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How to create a homogeneous culture across boundaries?

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  1. Introduction
    1. The history of Unilever
    2. Corporate culture theory
  2. Hofstede's cultural dimension
    1. Power distance
    2. Uncertainty avoidance
    3. Individualism-collectivism
    4. Masculinity-femininity
  3. Description of the management style
    1. The Netherlands
    2. Great Britain
    3. Comparison between the two countries
  4. Sociability and solidarity
    1. Two dimensions and four cultures
    2. Networked organization
    3. Mercenary organization
    4. Fragmented organization
    5. Communal organization
  5. Practical case: Unilever
    1. Description of Unilever's culture
    2. Similar cultural aspects
    3. Adaptation of Unilever's management to local cultures
    4. Harmonization of corporate culture in Unilever
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography
  8. Index
  9. Appendix

We have decided to study the company Unilever for several reasons. Firstly, Unilever is a European company that is one of the biggest multinational in the world. Secondly, as we have chosen to study the corporate culture of multinationals, Unilever presents a quite particular corporate culture. Indeed, as opposed to most of other multinationals, Unilever presents values based on human relationships and local autonomy. Finally, we had the opportunity to get an interview with a Unilever's executive called Stéphane Verhaeren. He is Brand Manager for Knorr Culinary Aids.

Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch company which owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. Unilever employs more than 247,000 people and had a worldwide revenue of 48 760 million euro in 2004. Unilever has two parent companies: Unilever NV in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Unilever PLC in London, United Kingdom. The current non-executive Chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC is Antony Burgmans while Patrick Cescau is Group Chief Executive. Unilever's major competitors include Nestle and Procter & Gamble.

Tags: Homogeneous culture, Creating homogeneous culture across boundaries, Cultural Homogeneous

[...] This type of culture is more aware of external threats than previously and has a new recognition that achievement involves an increased willingness for individual managers to take risks. According to Stéphane Verhaeren, our contact in the company, poor performance is not tolerated anymore. Although communication is very informal and the environment is friendly in his department, employees have to be effective in order to reach their goals. During our interview with Stéphane Verhaeren, he told us that there was a new concept, which had been implemented recently in every country in which Unilever was present. [...]

[...] As a consequence, everybody is implicated in the process of decision-making where Dutch managers expect to be challenged. Dutch people do not like when their managers just give them orders without explanations and consultations. That is why conflicts sometimes occur. Individualism: Individualism is very high in the Netherlands (80). Consequently, people are very independent towards each other and do not hesitate to protect their own interests. Managers know that people prefer to work alone than in team and that they will give better results if this characteristic is respected. [...]

[...] The history of Unilever It's hard to imagine a world without Axe deodorants, Cif cleaners, Iglo frozen foods or again Lipton tea. These brands among others are familiar parts of the daily lives of tens of millions of people worldwide and are made and sold by Unilever. The origin of this global company lays in Britain and the Netherlands. This dual nationality emphasises the ?international' flavour of Unilever. Unilever was created in 1929 by a merger between the British firm of ?Lever Brothers?, a pioneer of branded soap manufacture founded by William H. [...]

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