The Evolution of Production Methods: the case for multicultural competencies
The emergence of mass production systems at the beginning of the Twentieth Century[if supportFields]><span lang=EN-US style='mso-ansi-language:EN-US'><span style='mso-element:field-begin'></span> CITATION Pin99 \l 1046 <span style='mso-element:field-separator'></span></span><![endif] is one of the foundations for the evolution of industrial organization. Apart from the influencing the systematization of work, technological innovations have had a significant impact on operations management. The rapid pace of innovations in industrial functions has promoted the specialization of work, not only in the execution of tasks, but also in narrowing the scope of study for several engineering areas. The specialization necessary for dealing with the ever-changing technological advances has had the effect of increasing mechanistic and reductionist thinking.
In addition to all industrial technological development, the advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have contributed significantly to recent transformations. Zammuto et al. argue that control over information has changed from centralized and hierarchical to equally distributed among the all actors in a production system. Moreover, several authors highlight the increasing interconnection among technological, organizational, and social aspects as consequence of the intensive use of the ICT. For example, Walsh, Meyer, & Schoonhoven summarized this trend towards global amalgamation; they state that the advances in the ICT “took the organization to the world and also put the world inside the organization”. The ICT acted as catalyst for increasing the connection between technological, social and cultural activities in productions and operations.
The globalization of production chains and the phenomenon of immigration have increased cultural diversity in the workplace. Cultural diversity can be defined as the presence of distinct cultural identities in the same social system, including factors such as gender, religion, nationality, social status, ethnic background, experience and education. This diversity has grown continuously in almost all organizations, not only locally, but also through telecommunications, in an effort to coordinate remote tasks and decisions. In global operation systems, diversity and multicultural interactions are managed locally and among employees at various points in the production network.
The concept of multicultural competence has become necessary in any operation and production network, both locally and internationally. According to, competence in a multicultural perspective involves the articulation of technical and management abilities with cross-cultural consciousness and sensibility. Multicultural competence facilitates the execution of tasks, the process of decision-making within a culturally diverse group and the promotion of mutual trust. Despite advances in ICT, the improvement of knowledge sharing could not enhance group performance without the development of mutual trust.
Organizations are dynamic and complex systems containing several heterogeneous components that are both interlinked and fluctuating; these components can be classified as technological, operational or human. Information and Communications Technologies, along with the globalization phenomenon, have acted as catalysts that increase the intensity of the “techno-socio-cultural interconnectivities and unpredictable factors” in production and operations management.
Technical and operational disagreements among project stakeholders are very common, and the professionals involved are used to dealing with such conflicts. However, many engineers are unfamiliar with discrepancies that are rooted in cultural conflicts, usually hidden within human minds, and thus, they struggle to resolve these disagreements. The quality of modeling in a global project will depend on the development of cross-cultural awareness, intercultural communication, and cross-cultural competences, all of which can flourish when there is leadership in the context of a multicultural organization.
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