The Evolution of the Cultural Orientations Approach


How has the Cultural Orientations Approach evolved with the shifts in the global business environment?

Back in 1987, when TMC originated, everyone cast cultural differences in national terms. Companies would base their understanding of their international associates on their nationalities, focusing on the country as the unit of analysis. The original Cultural Orientations Model was a synthesis of major research conducted on national-level cultural differences, albeit mostly from the Western context.

However, globalization and the evolving conversations around diversity and multiculturalism in organizations changed those applications, so we needed to adapt to them as well. Out of that came the Cultural Orientations Indicator, which was a significant development. With the COI we moved the discussion of culture from nationality toward individuals. We asked ourselves: How have our individual experiences and histories influenced our preferences and had an imprint on our personal culture? From there, our nationality was no longer seen as a predictor of our personal profiles; instead it became a factor in shaping who we are as individuals. We soon came to identify and address culture at six distinct levels (see graphic below), national/societal and individual, along with organizational, team, functional and identity group.

Meanwhile, leaders in many organizations realized they needed to understand how being global changes the way they collaborate and expand. To address this, TMC built a doing business globally learning suite to help people develop global mind- and skill-sets. We then put this online by creating the Cultural Navigator web platform. All this knowledge became part of an online tool that is accessible to people across organizations, allowing them to use a shared language and common methods. We tied it to a certification, which allows internal practitioners to help people across their entire organizations learn how to effectively operate, construct teams and collaborate globally. We also applied this to an evolving diversity and inclusion conversation.

From this emerged the Strategic Performance Framework (above), expounded upon in the newest edition of the Cultural Orientations Guide, “Maximizing Results with the Strategic Performance Framework,” which is out now.   

Practitioners now have all the tools they need, through the entire Cultural Orientations Approach as well as the Cultural Orientations Guide, to advance the strategic performance of their organizations.

Lynne Tarter