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The role of communication competencies in international business relationship development
David A. Grif®th*
Department of Marketing, College of Business BUSAD C402g, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
Abstract Effective communication between international business partners is critical for global success. Underlying national and organizational cultural differences in international business relationships creates hurdles to effective communication, hindering performance. To assist managers in understanding this issue, a model of communication effectiveness for international relationship development, derived from industry examples, theory, and a dataset consisting of 123 qualitative interviews conducted with American, Canadian, Chinese, and Japanese managers is presented. Further, in order to assist managers in the task of developing more effective communications, a six-step process aimed in directing managerial action is presented. By proactively managing its communications, a ®rm can develop stronger international business relationships facilitating the rapid response to market opportunities and challenges. # 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
Communication underlies the effectiveness of coordinating exchange activities, developing strong relationships, which results in improved performance (Dwyer, Schurr, & Oh, 1987; Nevin, 1995). Without effective inter-organizational communications, learning among partners is diminished and the long-run effectiveness of the relationship may be damaged. Communication presupposes that there is a particular cultural framework that allows ``translation'' of the meaning embedded within communication by the recipient to maintain the true intent of the communication (Kim, 1991). When business partners emanate from different cultures (national and organizational), the underlying cultural inconsistencies in communication patterns create hurdles to the development of effective global business relationships (Kim, 1991; Mohr & Nevin, 1990). Today, managers continue to struggle with communication barriers in their international relationships. The lack of a process to address communication issues presents a gap in the literature. The purpose of this study is to develop a model for understanding key factors leading to effective communication in international business relationship development. First, an examination of the role of culture in international business communications is addressed. Next, a model of
* Tel: 1-808-956-8167; Fax: 1-808-956-9886. E-mail address: email@example.com (D.A. Griffith).
communication effectiveness in international relationships, developed from industry examples, theory, and a dataset consisting of 123 qualitative interviews conducted with American, Canadian, Chinese, and Japanese managers is presented. Finally, a six-step process aiding in directing managerial action to overcome cultural communication inconsistencies is presented. 1. The construction of international relationships Instrumental in producing successful international performance is the interaction and coordination of organizational elements. The basis of this idea can be explained by using a congruence approach that theorizes that similarity (i.e., ®t) of relevant contextual, structural, and/or strategic factors maximizes ef®cient operations (Doty, Glick, & Huber, 1993; Newman & Nollen, 1996; Tosi & Slocum, 1984). Alternatively, when inconsistencies exist, underlying differences in operating components create barriers to operations, hindering effectiveness (Doty et al., 1993; Fey & Beamish, 2000). Communication effectiveness in an international relationship can be in¯uenced by the ®t between national and organizational cultures (Fox, 1997; Gudykunst & Kim, 1984; Kim, 1991; Li, 1999), as well as by the breadth (i.e., the cultural diversity of members) and ownership structure of the relationship (see Fig. 1).
1090-9516/02/$ ± see front matter # 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. PII: S 1 0 9 0 - 9 5 1 6 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 9 2 - 5
of organizational culture also has a direct effect on international business communication effectiveness. including communication (Hofstede & Bond. when ®rms from relatively similar national cultural orientations interact.S. Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 257 Fig. CEO of InFocus. 2001). Further. leading to misunderstandings hampering performance (Farhi. points to the fact that Proxima ASK didn't tend to over-communicate to with their employees. while InFocus did.. 1985). Japanese employ indirect communication whereas Americans use direct communication) may result in communication obstacles. The ®t. Time Warner is more of an ®rm composed of individual units than a uni®ed whole. such as Japan and the U. John Harker. Differences in organizational cultures can lead to miscommunications and the deterioration of joint efforts (Veiga.) minimizes cultural communication hurdles.A. and is slow in making decisions or reacting to environmental changes (Houston.S.. general similarity in culturally founded communication patterns (e. Differences in national and organizational cultures creates substantial obstacles to performance effectiveness. Further. Time Warner is composed of individual ®efdoms. For example. Howe (2000) notes that even after a decade after Time. quickly making and implementing decisions. For example. the recent merger of U. and beliefs that provide a foundation of understanding of the organizational functioning processes and norms directing employee behavior (Schein. as is the case with Canadian±U. Calori. It is believed that the Japanese national culture communication strategies of Matsushita's and Sony's managers were in contrast to American managers at MCA and Columbia Pictures. the interaction of national and organizational cultures can either facilitate or hinder communication effectiveness making these elements critical to consider when assessing communication in international business relationships. some claim that the coordination problems experienced by Matsushita in its acquisition of MCA and Sony in their acquisition of Columbia Pictures were caused by miscommunications between Japanese and American managers (Farhi. suggestive of differences in approaches to communication embedded within each ®rm's organizational culture (Woods. and Warner Communications merged. Nakamoto. Inc. 1996). & Very. etc. When business partners emanate from very different national cultural orientations interact. Organizational culture is an amalgamation of the national culture and the backgrounds of individuals assembled in the organizational setting (Schein.D. Whereas AOL's culture is characterized as streamlined and ¯uid. enhancing overall relationship ef®ciencies. National culture provides an implicit theory relating to behavioral expectations in a variety of situations. 1. or lack thereof. 2000). 2000). thus highlighting the communication dif®culties embedded in organizational culture.S. Further. united by their traditions. Lowry. 2000). Harker noted that although InFocus was delicate in its attempts to impose its ways its efforts were often met with national culture resentment (Woods. organizational culture clashes may be the sticking point in the recent merger of America Online and Timer Warner. 2001). 2001. Organizational culture is the pattern of shared behaviors. 1988. each with their own subculture. Lubatkin. Nakamoto.-based InFocus and Norwegian Proxima ASK highlights communication differences between the two organizations that can be attributable to both national and organizational cultures. 1995. Moon. 1995. values. cultural inconsistencies in communication strategies (e. . 1996). hampering performance.. For example. relationships. Construction of international business relationships.g. direct communication. 2000). Alternatively. respectively.g.
1991). 2. To effectively operate. One looks to a manager's competencies to assess his/her ¯exibility and adaptation in communication encounters. 1991).$ 1 billion. from Canada (n 28). 1988. 1991. .). import and export managers. The lack of cognitive competence in this case.000.g. inter-related dimensions: cognitive.) plays an important role in communication effectiveness. global marketing managers. adapting to those differences when necessary. international sales managers. regional sales managers. a proactive model of communication effectiveness was developed (see Fig.1. joint partnerships. and 123 qualitative interviews with managers (e. automotive. Triandis. 1973). global business directors. electronics. ®rms establish multiple international relationships with partners spanning a diverse set of cultures and consisting of different ownership structures. frequency. 2). As the breadth of a ®rm's relationships increases. China (n 31).258 D.$ 5 million to over U. who actively engage in international communication with international partners. 2001). many of Ericsson's partners.. Kim.e. & Jiang. the cultural diversity of its partners can also increase. Similarly. 1988. 1998. etc. Communication competencies encompass three broad. Kim. marketing managers. Cognitive competence When LM Ericsson Telephone Co.A.'' created a miscommunication threatening the underlying joint venture partnership.S. thus increasing the cultural inconsistencies the ®rm must overcome. representing a wide range of industries including. and effectiveness of past interactions. and the United States (n 31). 1991. Japan (n 33). thought that the company was withdrawing from its joint venture factory in China (Financial Times. etc. 1973). including its Chinese joint venture partner..1. etc. global marketing vice presidents.S. Cognitive competence refers to an individual's ability to ascertain meaning from verbal and nonverbal language (Applegate & Sypher. indicated by rigidity of interpretation of the term ``external contracting. 2. Triandis. with annual sales revenue ranging from just over U. strategic alliances. The dif®culty in communicating in jointly owned operations (as opposed to wholly owned) is that the organizational culture becomes a hybrid of those of the partner organizations. and operational (Kim. ownership structure (i. theory. Communication competencies Communication competence is a set of abilities and knowledge related to communication that enables an individual to engage in appropriate/meaningful communications with international partners (Cui. The model is derived from industry examples. Cognitive Fig. consumer packaged goods. A model of communication effectiveness. Van den Berg. the level of global experience of a manager. and establish new manners of communicating with culturally diverse partners. A model for international communication effectiveness To assist managers in developing effective strategies to overcome international communication challenges. dental equipment. announced that it would be using ``external contracting'' for its headset business. such as his/her ability to adjust.1. pharmaceuticals. integrate. 2. The managers were employed in ®rms ranging in size from under 5 employees to over 1. ®rms must understand the elements in¯uencing the communication patterns between partners. Communication competence may vary by cultural distance. Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 Further. Nothing could have been further from the truth. affective. as well as the learning environment of the organization (Kim. 2.
The importance of cognitive competency for successful global network communication was widely noted by American. indicated that he does not like dealing with Chinese distributors. In reference to his relationship with a Chinese distributor he indicated.D. One in Shanghai and I really got along. An individual's adherence to embedded meanings in¯uence his/her attitudinal response to culturally diverse communications. empathic motivation. I tell you. his communication behavior frustrated many of Bridgestone/ Firestone's global partners. on the affective competence of the managers. etc. DiamlerChrysler did not (Benoit & Burton. 2.. ``I went to China on a Canadian Trade Promotion run. Over a 3year period. (Kim. none of the contacts I made have panned out. such as Ford Motor Company. He thought only Japanese should speak Japanese. they do stuff differently over there. whereas those managers not possessing cognitive competencies tended to experience more dif®culty in developing international relationships. DaimlerChrysler denied it. I have become more aware of the subtleties of the language. .2. or lack thereof. Behavioral competence When Yoichiro Kaizaki of Bridgestone remained silent for more than a month after claims that Firestone tires may have been linked to a signi®cant number of deaths in the U. 2000). 1988. since DaimlerChrysler was part owner of Mitsubishi. Japan has developed cognitive competence resulting in a successful international business relationship. He indicated that while he desperately wished to enter the market..'' Throughout the interviews. 1988. You have to listen. This entails an individual's adaptability in his/her meaning construction.'' His low tolerance for ambiguity is indicative of his low affective competency. The only way to be successful in China is to get someone else to do it for you. successful relationships with Japanese ®rms elude him. I met a couple of distributors. success or failure of the relationship was determined. cognitive rigidity/¯exibility. etc. but what is not said. Cognitive competency's importance can be observed in the following successful and unsuccessful communication episodes. successful partnerships. No gaijan allowed. He noted. Canadian. categorization schema.3. who lacks cognitive competence. speech rate. when conversing with culturally inconsistent business partners. Managers indicated that cognitive competence moves beyond implicit technical language competency.S. Like he could do it too. 1991). ``.1. 1991). I try to give him whatever he needs. such as tolerance and managing ambiguity. 1988. I hired an export management company that had business in China to represent me. I called him up about a week after I got back. For example. As such. employed by a large manufacturing ®rm. Chinese. 2.A. (Kim. An individual's affective competencies are derived from his/her motivational and attitudinal predisposition to experiences. Those interviewed noted the importance of affective competencies. in their communications with their international partners. adaptive motivation. Managers who were able to adapt to the communication patterns of their partners fostered the development of a more effective communication environment. he did not think that he could continue to try to do business with the Chinese because he believed that he could never get a straight answer. he tried to initiate relationships with seven different distributors. and Japanese managers. he would start speaking English. affectively reacting to the use of the term `alliance.1. Affective competence Immediately after Hyundai Motors announced a threeway alliance with Mitsubishi Motors of Japan and DaimlerChrysler. He indicated that although he speaks Japanese ¯uently. Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 259 competencies relate the psychological concepts embedded in an individual's values that in¯uence their ability to accurately decode a partner's message (Kim. directly in¯uenced their ability to develop effective relationships. Our business has been good..' in this case resulted in the loss of face for Hyundai Motors and deterioration of DaimlerChrysler's relationship with Mitsubishi Motors. . Affective competence relates to an individual's emotional tendencies in relation to communications (Applegate & Sypher. While Hyundai viewed the relationship as an alliance. A mid-sized American distributor who purchases equipment from a supplier in Osaka. an individual's affective competence determines his/her willingness to accept and respond to unique and divergent communications. . An individual's cognitive competencies allow him/her to adjust effectively to communication differences in highly diverse environments. etc. Lack of affective communication competency on the part of DaimerlerChrysler.'' Not understanding that the Japanese partners' efforts to speak English was a sign of respect. I mean really listen. . Contrast his failed communication experience with the successful communication experience of a large Canadian distributor who possessed affective competence. but encompasses ¯exibility and adaptation to one's linguistic patterns.'' This distributor's success can be contrasted with the failure of an American manager. . I think that I have a better understanding of my partner and what they mean. Managers conveying instances of affective competence tended to be engaged in more longterm. When I would speak in Japanese . At least that headache is gone. In discussing a former Japanese supplier he indicated that ``the guy resented me . to a degree. Common to the interviews was that each manager's cognitive competency. He indicated ``as I have become more ¯uent in Japanese. a manager for a small American dental equipment manufacturer. I've had similar trouble with other Japanese (partners). the American manager's inaccurate decoding of the communication effort damaged the relationship. Not only to what is said. in¯uencing his/her ability to facilitate the development of communication contexts distinct to each international partner. I gave up last year. who had numerous failed global relationships. Kim. such as ambiguity tolerance. tone of voice. thus enabling him to establish successful global relationships. . 1991). 1991). .
. information exchange.g. management styles. 1999). The importance of communication interaction was evident in a relationship between a small Canadian consumer package goods company and its Chinese partner. 1988.S.'' In this case. Cultural interaction. A manager's behavioral competencies enable him/her to engage in meaningful interactions with those of many cultures. and communication feedback mechanisms are all dynamically adjusted for successful communication to occur. 2000). The Canadian distributor indicated that he felt like a dumping ground for surplus parts. ``When we began to do business I was afraid of making mistake. The domain of behavioral competencies encompasses behavioral ¯exibility.e. Communication interaction When OSRAM. possessing behavioral competencies. 1991).. such as orientation toward time. Communication interaction refers to the hybridization of communication protocols within a relationship and thus.2.2. Lack of behavioral competencies restricts a manager's ¯exibility and adaptability to communication encounters that result in hindering effective relationship development and management. I guess he thinks we only need one shipment a year. To solve the problem. Behavioral competence refers to an individual's ¯exibility and resourcefulness in reacting to communication encounters (Kim. Communication environment As no two national or organizational cultures are identical. 1999). Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 While Kaizaki viewed the issue as a U. Firestone). adjustments over time to a ®rm's cultural protocols. believed it appropriate not to get involved. appropriateness of strategies. a ®rm must change and adopt its behavior to be in line with a global standard. the German and U. but he never returns my call. therefore. 2000).. 2. . Cultural interaction NTT Communications president Masanobu Suzuki notes that one of NTT's biggest challenges is how to close the gap between Japanese and U. a large Japanese equipment manufacturer indicated ``we had to ®nd new ways .'' Alternatively. engineers had trouble communicating. Take for example a small Chinese distributor.. The in¯uence of communication interaction on relationship development was a common theme in the interviews. I've tried calling him when we could use product. the German lighting giant.g. the behavior of the American supplier communicated a lack of understanding of the Canadian distributor. increasing the amount of communication as well as minimizing the use of technical jargon) with their Chinese partner to ensure clear communication. to be globally successful all partners must demonstrate ¯exibility and change in cultural strategies to facilitate a communication environment that aids in strengthening its international relationships. 1999).2. thus suggesting not only communication interaction. Through implicit adaptations a new communication environment that is unique to the ®rms in the relationship is established. I asked my friend for his understanding. bought the U. I think we both have learned much. 2. 2. He notes that to be globally successful. Common to the interviews was that behavioral competencies either facilitated or hindered the development of an effective communication environment. but also cultural interaction. a new communication protocol. communication authenticity. i. Managers interviewed consistently indicated that those managers possessing higher levels of behavioral competency were able to generate new communication and cultural contexts that facilitated effective communication. etc. monitoring. 1998). Through communication interaction. unique to the relationship was developed. solidarity.260 D. Casmir (1999) indicates that communication protocols. He suggested that when both partners were willing to slightly change how they communicated with each other the relationship become much better. The interaction of each ®rm's unique communication protocol is integrated to establish a set of hybrid norms for communication within the relationship (Casmir. Thus. ¯exibility) (Casmir.A. enhancing communication effectiveness. 1991). Fox.S. message. and. and behavioral complexity. inclusive of characteristics of many cultures (Nakamoto. who found success working with an American supplier of of®ce equipment. (Applegate & Sypher. ®rm Sylvania.. situation (i.2.1. Over years we shared with each other how business was done in each country. interaction management. Through ¯exibility and adaptability in a manager's communication behavior the communication environment evolved to support effective communication resulting in the development of a stronger relationship. the development of a new set of communication patterns for transacting (Casmir. a midsized Canadian distributor in Nova Scotia indicated that although sharing a common language with his American supplier communication problems pervaded the relationship because of the communication behavior of the supplier. He noted that the supplier rarely contacted him unless he needed to reduce his end of year inventory. inherent differences necessitates a negotiation of communication and cultural protocols for the development of a common communication environment (Kim. 1997. I very much wanted to learn how to do business like Americans. ``Every year we get the same call asking us if we could use this or that. . an e-mail language translation system was developed and implemented (Freivalds. uncertainty and relational norms (e. Lack of behavioral competency in this case contributed in part to the demise of a century old relationship. Kim. 1991). results from the communication encounter that sets forth new cultural norms that can be signi®cantly differentiated from each ®rm's original organizational and national culture. For example. his global partners viewed his communication behavior differently (Terazono.S. A manager for the Canadian ®rm indicated that they had to develop new means of communicating (e.S.e.
e. For example.1. therefore. 2.e. The importance of matched..'' This new. When we work together as a team. thereby differentiating it from less well coordinated competitors (Barney. relational partners increase their trust in one another and. Trust and commitment Motorola Vice president Ruey Bin Kao. he and his supplier have used a variety of communication vehicles to keep in contact.. Our ways of building relationships are done differently. and commitment i. but rather the matching of managers in the relationship who possess communication competencies. The creation of a unique communication environment to the relationship minimizes inconsistencies between partners in their communications reducing hurdles to bonding.A. an American equipment manufacturer indicated ``when you trust your partner to make decisions in their market.. 1994). Through communication and cultural interaction over time. The development of strong inter-organizational relationships allows ®rms to capitalize on reductions in direct transaction costs associated with the exchange process while at the same time increasing the volume of exchange (Gundlach.D. For example. forming from an underlying ``bonding'' of relationship partners. speaking on the recent U.S. a large American consumer products manager indicated that his ®rm's relationship with its largest Japanese partner was only successful because they trusted their partner to make local product selection decisions and were committed to the long-term success of the relationship. rather than demanding that they pass every decision by you. the largest telecommunication monetary contract at the time. the joint venture lasted less than 1 year. commitment. Gundlach et al.3. Motorola has developed strong relationships in China. 1998). Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 261 to operate with our American distributor. Henderson & Cockburn. Prosperity Ltd. I go there to meet with them and our suppliers. relational quality stimulates stronger. Respondents indicated that through the development of strong international relationships. Satisfaction The dissolution of Faith Oriental. commitment. 1991. thus providing for a more coordinated and effective relationship. Lack of communication of partner strategies hampered efforts to more fully develop the partnership. 2.. they were able to develop and implement strategy decisions more proactively to outperform their competitors. By combining their way and our way we found the `best' way to operate.$ 10 million international joint venture to develop a quarry in China over a 20-year period. he decided that it was best to go to the United States so that he could meet with his supplier and see the factory. Further. Trust. Trust and commitment are highly interrelated. Those interviewed indicated that the development of trust and commitment is important because it can increase coordination. building trust.'' In this case. increase their commitment to the relationship. and Tien Shan Ltd. mutually agreed upon organizational culture facilitates the ¯ow of communication between ®rms signaling a desire to work toward mutual bene®t. Given that he realized that his business was a relatively small percentage of the manufacturer's. This manufacturing equipment distributor has been working for years with the same American manufacturer. He indicated ``I realize that American's do not always see the necessity in meeting face-to-face. Firm's developing managers who possess the necessary communication competencies to develop new communication and cultural environments within their relationships are able to establish effective and ef®cient communication exchange conditions.3. we win. both communication and cultural interactions facilitated the development relational quality. As bonding occurs. 1991).. 1995. 2001). a Hong Kong±Sino± Japanese joint venture was a result of dissatisfaction in the relationship by its investors. positioning itself for success in the Chinese marketplace.$ 407 million contract with China United Telecommunications. Since that time.'' 2. when one has con®dence in its partner's reliability and integrity. Achrol. Parkhe. Managers interviewed consistently indicated that trust and commitment were necessary prerequisites for the development of a strong. Diminished trust and commitment in the relationship resulting from uneven . building trust.3. We have established a win±win partnership based on trust and mutual bene®t'' (Motorola. and as such become more competitive. & Mentzer. Relational quality Relational quality refers to the strength of the relationship and the potential for the relationship to continue the process of relationship development. Relational quality is a critical goal for ®rms as it facilitates performance effectiveness. and satisfaction within the relationship. While investors. When the relationship was initiated.2. he felt it was important to meet face-to-face with the supplier. 1994. pro®table relationships. each year one of us travels. noted ``our cooperation with China Unicom has been very successful over the past 7 years. and increase ¯exibility. We have agreed. form the foundation of long-term business relationships (Morgan & Hunt. 1995. more intimate partnerships.S. i. long-term partnership. It is important to note that the managers interviewed overwhelming indicated that effective global communications were not solely based on the competencies of a single manager.. the long-term orientation taken toward the exchange relationship by a channel member. He indicated that the long-term nature of the relationship was built as much on pro®tability as it was on the trust that had developed between the companies. reduce costs. competent managers is clearly demonstrated by a mid-sized Japanese distributor who has been successful in establishing long-term. you are able to be more responsive to the local market conditions. They come here to meet with me and our customers. Williamson. Tagawa Crush Stone Ltd. Tomiyama Construction Machinery Ltd.. expected the U. and satisfaction that increases the effectiveness of the relationship.
it is critical that ®rms assess each manager's competencies in the context of his/her current and future communication roles. and post hoc review of the manager's past communication exchanges.1. and behavioral competencies. ``by both of us making adjustments in how we operate. such as Motorola whose history in China sates back to 1967. Step one: assess communication competence of internal managers A ®rm's managers vary in their level of cognitive. In the case of Faith Oriental. Although extremely important to a ®rm's future success.'' Further. Those relationships that have developed the necessary communication environment. The importance of the development of an effective communication environment was strongly evident in the interviews. those ®rms in trusting. The relationship is much stronger and much more pro®table.A. most organizations have not formalized its management of communications. Once a manager's communication competency levels are identi®ed. a ®rm must be proactive and develop speci®c strategies to enhance communication effectiveness. a small Japanese auto part supplier working with a U. can be used to assess competency levels. For example. auto manufacturer indicated that. Action plan for communication effectiveness. affective. via adaptations in communication and cultural environments. Once a technical level of cognitive competence is assessed a ®rm should employ experiential assessment to gauge affective and behavioral competencies. dialectic differences. 3. .262 D. we both have become happier and more productive. training and development programs can be used to enhance the manager's communication competencies. 1994). as each partner believes they are working together toward common goals. Given the importance of a manager's communication competencies for relationship success. lack of communication created an atmosphere of low trust and commitment making partners dissatis®ed with the ongoing operations of the venture. Action plan for communication effectiveness To address the issues involved with ®t of national and organizational cultures in a ®rm's international relationships. 3. While a manager may possess high degrees of cognitive and behavioral competence. indicated their satisfaction with the policies and actions of their partners as well as the belief that the strength of their relationship derived signi®cant performance outcomes. Satisfaction refers to an affective state resulting from the appraisal of a ®rm's exchange relationship (Morgan & Hunt. Fig. long-term relationships. Experiential assessment methods.S. ¯exibility in the use of words and grammatical structure. 3. 3). on-line intercultural communication simulations. such as scenario exposure. 1999). to foster trust and commitment are often the most satisfying for businesses. he/she may lack affective competence. The ®rst step in assessing communication competence is to determine technical language competency (regarding current and potential exposure languages). As such. Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 exposure among partners in the relationship created dissatisfaction among partners resulting in the ventures eventual dissolution (O'Connor & Halos. including standard language pro®ciencies. a series of assessment steps to impel managerial action is presented to assist managers (see Fig.
a ®rm may wish to establish a more enduring relationship. ®rms valuing communication competence. as such necessitating a different communication .3. the issue of communication competency should be given priority in discussions with partners. the difference between the relational quality the ®rm desires in the speci®c relationship and the relational quality that currently exist in the relationship). To assess relational quality in a ®rm's relationships. it is important to note that the creation of new communication environments for individual relationships is dif®cult for many ®rms to administer. As a ®rm begins to integrate the issue of communication competence into its partner selection and retention criteria it is important that it demonstrate communication competence in terms of ¯exibility in relation to its partners. As ®rms interact. Step three: assessing the effectiveness of the communication environment As the communication between competent managers increases.. but also the development of new communication environments and relational quality. To assess the communication environment.A. etc. and the performance effectiveness derived. Dif®culty arises not from the development of the communication environment between partners. and behavioral competencies a ®rm can demonstrate to its partners its commitment to the relationship as well as its desire for enhanced performance effectiveness.g.2.e. the ®rm's) and external managers (i. but rather that they should be given the latitude to generate effective communication protocols unique to each relationship. differences may be observed suggesting opportunities for communication environment adaptations. amount of information shared over time (e. objective criteria. relational quality can be assessed through measuring the intention of contract renewals. Effective communication in a ®rm's international relationships necessitates consideration of not only competencies. In some instances a ®rm may wish to develop a short-term relationship in which relational quality is not developed.4.e. increasing or decreasing). commitment.. Managerially. ®rms may wish to employ both objective and subjective assessment methods. This is not to suggest that managers should be given free reign to develop any communication protocol.e. In other relationships. 3. the ®rm's partner) are matched in competencies can a ®rm realistically expect success in its international relationships. a ®rm may wish to query each manager at periodic intervals regarding his/her perception of the communication environment's effectiveness and how he/she believes it could be improved. A ®rm can offer to assist its partners in the assessment of the communication competence of its managers by sharing its own protocols of communication competence assessment. thereby increasing both the ef®ciency and effectiveness of the communication exchanges. By independently assessing the perceived communication environment. as it is not necessary to achieve the ®rm's goals. it is important that a ®rm's organizational culture allow for the development of new communication contexts. Further. increasing or decreasing).. Step four: assessing relational quality The evolving communication environment resulting from the interaction between managers and the ®rms they represent in¯uence the development of relational quality between their respective ®rms. may wish to undertake a two-prong approach to enhancing the communication competencies of external managers. Objectively. As such. Employing both subjective and objectives measures can provide a ®rm with greater con®dence in their overall level of relational quality. the rate of adaptation of communication and cultural protocols increases. First. the communication of the protocol to each partner must demonstrate the communication competencies the ®rm wishes to develop within its relationships. subjective and objective approaches can be undertaken. Second. Step ®ve: developing appropriate communication strategy Communication strategies consist of both the speci®c messages (aimed at achieving a speci®c goal) and the method of delivery.. Subjectively. Each miscommunication could be given a priority rating suggestive of its impact on the relationship's performance. such as the number of miscommunications/misunderstandings could be compiled internally. 3. Step two: matching internal and external manager competencies In order for a ®rm's managers to be able to communicate effectively. 3. As such.g. In essence. communication environments and relational quality.5. the issue of communication competence can be integrated into the ®rm's partner selection and retention criteria. affective. a ®rm must partner with ®rms who employ culturally communication competent managers. but also the speci®c goals the ®rm wishes to achieve in the relationship and its present position. Only when the internal (i.D. Griffith / Journal of World Business 37 (2002) 256±265 263 3. and satisfaction can be assessed by inquiring into the beliefs of ®rm managers pertaining to a speci®c partner. trust. each with its unique communication protocols. Through open and frequent communication regarding the relational and performance outcomes of employing managers who posses cognitive. pattern of purchase orders (e. thus necessitating not only competencies. Matching internal and external managers who possess the requisite communication competencies posses an inherent challenge for a ®rm as they can only control internal managers.. but rather from organizational cultures that emphasize administrative controls. a new communication environment develops unique to the partnership. a ®rm must assess whether a ``communication gap'' (i. While a communication protocol may be desired. For example.
. J. 9: 139±162. Benoit. and a dataset consisting of 123 interviews conducted with American.. sti¯ing the development of a new communication environment with its speci®c cultural and communication protocols. 32: 1512±1514. S. J. Y. The Howard Journal of Communications. Y.. of performance effectiveness. Further. B. a six-step process aiding in directing managerial action was presented. the underlying cultural inconsistencies in communication strategies may pose hurdles to the development of effective global business relationships. the ®rm may wish to allow for greater ¯exibility in the ®rm's international communication policies for enhancing the development of a unique cultural and communication interactions to foster the development of trust. The model focuses on three key communication competencies (cognitive. April 8). if a ®rm believes that its relationship with its distributor in China is critical for its long-term success due to the Chinese market's high growth potential. a ®rm can develop strong partnerships in the face of incongruence of national and organizational cultures. Foundations for the study of intercultural communication based on a third-culture building model. Communicating with strangers: An approach to intercultural communication. The structural commitment in exchange. Developing buyer±seller relationships. International Journal of Intercultural Relations. C. Barney. theory. Gudykunst. 36(6): 1196±1251. Firms should consider the creation of multi-®rm committees for the monitoring of communication. H.. (2) the coordination of protocols for general consistency. and behavioral). Kim & W. Journal of Marketing. and (5) assessing the impact of the communication environment on performance effectiveness. 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