Everything Korea – Global Dynasties and Korean Business

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2 short mentions before we jump into today’s topic: Global Dynasties and Korean Business.

  1. The Korea Society NYC May 6. To be recorded and then available.
  2. Get your copy of “Korea Perspective”—Amazon Kindle, Nook, iBook, or Free PDF version ( see link below).

I’m often quizzed by the media on the subject of Korea’s Groups, their family control and succession. Last week The Economist looked at question in two articles Family Companies and Dynasties. I feel it places the Korean Groups and their family ownership is a much wider perspective.

Select links to today’s episode, Everything Korean w/ Don Southerton

Top quote, “Samsung and Hyundai’s net profits accounted for 81 percent of the total earning logged by the top 30 players last year, a sharp jump from the 47.5 % portion in 2010.”

  1. The Korea Society

http://www.koreasociety.org/corporate/korea_perspective.html

  1. Complimentary Copy ‘Korea Perspective’

http://unbouncepages.com/korea-perspective-launch/

  1. Family Companies

http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21648171-far-declining-family-firms-will-remain-important-feature-global-capitalism

  1. Dynasties

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21648639-enduring-power-families-business-and-politics-should-trouble-believers

Questions, Comments, Thoughts?   Go to questions@koreabcw.com

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Bridging Culture Worldwide Launching Korea Culture Training On-line

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Beginning with its highly popular Korea 101, the Korea facing consultancy now offers programs on-demand via digital download.

Golden, Colorado (PRWEB) April 10, 2015

Bridging Culture Worldwide (BCW) provides a wide range of Korea-focused training, coaching, and consulting services beginning with Korea 101, the consultancy’s most popular workshop. For more than a decade Korea 101 has been offered in corporate live and Webinar sessions both in the United States and internationally. Thousands of participants have benefited from this training and the insights shared.

BCW CEO Don Southerton notes, “For the first time we are offering the Korea 101 in an on-demand online learning format. Over five lesson sessions the course builds upon current experiences, while providing new knowledge.”

Southerton adds, “Building teamwork and cross-cultural understanding is paramount to success. Misunderstandings and stress created by the differences in culture impact productivity and interfere with smooth business operations. Cross-cultural education is recognized as a solution to cultural challenges in the workplace.”

Korea 101 is a timely overview approach to Korean culture, modern history, norms and business culture. The goal of the program is to foster a better understanding of Korea and its business culture.

Topics covered include: Business and social etiquette; History and the economy of Korea; Culture (music, art and cuisine); U.S./Korean relations including North Korea; The Korean workplace, management structure, and decision-making; Popular culture and New trends, as well as, Cross-cultural insights.

The program is conducted by noted author, strategist and lecturer, Don Southerton. Don works closely with many of Korea’s top Groups including Hyundai Motor and is an experienced specialist in bridging cultures between Koreans and non-Koreans.

Don has authored numerous publications with topics centering on culture, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism and early U.S.-Korean business ventures. Southerton also extensively lectures and writes and comments on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations. He is a frequent contributor to the media (WSJ, Forbes, CNN Fortune, Bloomberg, Automotive News, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Yonhap, Korea Magazine, tbs eFM Koreascape and FSR) on Korea facing business and culture.

To learn more, go to Korea 101 On-line at http://unbouncepages.com/korea-101-buy-now/

About Bridging Culture Worldwide

Since its founding, Bridging Culture Worldwide has focused on global and Korea-related business services. Based on over 3 decades of experience, they share cross-cultural insights to global teams and management. Bridging Culture Worldwide core services include: Consulting, Strategy, and Research; Publications; along with Franchise and Licensing Development, Market Entry, Product Launch, IP, and Trademark. Visit http://www.bridgingculture.com

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Korea 101 On-line Launched

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Building teamwork and cross-cultural understanding is paramount to success. Misunderstandings and stress created by the differences in culture impact productivity and smooth business operations. Cross-cultural education is recognized as the chief solution to cultural challenges in the workplace.

Bridging Culture Worldwide (BCW) provides a wide range of Korea-focused training, coaching, and consulting services beginning with Korea 101.

What is Korea 101?
Korea 101 is a timely overview approach to Korean culture, modern history, norms and business culture. The goal of the program is to foster a better understanding of Korea and its business culture.

What are topics covered?
Business and social etiquette
History and economy of Korea
Culture (music, art and cuisine)
U.S./Korean relations including North Korea
The Korean workplace, management structure, and decision-making
Popular culture
New trends
Cross-cultural insights

Tell me more
For the first time we are offering Korea 101 in an on-demand online learning format. The intent of each of the five lesson sessions is to build upon the current experiences, while providing new knowledge and insights.

Korea 101 has been offered in corporate Live and Webinar sessions both in the United States and internationally for more than a decade. Thousands of participants have benefited from training and the insights it shares.

The program is conducted by noted author, strategist and lecturer, Don Southerton CEO and President of Bridging Culture Worldwide. Don works closely with many of Korea’s top Groups such as Hyundai Motor and is an experienced specialist in bridging cultures between Korean and non-Koreans. His firm, Bridging Culture Worldwide, is a Golden, Colorado, Irvine, California, and Seoul, South Korea, which offers programs and consulting to help management and employees appreciate and understand Korean culture and business relations.

Don has authored numerous publications with topics centering on culture, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism and early U.S.-Korean business ventures. Southerton also extensively lectures and writes and comments on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations. He is a frequent contributor to the media (WSJ, Forbes, CNN Fortune, Bloomberg, Automotive News, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Yonhap, Korea Magazine, eFM tbs Koreascape and FSR) on Korea facing business and culture.

Outcomes include:
A strong understanding of Korean cross-cultural differences and their relevance to Korean workplace culture.
Reduce tensions and frustrations rooted in cross-cultural issues.
Better morale and team spirit.
Support for interacting with Korean teams assigned to local operations.

The Cost for the 5 web-based on-demand learning sessions in $495.00.

To learn more, CLICK.

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A Global Approach: A Roadmap For Korea Management Teams, Part Three

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So what are the best options for an overseas Korea-based organization’s leadership? I share what i feel works well…. and what does not. Check it out.

Our suggestions and some guidelines for selecting the right local management.

In Part 2, we noted the major issue in staffing an overseas operation is not in the recruitment of a local Korean resident over a Korean expatriate or a westerner but in the hiring of a highly qualified individual—Korean or Westerner. Setting aside my personal bias, I have worked under all three scenarios and found times when each scenario worked well and times when each was less than successful

I find that even the leading Korean groups with decades of international presence have no one model for staffing their overseas operations leadership (COO and CEO/President level). Therefore, it is not surprising that I see the Korean brands new to overseas expansion facing the same dilemma when they look to go global.

To restate the options with some additional elaborating

In some cases, Korean expatriates serve as key leadership for a subsidiary. The best scenario is when this Korean management receives the assignment after a career in the Group’s overseas divisions with past positions in Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific or the Americas.

In other situations, local non-Korean talent holds the executive level positions. An equally strong model is when the Western leadership has held long time management positions in the organization and over time has gained the trust of Korean leadership and has risen internally to Executive Vice President, COO and CEO/ President ranks.

As I note, both situations have merit and can work quite well.

This said, there are a number of situations that do not work as well.

In particular staffing senior executive ranks with westerners who may be seasoned industry veterans and may even come into the situation fully acknowledging the need to accommodate Korea facing nuances has pitfalls. In actuality the expectations of these new hires are that the Koreans will step aside in key decisions and let the westerners “run things.” Adding to this flawed expectation, they assume they will have the ability to communicate upward in the organization only to find they have limited direct dialogue with Korea with most approvals and information to and from headquarters channeled through Korea expatriates in the local office.

What also works poorly is assigning talented Koreans who may have had successful careers within the organization in other positions, such as logistics, audit or finance, but have little or no specific experience in other business sectors. When newly assigned to a top leadership role in overseas’ market, they do over time come to understand the new responsibilities and the local market, but this typically occurs at a huge cost in ramp up time.

As one insightful reader with considerable first hand experience has shared, “The lack of industry knowledge leads to indecision and changing decisions based on influence from [their Korean] colleagues as opposed to decisions being taken on the basis of real understanding and experience of the market.”

Even in cases in which the expatriate may have an excellent track record in growing their brand in an emerging market, running an organization in a mature market, for example, North America, takes a seasoned professional.

A more recent approach to staffing has been the hiring of high potential Korean talent from outside the company and assigning them leadership roles abroad. In part, the thought is that a new perspective will spur even further growth. Sadly, the local organization (expat Korean and westerners) and their partners often find this new blood hinders growth since the new talent may have little or no support network and may lack industry and market insights.

All Said. I strongly recommend supporting ALL overseas’ leadership, regardless of model chosen. This support must be more than the usual department by department updates. Mentoring and coaching is the key. Because experience and skills vary, each program must be tailored to address individual needs.

More significantly, successful mentoring requires a coach who understands both Korean and western business, not to mention the specific Korea-based firm and the industry in general.

Frankly, I often serve in this role. Working across groups, such as the Hyundai Motor Group in the US, Korea and internationally, over the years, I have found that needs and circumstances vary even among sister companies.

Expecting leadership to simply “get it” seldom works—and even if this happens, this approach takes time, is costly, and contributes to stress, poor productivity and even employee turnover.

As an example A few years ago, I had a conversation with a Korea-based C-level executive who was being let go from a top 5 Korean group at the end of his contract. The western executive openly shared the challenges of working for the Korea firm. He was most surprised by the lack of orientation and training programs. Senior level executives had to take it upon themselves to learn the nuances of the company. Their Korean peers were sensitive to the situation but acknowledged that few resources were in place for these activities. Instead there was an expectation that the executive would quickly adjust and engage in work as they would in any other company.

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Disclosure

In this series of commentaries I depart from a previous focus on sharing insights specifically to non-Korean global teams working for Korean companies.

Instead I now provide a roadmap and best practices to Korean management and overseas divisions. This includes new Korean brands eager to launch their products and services outside Korea.

The series is also applicable to established Korean brands already in overseas markets who could benefit from benchmarking “what works” and “what doesn’t.”  

Frankly, too often I see the same missteps re-occurring. What is frustrating is witnessing one company enduring the challenges in their market entry only to see the same scenario repeated by another Korean brand entering the global market. .

So what are these common missteps and how can they be addressed? That is goal of this commentary.

 

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Part 2, A Global Approach: A Roadmap For Korea Management Teams

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Commentary 1, Part 2

In contrast to Part 1 (LINK) in which I discussed the disadvantages of dispatching dedicated teams from Korea to manage a local overseas operation, another alternative is the hiring of Koreans permanently living abroad. The thinking is that these first and second generation Korean locals will be able to better represent the brand than Korean expatriates dispatched from their headquarters.

This approach does have merit.

Koreans living abroad have been educated and employed locally and have considerable localization insights. They are hired with the assumption that their understanding of the Korean language and heritage enables them to bridge the cultures.

While language and cultural understanding are huge pluses, a gap occurs as a result of the very advantage that local knowledge brings. These employees tend to be more comfortable with western business practices than with Korean workplace norms.

I have encountered two common situations.

One is the Korean locals who truly hope their heritage will help them overcome the cultural barriers but find working with their Korean counterparts to be more difficult than expected. The new hire eventually leaves for another opportunity with a western company and the more comfortable work environment.

The second situation occurs when the Korean local does not want to offend corporate management and becomes passive, avoiding pushing back against decisions and plans that are contrary to local practices and will not work outside Korea. Like with the previous outcome, they become frustrated with the situation and eventually explore other employment options.

Local Korean or Westerner

This said, perhaps the real challenge is not the recruiting of a local Korean but the hiring of a highly qualified individual—Korean or Westerner. Outside broad fields, such as Law and Finance in which Korean locals support launches very well, Sales, Marketing and Operations leadership require seasoned veterans in their market sector.

As always we welcome your comments and thought.

Look for the next in the series in which we discuss seeking out the right local management, partners and vendors.

Disclosure

In this series of commentaries I depart from a previous focus on sharing insights specifically to non-Korean global teams working for Korean companies.

Instead I now provide a roadmap and best practices to Korean management and overseas divisions. This includes new Korean brands eager to launch their products and services outside Korea.

The series is also applicable to established Korean brands already in overseas markets who could benefit from benchmarking “what works” and “what doesn’t.”  

Frankly, too often I see the same missteps re-occurring. What is frustrating is witnessing one company enduring the challenges in their market entry only to see the same scenario repeated by another Korean brand entering the global market. .

So what are these common missteps and how can they be addressed? That is goal of this commentary.

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A Global Approach: For Korea Management Teams— A New Work in Progress

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This is a new work in progress– feedback and comments appreciated.

By Don Southerton
Feedback on my writings, including my most recent book Korea Perspective is always welcome. My readers have considerable first-hand experience working for and interacting with Korea-based companies so their input is appreciated and highly valued.

The following is a paraphrase of comment from one reader.
After reading Korea Perspective, I can only agree with your very accurate analysis. Leadership within Korean companies is crucial, since very little action is left to lower level of management. For example, the Western reflective behavior, as you describe in your book, is not encouraged by the leadership. The focus is solutions and quick action.

The comment further notes:
I think a good topic and matter to be studied more is how Korean Companies can really expand and/or consolidate their overseas business without considering a change in their leadership. Unfortunately what I have experienced is if this leadership is ONLY Korean these big companies will face hard time in the future, of course against American companies but I would say also with Indians and nowadays Chinese.

A Roadmap for Korean Management
Mindful of these remarks, in this series of commentaries I depart from a previous focus that has shared insights to non-Korean global teams working for Korean companies.

Instead I provide a roadmap and best practices to their Korean management and overseas divisions. This includes new Korean brands eager to launch their products and services outside Korea. The series is also applicable to those established Korean brands already in overseas markets who could benefit from benchmarking “what works” and “what doesn’t.”

Frankly, too often I see the same missteps re-occurring. What is frustrating is to witness challenges one company endures in their market entry only to see the same (something or other but without repeating “challenges” repeated as another new Korean brand goes global.

So what are these common missteps and how can they be addressed? That is goal of this commentary.

Challenge #1 Dispatching a Korean team to spearhead local U.S. or overseas operations outside Korea.

When expanding into new oversees markets, all companies need to have their HQ operations represented in the local markets. The Korean model for overseas markets has evolved– improving some over the years. In the best cases, the major established brands have recognized and learned through trial and error that key local leadership and teams, especially sales and marketing, need to be non-Korean and industry veterans.

In addition to local teams, they may still assign expatriates, called ju jae won. In the larger overseas subsidiaries, these Korean expats are assigned to the major departments, including sales, marketing, HR, and product development, along with engineering, and design divisions. In many, if not most, cases these expats are not assigned manager roles but operate as a “shadow management” with considerable oversight of local operations.

For westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, this “oversight” usually translates into the Korean expats requiring signing off on all decisions—trivial to substantial. This can be a huge challenge when newly assigned expats have little specific background in or knowledge of the host country’s operations and market. Cognitively, the Korean teams recognize localization is needed but, especially if under pressure to perform, may defer to their Korean company procedures and cultural norms. In other cases, Korean firms have also initially resisted local management guidance and followed what they felt would be the best approach. Sadly, the Korean-led teams perform poorly and eventually yield to the local teams.

That said, it seems to be common practice that new Korean brands with little overseas experience follow a path that rarely is successful–feeling their best approach is to dispatch HQ personal to the new market and let them figure it out. In many cases those assigned are among the top employees in the Korean HQ operation—knowing their company and its product well. However, to succeed in the West an entirely different set of skills is required. Foremost is a strong knowledge of the industry—one acquired over decades.

All said, the most effective model is to hire a strong local, non-Korean management team but not constrain them with a Korean “shadow” management team that must approve or sign off on all the local decisions. This includes the Finance team assigned to the local operations but always independent of operations and reporting to their own teams in Korea.

Why? To be truly effective, local teams must be empowered to act based on their experience and judgment. Layers of approval may be commonplace in Korea but slow down the process in overseas markets, especially when the Korean support teams have little or no experience in that market or try to operate the business as they would in Korea. Inevitably, the work stalls, frustrating and demoralizing the local teams.
In part 2 of Challenge #1, we will discuss an option in lieu of dispatching a team from Korea. Should the hiring of local teams of Korean heritage with the assumption they will be able best represent the brand in America be considered as an option?

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Korean Business Expert Don Southerton Releases Ground Breaking Book

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Korea Perspective offers a road map to avoid common pitfalls while overcoming challenges, addressing issues that frequently surface with Korea.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/01/prweb12479689.htm

Golden, Colorado (PRWEB) February 02, 2015
Korean global business consultant Don Southerton has released his latest publication, titled Korea Perspective. Southerton notes, ” As a result of my interacting with Korea facing business on an almost daily basis, Western overseas teams, as well Korean leadership and teams, have openly shared their challenges and pressing concerns. In turn, I have worked to provide them with a framework, strategy, and solutions. This book is based on these daily interactions.”

The intended audiences, the author points out, are Westerners employed by Korean-based companies outside South Korea, firms providing services or products to a South Korean overseas subsidiary or operations and global companies that have significant business with a Korean company.

Southerton adds, “All in all, this book offers a road map to avoid the pitfalls, navigate around the roadblocks, and thrive.”

Korea Perspective is available through Amazon Kindle, Nook and most popular booksellers.

About the author
Don Southerton has a life-long interest in Korea and the rich culture of the country. He has authored numerous publications with topics centering on culture, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism, and early U.S.-Korean business ventures. Southerton also lectures extensively and writes and comments on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations.

He is a frequent contributor to the media (WSJ, Forbes, CNN Fortune, Bloomberg, Automotive News, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Yonhap, Korea Magazine, and FSR) on Korea facing business and culture. He heads Bridging Culture Worldwide, a Golden, Colorado based company that provides strategy, consulting and training to Korea-based global business. An avid martial artist, Southerton has pursued the study and practice of Korean traditional arts for more than forty years.
The author is available for media interviews.

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Korea Perspective By Don Southerton Publication Date: January 2015

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Overview Korea Perspective is based on daily consultancy interactions in the support of the Korean automotive, golf, land development, Green sustainability technologies and retail sectors. Western overseas teams, as well Korean leadership and teams, have openly shared their challenges and pressing concerns along with the inner workings of their companies in the interest of improving communication. In turn, I have worked to provide a framework, strategy, and solutions.

About the new book This book builds considerably upon topics shared in my two previous and well-received publications: Korea Facing: Secrets for Success in Korean Global Business and Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed. In particular, the new book explores more deeply into issues many working for Korean based companies may experience. The target audience and focus is the ever-growing number of Westerners employed by Korean-based companies outside South Korea. This book will provide you with greater awareness into the Korean workplace and mindset.

Likewise, if your firm provides services or products to a South Korean overseas subsidiary or operation, this book will offer tactics to strengthen and maintain the relationship.

Finally, if your company has significant business in Korea, but leadership and headquarters are located in the West, we offer suggestions to key management on how to effectively deal with pressing issues and challenges that surface.

All in all, this book offers a roadmap to avoid the pitfalls, navigate around the roadblocks, and thrive.

About the author Don Southerton has a life-long interest in Korea and the rich culture of the country. He has authored numerous publications with topics centering on culture, new urbanism, entrepreneurialism and early U.S.-Korean business ventures. Southerton also extensively lectures and writes and comments on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations. He is a frequent contributor to the media (WSJ, Forbes, CNN Fortune, Bloomberg, Automotive News, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Yonhap, Korea Magazine, and FSR) on Korea facing business and culture. He heads Bridging Culture Worldwide a Golden, Colorado based company, that provides strategy, consulting and training to Korea-based global business.

The Author is available for interviews.

Contact:

Don Southerton c/o Bridging Culture Worldwide

dsoutherton@bridgingculture.com

1-310-866-3777

Offices in Golden, CO; Irvine, CA; and Seoul, South Korea

 

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Korea Perspective: Chapter 6, Pieces to a Puzzle

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Chapter 6 Pieces to a puzzle…

A Western client recently explained that a huge challenge within their company was engaging the Koreans teams in the U.S. in discussions about complex situations and long-term planning. Specifically, there was little joint discourse related to potential trade-offs and risks in projects assigned to the local subsidiary. The Western team was consulted only to validate pre-conceived ideas or to implement directives from Korea. In most Korean companies leadership determines direction and the paths to resolving major issues. In turn, the working team’s role is to focus on producing immediate results.

Contemplating this challenge, particularly within a narrow and myopic workplace approach, one can draw an analogy to jigsaw puzzle building. The pieces to a puzzle have many sides but only some are visible. What is required is to look diligently at all possible options.

As a Korean colleague once pointed out, their society beginning with grade school does not promote reflective thinking. Reflective thinking does not produce immediate effects. More so, in contrast with the Korean workplace’s collective thought process, reflective thinking stems from an individual’s core consciousness.

Reflective thinking requires not only acquiring knowledge, but also calling upon one’s own experience and evaluative skills and admitting personal bias. The result is a broader perspective and a better view of the bigger picture

Often as a consequence of this myopic analysis, more problems may occur. Without working through a robust analysis of a problem from multiple angles and considering potential repercussions a solid evaluation can never arise.

All this said, by allowing one to think outside the box through a reflective and conscious lens, the time invested in analysis will lead to effective solutions.

Part 2 of this chapter will provide hints to engage Korean teams in a more reflective approach, as well as a strategy to work effectively within a workplace with two divergent approaches—Korean and Western.

 

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Korea Perspective: Chapter 4, One way communications?

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Building on Chapter 4’s Short on feedback theme…

Withholding

Amid growing tensions between a joint U.S and Korean launch team in a US-based facility, the first US venture for the Korean company, I was asked to conduct a series of cross-cultural coaching sessions. Polite consensus by the leadership was that the problem was “cultural”—Koreans not understanding Americans and visa-versa.

Most of the American team were well seasoned —handpicked because they had been top performers in their previous jobs. Likewise, the Korean team members were highly experienced—but this was their first overseas’ assignment.

What surfaced during our discussions was that the new American management had been searching for documented policies and procedures to guide them in decision-making and day-to-day work. For example, those who had been former Toyota staff looked for a model similar to the Toyota Way, while others who had worked for Ford Motor Company sought manuals of standard operation procedures (SOPs). As a result of not finding guidelines, some of the Westerners were concerned that the Koreans were deliberately withholding vital information as a form of control and power even though the Korean and Americans were to be considered equals in decision making and project oversight.

Probing deeper, I found that the Korean managers, although limited in their overseas experience, were sincere in sharing responsibility and relied heavily on the American staff. What also surfaced was that there were, in fact, no formalized procedures or processes. In part this was rooted in the Korean mindset discussed in Chapter 2; Korean projects remain flexible and continually change. This, of course, was a stark contrast to the American teams who were groomed in a western production model.

What I also uncovered and shared with the Western management was that the Korean management actually respected the Western production model. In fact, there was an expectation that over time and based on know-how the American teams would fine tune the transplanted process and standardize procedure for the US operation.

One way

Several years ago during a group workshop which I hosted for Korean and Western senior managers, the discussion quickly focused on one-way communications. The local American teams voiced puzzlement over receiving little or no feedback on any reports or studies they provided to the headquarters in Korea. For example, at the direction of HQ the local team devoted considerable effort to the benchmarking of competitors and compliance testing but received no feedback. This, of course, led to considerable frustration, because in their previous employment the Westerners had been actively involved in high profile projects with considerable feedback and follow-up.

Summing up their frustration, they felt that information flowed only one way. Korea would request, and their job was to simply fulfill.

Collecting his thoughts, a senior Korean participant pointed out that local input was respected, but he, too, rarely received direct feedback for the work performed in the local office. In fact, what comments he did receive centered on achieving deadlines or were questions and requests.

Continuing, the Korean manager explained that despite what might seem to be an endless flow of reporting back to the HQ, he personally felt that senior management reviewed those options and took them into consideration. In fact, Korean leadership placed high levels of trust in the local teams and their judgment.

Listening attentively, I added that in Korea the formal communication channel was usually top down. The role of staff in the ranks was to execute, not question, and then report their findings to leadership. Seeking to change that model would be a challenge. Instead I suggested another option– both teams meet weekly for a joint lunch meeting. The local Korean team could share news as it surfaced and add their perspective. In turn, the American team could use the opportunity to present new ideas and approaches to ongoing projects. Over time they would at least improve inter-team communications, leading to better understanding.

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