Augmentation of Chinese community relationships (Guanxi) in learning organisations - case study of a private Kunshan (Shanghai) company

Ng, Daniel Ching Wa (2015) Augmentation of Chinese community relationships (Guanxi) in learning organisations - case study of a private Kunshan (Shanghai) company. DProf thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

The Kunshan factory enjoyed remarkable success over the past 24 months. The quick response, superior teamwork and scouting capability for opportunity and risk on the part of all staff outperformed that of their counterparts in multinational companies. Family ties, community affection, social ‘face’ and personal recommendations co-ordinated company members well. Chinese community relationships had a consolidating and stabilising function in the factory, enabling a convergent corporate movement. This phenomenal practice is explored here to understand quantitatively the roles of Chinese community relationships (guanxi) and learning organisation practice towards corporate performance.
In this research, the bricolage method was adopted to cater for the diverse and vibrant nature in the research context. Ethically, this insider research had to ensure that all factory members received fair treatment in the course of the research. Their comments and reflections on learning organisations and Chinese community relationships had to be objectively recorded for examination. An assurance was made that there would be no impact on their job security and access to company caution money remained unchanged during the research, so that they remained in control.
Guanxi encourages participation in community activity, at the same time advocating action learning. In research methods, repeated actions, a form of action research, are performed in cycles with input from stakeholders to develop a directed course of further actions. Soft Systems Method, and associated structural tools such as rich pictures and CATWOE, help factory members to dissect the business challenge. Qualitative interviewing was carried out among key managers to devise a master plan for divestment. All employees were recompensed for the disruption caused. New corporate spin-offs were established through the exchange of favours and scouting for opportunities. Later, a focus group was undertaken to evaluate progress in the business units and to examine the contribution of learning organisations and Chinese community relationships.
Seven relational outcomes are identified in this research in this Kunshan factory. They are: 1) 360-degree dialogue; 2) group-level exchange of favours; 3) action learning; 4) acculturation; 5) community-prompted foresight capability; 6) personal recommendation; and 7) outside-in mentality. Collectivism on the part of the Chinese community’s participants equalises individual interests through acculturation to establish a common societal and business goal. Sharing a vision and a goal is a pragmatic means of attaining organisational integration and operational excellence. Self-organised vision and mission are attained swiftly through these seven factors to save the effort of initial ice-breaking and team-building activity.
A Chinese social system is regarded as a high-context social system – it depends less on precise wording than collective understanding. The Chinese term ‘guanxi’ is used interchangeably in this thesis with ‘Chinese community relationships’ to describe the subtle and delicate interpersonal social interactions perpetuated among ethnic Chinese people in mainland China and overseas in settlements such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and elsewhere. Guanxi comprises two aspects. One is a social construct of Chinese society and the other is the value generated by guanxi in action. In combination these position Chinese community relationships as a mediator of organisational transformation such as the implementation of a learning organisation and improved business performance. Historically, guanxi is perceived as having three characteristics: affection (ganqing, in Chinese), reciprocity (renqing) and credit (xinyong).
The learning organisation paradigm describes a continuous process of corporate transformation through collective staff learning, aiming to anticipate and cope with the disruptive commercial challenges of today’s business world. When employees are committed to their organisation, it favours business sustainability. Operational and business risks are mitigated through shared vision and mentality. The attributes of individualism and collectivism substantially influence the implementation of a learning organisation.
This research uncovers the mediating effect of Chinese community relationships on learning organisation effectiveness for fast business performance through acculturation and personal recommendation. It reveals the social systems in a Chinese community to empower learning organisation practice. The integrational capability of the seven relational outcomes augments guanxi’s mediating effect in empowering learning organisation practice so as to raise corporate performance substantially.

Item Type: Thesis (DProf)
Keywords (uncontrolled): Guanxi, Chinese community relationships, learning organisation, Shanghai
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 17415
Depositing User: Users 3197 not found.
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2015 17:54
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:36
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/17415

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