giving them questionnaires to answer, conducting seminars and advising their companies.

Most of the management theory we know about has come from the Anglo-American culture, the one that most of these gurus belong to. This is a universalist culture, one that assumes that the rules that work for it will work universally. That might be a dangerous illusion. After all, we know that things work quite differently but equally well in other parts of the world.

Trompenaars and Hampden Turner discovered that North Americans and North Europeans were almost totally universalist in their responses. They would put the law first. Only 70 per cent of the French and the Japanese would do so, however, while, in Venezuela, two thirds would be particularist in their response.

Universalist countries take contracts very seriously and they employ lots of lawyers to make sure that the contract is kept. Particularist countries think that the relationship is more important than the contract and that a good deal requires no written contract - the particular people and the particular situation matter more than the universal rules.

Trompenaars and Hampden Turner have detailed their conclusions in a string of books, amongst which are 'Building Cross-Cultural Competence' and '21 Leaders for the 21st Century'.

The answer to the dilemma, say Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, is to reconcile the opposites, to recognize that the cultures need each other.

This is our last episode. Hopefully the twelve gurus you've met in this Handy Guide will help you find your own way in the world.

Read Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden Turner's biography

Some useful business words:

college or university teachers

cross-cultural Anglo-Dutch partnership
a collaboration between an English and a Dutch person, which stretches across more than one culture

carrying out, directing

everywhere, across the universe

a false idea, a false belief about something

a business agreement

a string

a set of things following each other closely

a situation in which one has to make a difficult choice

to find agreement between ideas, situations etc. that seem to be in opposition

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