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Applying western organization development in China: lessons from a case of success

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore a successful case of a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE) as it applied western organization development (OD) approaches. Specifically, this study seeks to answer two questions: How has western organization development and change (OD/C) been applied in one Chinese SOE? and What lessons can be learned from this successful case? Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper employs a single case design to gain an in-depth understanding. The case study is the methodology when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon within a real-life context. Findings ‐ The findings reveal that the organization successfully uses a number of western OD techniques in creating a shared vision, establishing a performance-based human resource management system, and standardizing budgetary and cost control procedures. The success of the company's change effort is largely attributed to leadership, standardization of management systems, commitment to learning and training, and partnership with an OD expert. Research limitations/implications ‐ Findings of this paper are limited by the single case study design. Future research is needed to study more cases of success where western OD techniques have been applied. Further research is also warranted to identify indigenous OD approaches used by Chinese organizations. Current research also needs to be expanded to study regions or countries that are undergoing similar economic transitions and have adopted western-based OD techniques. Originality/value ‐ By focusing on an under-explored research territory ‐ China ‐ the paper expands the current knowledge of OD into the international domain and fills in the gap of OD/C research which is lacking in China.
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Keywords: China; Cross-cultural management; Organizational change; Organizational development

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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