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Case from journal
Reference no. JIACS10-05-06
Published by:
Allied Business Academies (2004)
in "Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies"
9 pages
Data source:
Field research
This case is based on the actual experiences of an American engineer based in a high tech manufacturing firm in northern California, USA. It focuses on the problems that arise when his US-based team forms a joint project with a Malaysian team based in Penang. The Americans, assuming that the English-speaking Malaysians behave and do business just like Americans do, do not properly prepare themselves to work with the Malaysian culture. They simply believe that the strong organizational culture of their company will provide a framework for a successful joint project. The Americans select a project manager who is successful in the California setting but who turns out to be ineffective at dealing with the natives in Malaysia. His counterpart, a Malaysian engineer, struggles with the American management style which conflicts directly with many characteristics of the Malaysian management style. Culturally-based issues regarding the use of time and communication styles arise on a daily basis when the Americans arrive in Malaysia to do business. The same issues continue to plague both partners as they attempt to communicate long distance after the Americans return home. Even the structuring of work processes is done differently in Malaysia than in California, an issue that frustrates both partners. The two teams struggle to find common ground where they can operate efficiently and effectively. The primary subject matter of this case concerns cross-cultural relations between the American and Malaysian partners of a high-tech joint project based in Penang, Malaysia. Topics such as cross-cultural communication styles, cultural self-awareness, and preparation/training for cross-cultural joint projects are all explored in the case. Secondary issues include corporate culture and expatriate selection. The case has a difficulty level of 3-5, and is appropriate for junior, senior, and first-year graduate levels. It is designed to be taught in 1-2 class hours and is expected to require 1-2 hours of outside preparation by students.
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