Is there such a thing as an over-arching business culture that transcends national cultures? Yongmaan Park, chairman of Doosan Infracore, a South Korean conglomerate observes, in a McKinsey Quarterly article, that
Culture represents country, race, language, history, and such. But when you add "corporate" and make "corporate culture," that's almost identical in most of the successful conglomerates globally.
The key processes of those companies – evaluation and control, strategic planning, HR – are all based on a performance-driven culture, meritocracy, transparency. We come from a different national culture, but successful corporations share a very similar corporate culture.
This suggests that business organizations are more alike than not alike. At the process level this may be true. Many companies use the same technologies to run their business processes – supplied, for example, by Microsoft, SAP, IBM or Cisco. It makes sense that that using similar technology architectures will result in at least similar process operations which supports an argument that there is an over-arching business culture which potentially transcends national boundaries. But given the subtleties of culture it is doubtful that this could ever be proved.
What is observable however is that national cultures interact with corporate cultures in a way that can limit business success. WalMart, for example, pulled out of Germany – the reason cited: The company's culture does not travel, and Wal-Mart does not understand the German customer Similarly IKEA pulled out of Japan in 1986 because of poor sales. However, when it returned in 2006 sales went well. The reason given is that the Japanese are finally, after an economic crisis that follows almost two decades of growing hardship, turning thrifty. These are two, among many other, examples of a national culture 'expelling' a business culture that had found success in other geographies.
The question to answer is how far can an organization's design contribute to minimizing the risk of a difficult or failed entry into a new geography? And what adaptations have to be made to the 'home' organization to make the new one work?