A Case Study of National Culture and Offshoring Services

August 2008 | Metters, Rich

Purpose – Prior surveys have shown that national culture is a leading cause of problems in offshoring services. The research question posed in this paper centers on how and through what specific decisions national culture affects operational implementation in offshore facilities.

Design/Methodology/Approach – A particular US service process offshored to Barbados and the Dominican Republic is studied. Ethnographic worker observations are combined with archival sources and executive interviews.

Findings – A culture clash caused a number of operational dilemmas for a major US airline offshoring the same processes to two Caribbean nations. The offshoring was a success at one site, a failure at another. But, even at the successful site, un-intuitive operational adaptations had to be made to accommodate cultural differences. Specifically, detailed here are decisions or results seen on country selection, location selection within a country, quality program implementation, and shift work that had strong cultural inputs.

Research Limitations/Implications – Any case study may be limited to the specific case. However, broader implications are that operations management decisions may be more highly dependent on national culture than previously thought.

Practical Implications – Management – especially US management – continue to make service offshoring decisions ignoring or minimizing the inevitable cultural conflict. This work provides tangible examples of decisions affected by culture.

Originality/Value – Concrete, specific examples are provided for the difficulties national culture created in a specific ease. Methods used to circumvent these difficulties are shown. By this specific example, the general case is posited that culture must be considered in operations decisions that may seem devoid of cultural content.

Author

Publication(s)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management