Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thar she blows! Ya ha harrr!!!

*drum roll*

The proposal is here.

I saved it as a word 2007 doc since I included a couple of graphics that would just be awkward on the blog. If you try to view it google's viewer they'll be messed up, so it's best to download it and then open it in word. Also, everyone in the "TO:" section has been emailed a copy.

So without further ado:


Sunday, April 17, 2011

By Jove, I think [he's] got it!

Well this is just downright exciting. I'm excited.

Matt's 9-Step Research Process:

1. Google!
2. Bang head against wall
3. Refine search terms
4. Search scholarly databases in addition to Google
5. Ingest copious amounts of caffeine (preferably in the form of Mt. Dew)
6. Read
7. Throw away what just took me 20-60 minutes to find
8. Repeat process from step 2 until...
9. Success! (or concussion/caffeine-induced heart attack)

Seriously. It's a scientifically-proven method. Don't mess with science.

So what did I find this week? What have I got?

I got me a thesis. It's sleek, trim, and sexy with just the right amount of sass--and what's more, this is the kind of thesis that would be guaranteed to impress if you took it home to meet the folks too. Really, it's a winner.

And it's all mine.

Ready? Excited? Yeah, me too.

I started this thing called 'thesis' with this nebulous idea of doing "something with cross-cultural management." All the cool kids are doing it, and I'm not above a little band-wagoning. But then I had to think about it.

"I don't want to be just like all the other kids!" thought I.

This is when my thesis transformed into "Russian cross-cultural management stuff... with maybe some other things," because hey--I like Russia, and by "like" I mean "look upon with the same amount of endearing pity that a small child gives to a three-legged, half-retarded puppy that keeps trying to walk through the solid sliding glass door."

That may have been a bit of creative hyperbole, but I really do have fond memories of Russia and a sincere interest in the country's development. Still, that thesis was only slightly more descriptive than the original, and mostly useless except for the fact that it led me to the final product.


In the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a lot of effort went into researching the cultural issues and values that make cross-cultural management in Russia such an interesting topic (back to Hofstede's values and the multiple cans-of-worms of implications that they bring). These strategies and modes of thinking about management/leadership in post-soviet Russia persist today, but are based on the idea that the Russian workforce is largely the same today as it was 20 years ago. While it's true that those who were adults and in the workforce at the time of the collapse have comprised the majority of the Russian workforce since that time, there is a fairly clear generational values divide between those who were raised to adulthood in the USSR, and those who have grown to enter the workforce in today's globalized climate. At 20 years since the collapse, this latter segment is becoming more and more significant. That brings me to my thesis statement.


Younger generations of Russians, raised amidst an increasingly globalized economic and political climate, are more able to easily adapt to (and adopt) western management and leadership structures than their older counterparts.

In practical terms, this means a confirmation of both "old dogs can't learn new tricks" and "time heals all wounds." As far as management strategies devised from these findings....? Only hire talented young people if you're making a startup? Wait another decade or two before even trying to do business there? Fire all the old people and start over with young'ns? Actually... I read an article about a successful company in Russia that did exactly that. I need to find that article again... Anywho, that kind of conjecture would be in the conclusions section.

I'm excited because now I have a clear direction to pursue in my interviews and case studies. This is what I will be trying to prove/disprove through the experiences that I will be collecting during the coming months.

So what's the plan before the end of the semester?

1. Keep researching
2. Start scheduling interviews
3. Write up my formal thesis proposal
4. Celebrate

*fist pump*

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ketchup or Catsup?

So there's a fair amount to cover since I last posted (hooray!), let's try and get caught up, shall we?

I spoke with one of my advisors, Bonner Ritchie from the UVU school of Business Management, a little over a week ago, and got a lot of really good input into the direction that my paper is taking. Here's a brief overview of what came from that meeting:

1. Looking only at multinational corporations imposes a needless limitation on the scope of the paper. The same issues that multinational corporations face are experienced by every other type of organization whose members cross cultural boundaries in their interactions with each other. Therefore, including NGOs and even governmental organizations allows for easier data collection without really enlarging the scope of the paper.

2. "Post-Soviet countries" has now been changed to "Russia." This greatly simplifies the data collection process without greatly reducing the relevance of the findings.

3. Format: Rather than being a simple exploratory paper which only reviews the current research and literature available, it was decided that the best format for this paper would be to present information gathered from interviews with individuals who have experience managing and leading teams in Russia. These case studies will then be analyzed within the framework of research that has been done on the topic.

4. Contacts: Dr Ritchie also pointed me in the direction of a number of people that I might contact for interviews. I've already started in on that list and have been pleased with the results. More on that in a moment.

All-in-all, I'd say it was a wonderfully productive meeting and I owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Ritchie for his ongoing involvement with my thesis.

The next objective on my research list is to come up with the questions (or at least a general idea of the topics) that I want to ask in my interviews. The last thing I want to do is land the perfect interview and then blow it by not being prepared. This thought has guided my most recent research efforts, and has led me to start by looking into research conducted in the 60's and 70's by Geert Hofstede.

Hofstede conducted one of the most well-known cross-cultural studies of his time. He isolated four cultural variables that have implications on relations in the workplace: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, and individuality. At the time of the first survey, Russia was not included in the results due to a lack of access to survey data from workers within the Soviet Union. Since then, values have been updated and presented for Russia. The scores can be interpreted to reveal many things that one or two paragraphs written late on a Saturday night won't do justice to. I also found another study conducted in 1997 by a separate team which repeated the survey and updated the results, showing trends in the scores across the world.

Also along those lines, the World Values Survey has some really useful information, mapping all of the countries of the world along 2 axes, with the y-axis being a continuum representing either traditional/secular-rational thinking and the x-axis as survival/self-expression values. According to this survey, published in 2010, Russia still has a survivalist mentality with a secular-rational thinking process. Cool stuff. Also, ASEP/JDS conducted a world-wide survey on trust levels, and mapped those out. Russia, while not being the least trusting, is significantly less trusting than the western countries (US, Britain, Germany) that make up the bulk of its international business involvement.

All this and more can be found through the links on my Bibliography which can be found at !!!

So that's the cultural framework that I'm starting to build my thesis around. Other topics I would like to explore:
-gender equality in the workplace
-workplace mentality as a function of generational identity
-New-Russian Capitalist Cowboys vs the Russian Old School

The last thing I'll cover in this monstrosity of a blog post is my progress towards actually landing some interviews with promising candidates. The first name on the list that Dr. Ritchie gave me that I decided to follow up on was Rusty Butler. Rusty Butler has an office in the UVU International Affairs office and is the Honorary Russian Consul General for the State of Utah. He's also a really nice guy.

We talked for about an hour and a half this last week in his office about my thesis. Two big things came from this meeting.

1. Rusty agreed to be interviewed and to give his perspective on the issues. As soon as my research has progressed to the point (soon) where I have a list of questions to ask, I'll email them to Rusty and we'll decide at that point whether to conduct the interview through email or in person. Transcripts of all interviews will be attached in the appendix to my thesis.

2. I got another long list of really promising interview candidates along with contact information. I'm going to wait to follow up with other candidates until I basically have all my interview questions ready, but it's an impressive list. In fact, Rusty said he may even be able to get me an hour or so one-on-one with the CEO of TSAGI (think Russian NASA + R&D elements from Navy and Air Force) sometime in the early summer. I'm not getting my hopes up too high on that one, as I'm sure he's an incredibly busy man, but it would be an amazing opportunity if it happened.

So that's where I am: knee-deep in research, neck-deep in contacts, and generally pleased with the progress that I'm making.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tunnels, lights, and bottomless pits...

The past week has brought some interesting changes in my attitude towards this thesis. Here's a brief summary:

Tuesday: "Why can't I find any good research on my topic? Seriously, does anyone care about this?"

Then, after talking to the reference-desk research ninjas in the library and getting some good help, I arrived at:

Wednesday: "Wow... so there's a ton of research on this topic. Ummm... where do I start?"

I found a couple hundred peer-reviewed articles all published within the last decade, selected about 20 and set them aside for reading. After briefly skimming skimming through a few, then selecting one which I read thoroughly and took some notes on/quotes from, I have come to:

Monday: "Good Lord there is so much research that's been done in this area! Now I kind of feel like a poser for wanting to learn more about this..."

The truth is, so much has been done in the area of international and cross-cultural management, that I really don't feel like I have anything that I can contribute to the field--no new angle to take or perspective to explore. I know, I know--this is a paper for an undergraduate degree, and I may be naive or overambitious to think that at this point I could actually contribute to my field in a meaningful way. I also understand that for the purpose of demonstrating how much I've learned and for the fulfillment of this requirement for graduation, my eyes need not gaze upon so lofty a goal, but I have to admit that I would feel a little lame if my paper was just basically a lit review with a by-now-common-sense conclusion.

Still, I suppose I must admit that it's not my fault that culture has become a rather hot issue in management as of late, and that my interest in learning more about it--given that circumstance--would seem to indicate that my natural curiosities propel me in the direction of smart, career-focused educational goals. Also, I have to admit that even a literature review, if it is well-written and comprehensive in its scope, would be an incredibly useful educational experience.

With all of that in mind, I've begun to wonder if perhaps I shouldn't narrow my scope even more. Specifically, I've toyed with the idea of adding the words "Eastern European" in there somewhere--as in "The impact of Eastern European culture on the internal operations of multinational corporations: cross-cultural management in former Soviet states."

"Why?" I ask me.

Well, for starters, it's a lot more specific.

"Ok, but why former Soviet states?"

Any given topic becomes ten times more interesting the moment you can tie it to the former Soviet Union and invoke images of the cold war.

"Seriously? You just want it to be more interesting?"

OK, I also lived in Russia for two years, and I think my personal experiences and observations can help to validate or challenge research that's already been done on the topic.

"Все ясно."

They won't understand that.

"I said 'gotcha.' "


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In the beginning...

The short version of the story is that today is the 22nd of March in this, the year of our Lord, 2011, and I have only begun work on my Capstone thesis.

"Why?" you ask.

Please, let us not dwell upon the past. A bright future is ahead of me--a future filled with long hours of research, many nights of writing and rewriting, editing and drafting, and copious amounts of Mountain Dew. Indeed, it is a future fueled by the singular hope of someday leaving behind the world of undergraduate academia. So despite my somewhat tardy entrance to the field of battle, my gaze is fixed and resolute toward the final prize.


Anywho, I did some research tonight on my topic. Right now my topic is still fairly general: the impact of regional cultures on multinational corporations. I know that's a pretty broad topic, and that notion has been reinforced to me as I've begun to research its various aspects.

So what part of regional cultures do I want to look at? Languages? Traditions? Attitudes? Religions?

How about the effects those things have on the operations of multinational companies? Am I interested in marketing strategies employed in various regions? Company policies for employees? Conflicts between corporate culture and local governments?

As I've been searching terms like "multinational companies", "regional culture", and "globalization", I find that the most common observations are those relating to language and marketing. While these are not really what I had in mind for my thesis, some are rather comical. For instance, one story has it that a slogan used by Purdue was supposed to say "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," but instead reads (in Spanish) "It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate." Oops.

So yeah, I've run into a number of those, but I'm not really interested in looking at the marketing side of the issue. Of more interest to me would be how regional traditions and attitudes either help or hinder the internal operations of a multinational corporation. My instinct would tell me that the differences between the dominant or originating culture of the MNC (multinational corporation) and the regional culture that it operates within have the potential to clash in ways that challenge productivity, efficiency, and even stability within the local chapters of the organization.

More along those lines, I ran into an interesting article (link below), published in an issue of American Psychologist, titled "The Psychology of Globalization." The author, Jeffrey Arnett, discusses the rise of what he terms a "bicultural identity," which he believes is becoming more common today. He says that the bicultural identity exists when a person has the ability to identify both with their regional culture, as well as with the larger global culture. As an example, he talks about an Inuit boy who goes ice fishing and snowmobile racing, but who keeps up with televised national hockey games. Were this example to be brought a few more years into the future, I'm sure the author would have included something along the lines of "and plays video-games against peers in Korea."

The idea in the article is that we are able to adopt multiple identities and use them or even blend them together as necessary. He attributes this phenomenon, however, as almost exclusively a property of the generations currently in adolescence and post adolescence (until mid twenties)--saying that for most adults, globalization began after most were further set in their ways.

I'm not sure if I completely buy into every aspect of this psychology, but I think it's a good article and an interesting place to start.

Here's the link to the article:

And here's a link to the google doc where I'll be keeping an annotated record of all my many wanderings on the interwebs in my quest for knowledge (it's an annotated bibliography!):