There is considerable interest today in whether the structures of similar organizations in different cultures are similarâ€”if, for example, a bank is a bank is a bank, regardless of the cultural values that spawned it. Alternatively, cultural norms and values may have considerable impact on organizational form. The evidence is and there is considerable disagreement over whether U.S. theories and findings have applicability abroad.
Studies across the world find that organizational forms are becoming increasingly similar. There are still national differences, however. Japanese organizations, for instance, seem to have a characteristic structure when one examines the abundance of qualitative data. What are typical characteristics of the Japanese organizational structure compared with those of American firms? It is clear that significant differences exist between the two types of structures in terms of division of labor, hierarchy, span of control, and decision making. However, there are also similarities; in both the United States and Japan "tallness" (many levels) is associated with lower employee commitment and satisfaction than "flatness" (few levels).
Other examples of national differences are apparent in the degree of centralization. European multinational firms favor local control, while American firms lean toward more centralized management. This contrast may reflect either differences in attitudes about obedience and authority, the histories of the countries, or other factors. With this orientation toward local control, European companies tend to use a national subsidiary structure rather than a system of international divisions, as favored by American companies. National subsidiaries report directly to the top without such intermediate or intervening levels as international or regional divisions. This structure helps grant autonomy to affiliates.