management style for an entire country simply because there are too many possible variables. The citizens of a nation as large as Australia vary greatly from one individual to another - and even a single manager varies in style from one day to the next or one project to the next. Moreover, the management style of one industry is not likely to be the same for another industry with very different needs and goals.
However, these caveats aside, it is possible if one concentrates on a single industry to make some generally true statements about the management style of that industry throughout Australia. The particular industry chosen for this project may actually show greater uniformity of style than other Australian industries do since the topic - organic farming - is in fact one that tends to attract people who are like minded to begin with.
We should perhaps begin with some basic definitions of organic farming. We find that the concept of organic farming in Australia is quite similar to the ideas about organic farming held by officials and farm managers (and farmers) in other nations. The number of organic farmers in Australia is relatively small (perhaps 2 to 3% of all farmers), but it is growing. Those farmers interested in organic farming abide by the following definition:
Organic farming is the production of agricultural plant and animal products without the addition of artificial chemicals. An artificial chemical is one that has been processed chemically or been manufactured. This includes most herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers and veterinary products. Rock Phosphate is allowed as a fertiliser on an organic farm, but superphosphate is not as it has had sulphuric acid added. Organic farming refers to whole farm management, and most organic farmers aim to be sustainable. Organic farms require a high level of management particularly of soils and pests.
Australians tend to pride themselves on their value of personal independence. Indeed, independence is often carried to something of an extreme so that idiosyncratic behavior becomes the norm. One may then question why it is that any Australian farmers should want to abide by such stringent rules. The following woman, who grew up on a cattle ranch and now runs a small organic farm - although she makes most of her money as a school teacher - talked about this issue in an interview conducted by email.
Personally I think that organic farming is very important to the future of the planet. Well, of course I do, that's why I do it. But I'm not so sure that I ever would have made a commitment to it if I hadn't lived in the United States - I went to university there - and known people who were becoming organic farmers before it was ever really heard of here in Australia.
A inherited some land from my aunt and uncle when they died about 12 years ago, and I was going to sell it. But it's been in the family for a long tie, so I also wanted to keep it. But it was too small for a ranch, and somehow planted a billion of the same thing in straight rows didn't seem like much fun. And then one day I was looking through the pile of mail that the government sends to farmers and people who own farm land and I saw this pamphlet about organic farming and I thought, why not? That's different. That's a challenge. I'm going to do it.
James believes that her own response to organic farming as a personal challenge is one that is felt by other farmers, although at first she was inclined just to go about farming however she felt like it and to call it "organic farming" if she wanted to.
Yes, there are a lot of rules. And I think that the first response of any good Australian to such rules is to kick. Not to try to find some sneaky way around them. I know that it's probably just prejudice, but I think that's what people have to do in poor countries. Try to sneak around the rules because they can't trust their own government. An Australia doesn't just sneak around the rules. You just ignore them - and you make a big show of ignoring them.
But after giving the matter some thought, she decided that in this case it would be more sporting - and so more Australian - to follow the rules, especially because she felt that there was a question of national pride involved.
But then I thought, why not see if I can follow all of these rules and still make a go. It would be harder and I like a challenge. I think that we all learn that as tots - to respect someone who takes on a challenge. And there was also the fact that as a country we're coming in late to the organic farming business. The Brits and the Canadians and the Americans and even - God help us - the people over in New Zealand are ahead of us. If all of them can make a go of it, then we can do it here.
The attitudes that prevail in organic farming in Australia are not surprising if we look to other work on broad dimensions of Australian culture, dimensions that we should certainly expect to see reflected in management style. One such index to cultural dimensions that is widely used is Hofstede's dimensions. Hofstede created a quantitative method for measuring aspects of culture that extend widely across different arenas such as a value for individualism as opposed to collectivism and "masculine" as opposed to "feminine" traits.
The concept of 'organisation culture' has become popular since the early 1980s. There is no consensus about its definition but most authors will agree that it is something holistic, historically determined, related to the things anthropologists study, socially constructed, soft and difficult to change. It is something an organisation has, but can also be seen as something an organisation is.
Organisation cultures should be distinguished from national cultures. Cultures manifest themselves, from superficial to deep, in symbols, heroes, rituals and values. National cultures differ mostly on the values level; organisation cultures at the levels of symbols, heroes and rituals, together labelled 'practices'. Differences in national cultures have been studied for over fifty countries. They show five independent dimensions of values: power distance; individualism vs. collectivism; masculinity vs. femininity; uncertainty avoidance; and long-term vs. short-term orientation.
National culture differences are reflected in solutions to organisation problems in different countries, but also in the validity of management theories in these countries. Different national cultures have different preferred ways of structuring organisations and different patterns of employee motivation. For example, they limit the options for performance appraisal, management by objectives, strategic management and humanization of work.
Australia, like other industrialized Western nations, shows high scores for individualism and low scores for uncertainty avoidance, leading one to expect a managerial style that encourages the trying out of new ideas with as little bureaucracy as possible. That indeed seems to be the case in this field.
Australian farmers are not alone in their liking of independence: This trait might well be said to mark farmers around the world. However, it is true that internationally farmers have decided to abide by strict, centralized organic standards. Australia, like other nations, has official policies that farmers must follow if they are to advertise their wares as organic:
The National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce was implemented in 1992 by OPAC and the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service. The National Standard has received strong support from industry, government, farming groups and the environment and consumer movements. It was the first nationally agreed standard outside of the European Union. Since that time, many more countries have developed requirements and the Codex Alimentaris Commission has completed substantial work towards establishing rules for the organic foods moving in international trade. The organic industry in Australia has developed considerably since the National Standard was first implemented and is now recognised worldwide as a trading competitor for food and fibre derived from organic systems.
The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) audits organic industry organisations against the requirements of the National Standard to ensure the integrity of the organic product is maintained.
This combination of independence, meeting a difficult challenge and of keeping up the national standards can be seen not only in the way that farmers have adopted and adapted to methods of organic farming but also trickles down into the style of management that they use on their farms, as this Quarantine inspector (who has been with the service for 22 years) describes:
It's been my experience - because we meet with a lot of foreign government officials coming in to see how we do things here and we also have bigwigs from American and European Community agri-business coming here - that people from other countries see Australian farm managers as being lazy. I don't think that…