Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Introduction: This study is about organisational culture and different cultural
influences in a cross-cultural environment at an IKEA office in India.
Statement of Purpose: The purpose of this master thesis is to provide increased
understanding of the cross-cultural setting in regards to conceptualisation of the
concept of culture as well as sense-making and sense-giving processes of employees
in a trans-cultural environment in India. The case study follows a social
constructionist understanding of organisations, and can thus provide valuable insights
into the field without attempting to offer normative solutions (‘the company should do
this or that’) or predictive views (‘the company will suffer or have success because of
Research Questions: In what ways are employees of an IKEA office in India
making sense of their complex cross-cultural environment?
Theoretical Framework: The theoretical framework of this thesis is the
conceptualisation of cross-cultural management in a transcultural setting. The
literature on cross-cultural management is in this thesis seen as divided between
culture as managed and manageable (organisations have cultures and culture is seen
as an essence) and culture as being organic and developing through interaction (i.e.
organisations ‘are’ cultures as culture is a non-essentialist, dynamic and on-going
process of interaction). Woven into these above mentioned conceptualisation of
culture are sense-making and sense-giving processes.
Research Methodology: This qualitative case study of an IKEA office in India is
based on semi-structured in-depth interviews (8) and observations at the research site
in New Delhi, India.
Findings: The findings show how sense-making processes of individuals – that
interact with sense-giving attempts in terms of ‘official’ cultural values and norms –
construct organisational culture in the form of shared meanings, individual
interpretations and on-going negotiation processes. Moreover, the findings also point
to specific cultural influences that are based on the historical situation, i.e. the rule of
the British Empire in India that lasted nearly two centuries and ended in 1947.
Discussion: At the office in India, IKEA tried to influence employees through
sense-giving processes by means of official corporate values, norms, policies and the
actions by managers. These sense-giving processes, nonetheless, interact with
individual and collective sense-making processes of employees and various cultural
influences. For example, linguistic ‘barriers’ (which might influence the sensemaking
processes of employees), different notions of time, or of how formal or
informal the organisational context should be, influenced the employees’
understanding of the official cultural values of the organisation. Furthermore, special
historical influences (in the case due to Britain’s rule over the Indian subcontinent)
can create tensions around dominance and authority within the organisation.
Conclusion: The case study that I present in this master thesis offers the following
theoretical contributions to the literature on cross-cultural management: it takes the
conceptualisations of culture in cross-cultural management and provides empirical
insights based on the view of organisational culture as being constructed and
negotiated in on-going interaction between individuals. Moreover, it adds a specific
aspect to the literature on cross-cultural management, as it highlights the importance
of special historical influences as additional factors that researchers need to consider.
The practical recommendations that this study provides are – due to the nature of the
constructionist approach – neither predictive nor normative. Nonetheless, the
constructionist view of organisational culture in cross-cultural management can help
people in various positions in organisations (e.g., shop floor employees,
administrators, managers) in their attempts to analyse and understand the complexities
of cross-cultural settings. Instead of finding a kind of ‘recipe’ or ‘best practice
guidelines’, this view can make people aware of individual sense-making process and
the negotiation of shared meanings, of experts of cultural knowledge within their
firm, and of historical influences that can become important in the negotiation of
2016. , 100 p.