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I found an article that is focused on the Thailand Ministry of Education leading change within their educational system. Working in higher education, articles that are of interest to me pertain to education (no surprise!). And, I have been to Thailand, so this country is of special interest to me.

Hallinger and Kantamara (2000) are Asian researchers seeking to find ways to contextualize leadership theories within the Asian culture. Specifically, they explain that embracing foreign educational policy reforms can cause tensions if not contextualized to the national culture.

First, a brief explanation of the Thai culture based on GLOBE research. The GLOBE research results revealed that Thailand values are moderately high to very high for performance orientation, future orientation, humane orientation, institutional collectivism, ingroup collectiveness and uncertainty avoidance. Furthermore, they are low on assertiveness and power distance. In contrast, the respondent’s practices showed more moderate results for all nine competencies. Each competency falls within the range of 3.3-5.7 (relatively low to relatively high.) Hallinger and Kantamara (2000) reference Hofstede’s cultural dimensions; however, GLOBE’s research methods were more thorough and provide a deeper and wider understanding of a culture (Javidan et al., 2006).

The Thai Ministry of Education is requiring school reform, based on foreign policies, but has experienced roadblocks when attempting to implement a change. Instead, the change agents need to lead initiatives based on their cultural norms (Hallinger & Kantamara, 2000). The Thai culture ranks high on Hofstede’s power distance spectrum, and within a school setting this means the principal has the most power and influence within a hierarchical structure (Hallinger & Kantamara, 2000). The benefit to this power structure is that the principal can use their power to implement change. However, the negative is that followers usually respond with politeness and agreement even if they disagree, resulting in built up resentment among the followers. To foster change, the principal needs to support their informal leaders as they usually have a powerful network of influence, common in a collectivist culture (Hallinger & Kantamara, 2000). In addition, to encourage true agreement and change, the principal should promote group rewards that foster group harmony—a value within the Thai culture (Muczyk & Holt, 2008). Practically, the involves sponsoring fun group activities that encourage camaraderie and trust (Hallinger & Kantamara, 2000).

Moreover, the leadership style the principal exudes helps or hinders the organizational change initiatives (Lipshitz et al., 2007). Hallinger & Kantamara (2000) found that the principals that used a participatory leadership style were more effective at leading change. Within the Thai culture, a participatory leadership style includes maintaining their traditional values of mutual respect and sincerity while also taking a very personal approach with their employees.

In conclusion, this very brief study of Thai educational reform leads me to question, how do we ensure global educational equity within the context of each culture?

References

GLOBE 2020. (2020). Thailand. https://globeproject.com/results/countries/THA?menu=list#list

Hallinger, P. & Kantamara, P. (2000). Educational change in Thailand: Opening a window onto leadership as a cultural process. School Leadership & Management, 20(2), p. 189-205.

Javidan, M., House, R.J., Dorfman, P.W., Hanges, P.J., & Sully de Luque, M.S. (2006). Conceptualizing and measuring cultures and their consequences: A comparative review of GLOBE’s and Hofstede’s approaches. Journal of International Business Studies, 37, p. 897-914. 

Lipshitz, R., Friedman, V.J., & Popper, M. (2007). Demystifying organizational learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Muczyk, J.P. & Holt, D.T. (2008). Toward a cultural contingency model of leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.1177/1548051808315551