ESRC research project

This research arose directly from the ALCS links established over the preceding six years by the Department of Management Learning and The Management School.

Decision Making in Chinese and UK Companies: A Collaborative Study

The project, based at Lancaster, commenced in November 1990 and was conducted in collaboration with the University of Science and Technology, Beijing and with the Universities of Manchester and Cambridge using funds provided by the ESRC, the British Council and the Chinese National Science Funding Council.

The focus for the research was a comparative study of decision making processes in the steel and chemical industries in the UK and China. It involved the study of specific decisions in the areas of human resource management and technological investments in strategic enterprises matched between the two countries.

The principal Lancaster researchers were Professors Mark Easterby-Smith and . A joint UK and Chinese research team was appointed to carry out the field work, initially in China and then in the UK. A total of six major steel and chemical companies, three from each country, collaborated in the research. Managers from the participating companies were also involved in reciprocal visits.

The main source of funding was the UK Economic and Social Science Research Council with additional support from the British Council and the British companies involved - a total of £100,000. In China the research was funded by the prestigious China National Science Funding Council, the universities and the participating Chinese corporations. The project was able to demonstrate a surprising number of similarities in the decision-making processes around strategic investments and human resources. In both countries a combination of formal and informal communication channels were used - the informal channels generally being used to speed up formal processes. The main differences were found in the detail of decision-making procedures and the 'soft' aspects of HRM (such as reward and promotion procedures). These differences were seen to result from a combination of cultural and institutional factors.

The outputs of the project were evaluated by the ESRC and the NSFC as 'outstanding', and results have led to publications in a number of prestigious journals, including Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Journal of Management Studies and International Journal of HRM.