Terry Kahler’s post on his three years as general manager of Dell’s Brazilian operation provides an excellent example of establishing a successful culture in an overseas operation.
To conform to Dell’s corporate policy and adhere to U.S. law, Terry needed to manage his Brazilian employees’ Situation orientation—their tendency to question authority and ignore rules. The existence of the “Jeitinho Brasileiro”, the “Brazilian way” of skirting the law to get things done, isn’t surprising, given Brazil’s history. Situation tendencies are strong in environments where legal and political systems are considered weak or unfair, particularly those with high levels of political turmoil and corruption. Rather than obey rules as a matter of course, people decide what to do based on their own needs.
Although Terry was committed to managing his Brazilian employees in a culturally sensitive way, when it came to ethical conduct, his goal of alignment with Dell’s corporate policy would require a cultural shift at the Brazilian operation.
To create a goal-based culture, it is vital to:
At Dell Brazil, Terry Kahler established clear policies for ethical conduct, offered training in appropriate practices, and followed through with clear and public action when policies were violated. Employees had a road map for success and saw the consequences of not following it. Focusing on outcomes helped Terry justify asking employees to change their behavior and helped him avoid a cultural power struggle. Terry’s use of goal-based management principles made Dell Brazil a global success story.