Does One Size Fit All? A fundamental problem for desirable results.


Written by Angel Candelario

This topic applies to policies, process and procedures development related to business or corporate needs. I’ll be discussing this subject in two parts: the impact of a cultural environment and the adoption of solutions.

The impact of the cultural environment

There are very few companies that are not impacted by cultural differences due to globalization. Each day more and more companies expand their operations in different countries of the world and try to adapt their business operations in those countries.

Every country always has a particular point of view, and contexts differ in some cases fundamentally. A corporate policy, process, procedure or innovation developed should reflect the values, or ways of doing things of that context. In other words, you should not adopt corporate initiatives implemented in a different country without taking in consideration the value of an elaborated research.

For example, I had the opportunity to lead several projects related to research and implementation of OSH programs in various countries, for different corporate operations. I have found that the procedures of some countries are not related to the specifics characteristics in each country (tourism, etc.), but an “adoption” of the solutions of other countries, almost a “copy and paste” without taking more depth thoughts regarding the specific needs of each industry. The result has been the same, complaints from business leaders from different industries, delays in the implementation of laws and amendments after amendments.

There is nothing inherently wrong with adopting ideas (policies, process, etc.) from other countries operations, obviously. But we must accept one thing: that multicultural environment will have a direct impact in the operations results. Ideas should be generated in a multicultural environment, taking in consideration the characteristics of every country and the specific needs of the business operations.

Adopting Solutions – The Cut and Paste Syndrome

We need to be reflective in the adoption and the execution of solutions implemented in different departments.

Treating general corporate solutions as value-free has one very important implication: that they could be applied to any operation with a few changes i.e., they should work anywhere, anyhow.

Take for example a pair of “Garden Gloves”. The gloves were manufactured on the assumption of the average hand size. It follows therefore that unless there is a factory fault, it should fit any ‘normal’ or ‘standard’ hand size. Where the glove doesn’t fit the hand, it is not the glove that is too small or too big. Rather the size of the hand is to blame. So you’re made to blame your hands is the problem.

You feel bad about yourself, but you never question the assumption made by the manufacturing of the glove in the first place. This is exactly what happens with “cut and paste” ideas and innovations. Because they are treated as context unbound, their claim to universal applicability is never questioned. So when an imported solution fails to be implemented, the problem can’t be traced to the proposed solution itself; it has to be the implementers.

The point I am making here is that we need to be reflective in our borrowing of ideas from other departments/operations. The one-size-fits-all mentality in corporate policy and process has proved a disaster.

One thought on “Does One Size Fit All? A fundamental problem for desirable results.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s