Charles Martin, a 29-year-old American who had worked for Hydro Generation (HG) for 2 years before embarking on the Ugandan damn project. Martins’ educational experience, a degree in African Studies from the University of Wisconsin as well as a MBA from the University of Maryland coupled with his experience working through the Peace Corps made Martin uniquely qualified to work for HG in their new venture in Africa, a hydro-electric damn in Uganda. During Martins tenure in Uganda , his assignments were to, gain support from local authorities, set up offices and insure the smooth operation of the office, overseeing operations including hiring, keeping inventory and keeping accounting records as well as logistical aspects such as dealing with customs. Martins’ job also included helping new expatriates settle into living and working in Uganda. Describe Ugandan cultural attributes that might affect operation for foreign company operating there? Uganda, a multilingual culturally diverse country of a little more than 25 million people poses many challenges to a foreign company operating there.
In addition to what may considered mostly normal challenges Uganda holds challenges that may not be found in other countries. With a long history of political instability and political corruption that continues into the present companies doing business there are faced with the stark reality that their business dealings maybe tainted because with such corruption ones place among the powerful is never assured. Nepotism is the norm in Uganda. Nepotism, the practice of allowing relatives to get jobs or promotions, even when undeserved thrives in Uganda. With jobs being awarded to family members, mostly through word of mouth connections language is very important to a business dealing in Uganda. Although English is the official language, many other languages are spoken throughout Uganda.
The use of many languages thorough different cultural venues makes for a difficult a foreign company to carry on business successfully, as one is never assured what language will be preeminent therefore communications are not always the easiest in Uganda. .Uganda many religions also make for challenges in business dealings. Although much of the population is Christian there are many tribal religions that are a strong influence, a foreign company would have to be accepting of their practices in order to successfully deal with the local peoples. In general, business is much slower moving in Uganda and it is not uncommon practice to pay off or “tip” officials to make things progress more quickly, a practice unheard of in the United States. How would you describe the respective attitudes of Martin and Green: ethnocentric, polycentric or geocentric? What factors do you suspect of having influenced their respective attitudes?
Martin’s attitude was one of polycentrism. Polycentric thought is such that Martin would conduct business in such a way that would conform to and accept the customs of the country in which the business was. Martin showed his polycentric attitude by paying tips, living in the middle class neighborhoods rather than with other expatriates, participating in tribal ceremonies and using nepotism in his hiring practices. Greens attitude was of geocentric thought. Geocentric thought accepts that certain differences of thought are tolerable in order to ensure successful business dealings. Depending on the individual circumstances, the company adapts to either the new culture or working to integrate the belief system of the home country. Greens attitude was influenced by his desire to incorporate the belief system of the company into the business in Uganda while Martins main concern was to fulfill the requirements of the project regardless of the fallout from the stepping away from the corporate values.
Who was right, Green or Martin, about the controversial actions? Martin took in the Uganda an operation. What might have been the results if he had not taken those actions? Martin was correct in his actions. With Martin’s prior knowledge of what actions would be required in order to succeed in business in Africa and his desire to complete the required tasks in a timely fashion adapting to local customs such as nepotism helped insure the success of his project. Although successful Martin did take risks when utilizing a polycentric approach to his work, at any point his participation in various activities such as tribal rituals could have back fired due to increased pressure from an unstable government and corrupt officials talking advantage of their increased leverage to exact higher and higher prices for continued cooperation. These problems coupled with the possibility of certain actions being illegal in HGs home country directly conflicts with corporate policy.
Despite these increased perils, if Martin had not undertaken this approach to business in Uganda increased delays, would certainly have occurred, local collaboration would have been decreased, expensed would have been increased due to either longer wait periods or the eventual abandonment of the project due to lack of progress. In the next phase of the project running the power plant-should HG employ someone whose main function is that of a liaison between its corporate culture and the culture of its host country? If so, is Martin the right person for the job?
In the next phase of this project, the running of the power plant HG should employ someone whose main function is to be a liaison between the corporate culture and the host country of Uganda. If there is, no liaison similar problems of cultural misunderstanding will happen over again. Martin would be the most capable of understanding the various nuances of the continuing project, as he already has an extensive knowledge of the inner workings of side project. HG, as the sponsor of the project could further its policy by working with Martin and other from corporate to establish firm guide lines of what is acceptable policy when dealing with projects that are in foreign countries.