You are here

James Harris

DBA Graduate - 2016

Thesis title

Navigating Cross-Cultural Minefields in Arabia


Patrick O Sullivan

James has 25 years of executive experience. He is a professor of supply chain management at Higher Colleges of Technology in the UAE. In the Middle East, he was operations director of MSM Kuwait’s doctoral and MBA programs and for the Sultan Center military division. In the United States, James was founder of Heritage Lemonades, and he held a range of positions with both Cola-Coca and Kraft Foods. He holds a DBA from GEM, an MBA from Auburn University, and a bachelor of finance from Clark Atlanta University in the United States.

Business ethics practiced in the United States are straightforward to comprehend and execute. American ethical philosophy and ethical behavior is strongly correlated to law (e.g. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Corporate Codes of Ethics). Over time, Americans have developed a systematic and Pavlovian conditioning to embrace law as ethics. In this national culture, legislative system and judicial guidelines are created to clearly define what is right or wrong in business. While American managers have moved abroad with multinational corporations (MNC) in order to globalize and expand shareholder profit, they find themselves in a struggle to fully comprehend complex nuances of business foreign culture in many emerging countries. Following Friedman‘s philosophy, the purpose of globalization is to increase profit, yet market trust, protection of the community and long-term profit cannot be achieved without moral responsibility (Drucker, 1984). This study on cross-cultural management addresses these dilemmas. Critical to international business strategy, MNCs and modern business leaders seek to understand various business ethics and workplace culture for financial success in foreign markets. In managing cross-culture of a country like Kuwait, both American leadership and foreign host have been the victims of ethical misinterpretations because they neither grasp the unique context in which ethical decisions are made nor embrace the rationale of the other‘s cultural motivations. The two countries compared were the United States versus Kuwait. This study examined Kuwait‘s national cultures and its specific moral philosophies compared to US workplace philosophies and behaviors. There are two major purposes for the project. First, the findings will help American managers to understand their own ethical decision making philosophy compared to the host country in order to successfully benefit in the workplace. Second, the findings provide cultural and ethical differences that may serve as barriers to workplace and obstacles to strategic success. After defining several trains of thought on moral philosophies and workplace ethics, a literature review uncovered two interesting and unexpected outcomes. Prior researchers and philosophies view ethics as either philosophical or behavioral or action oriented. There was a correlation between ethics and specific four factors. Those dynamics were religion, law, culture and needs and they were further examined in the next sections. From a qualitative approach, a series of three focus groups were executed in order to study the research question from various nationalistic viewpoints. As a result of the literature review findings, two expert interviews (i.e. religion and organizational culture) and a content analysis were added to the project. A pilot was implemented in order to test reliability of the questionnaire, and increase validity of the interview and the group discussion process. To further study the law aspect of w