Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed--The Update

Very pleased with the considerable international interest in Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed.
I'm replying to folks worldwide and providing them PDF copies.

Interested in a copy?  Just ask. One condition--you need to share to PDF :)


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wall Street Journal Korea: Don Southerton Interview

Wall Street Journal Korea
What I'd add and was missed in the article was my point that today collaboration is the dominate management style across Hyundai. That said, at times Top Down management may overshadow collaboration as i explain in detail in my new book Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed.

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Bloomberg News
Hyundai Motor America headquarters stands in Fountain Valley, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014.

For some Korea watchers, Hyundai Motor is representative of the flaws of the nation’s family-controlled companies: a hierarchical structure over-dependent on charismatic personal leadership.
But that “Korean-ness” is what has made Hyundai a winner and should be embraced, including by foreign hires working at other Korean businesses, says Don Southerton, chief executive of Bridging Culture Worldwide, a Denver-based consulting firm.
Don Southerton, chief executive of Bridging Culture Worldwide.

“That’s what’s been successful. You don’t take out what’s successful,” Mr. Southerton said in a recent interview in Seoul.
Author of a book titled “Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed,” Mr. Southerton cites the company’s rapid decision-making as a critical advantage.
Many years ago when orange became a popular car color in California, Kia Motors, which is controlled by Hyundai, was able to get it into production in just three months, he noted. It would have taken Toyota Motor two years, he said.
Mr. Southerton says Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-koo’s hands-on approach to management helps speed up problem resolution. Critics say Mr. Chung’s frequent staff changes, including abruptly firing executives and rehiring some of them, hampers management consistency.
Mr. Southerton has conducted training sessions for Hyundai and is a frequent visitor to South Korea.
He recalled a cross-cultural coaching session he held in 2005 at Hyundai’s manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Alabama, where many Western managers complained about Hyundai’s management style.

“The consensus was that the problem was cultural–Koreans not understanding Americans and vice versa,” he said.
“But what surfaced in discussions was that many of the new American managers had been searching in earnest for a Hyundai way. In other words, documented policies and procedures that would guide them in decision-making and day-to-day work,” he said.
“The challenge that Hyundai has is not unlike what even Apple has today. How will Apple continue to convey — as they grow — the core message that they used to have when they were a small company and Steve Jobs was in front of everybody all the time? That’s the challenge Hyundai (also) faces for sustainable growth,” he said.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed, New Book Looks at Korean Corporate Culture

Global business expert Don Southerton has authored a new eBook, Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed, which shares insights into the one of the world’s top automakers.

Korea global business expert Don Southerton has released his latest publication, titled Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed. Southerton notes, “In the wake of the recent accomplishments of the Hyundai Motor Group and specifically the Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors brands a question is often raised, ‘What makes Hyundai so successful?’ I tackle this question from a cultural perspective.”

The author points out his objective for Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed is to share insights into the Hyundai Motor Group—a unique inside view of a unique corporate culture.

In addition to the growing number of Hyundai and Kia Motors enthusiasts wishing to learn more about the carmaker, Southerton sees several target audiences for the book. First for the global teams working for the Hyundai Motor Group and its affiliates, Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed will build upon their current experiences, while providing new understandings.

A second audience is firms and vendors providing services or products to the Hyundai Motor Group. This book will be beneficial in strengthening and maintaining the relationship.

A third readership is companies with significant Korea-based business. Although the book offers specific insights into Hyundai Motor, the broader content can apply to many Korean firms in sectors outside automotive.

The eBook is available through iBook, Kindle, Nook, and Amazon.

About the author
With over 35 years' experience, Don Southerton is the definitive authority on Korean-facing global business, strategy, branding and market entry--from automotive, golf, retail, and QSR/ food sectors to New Urbanism and Green technology.

Building on a life-long interest in Korea and the rich culture of the country, Southerton writes extensively and provides commentary to the media on modern Korean business culture and its impact on global organizations. This is his thirteenth publication. 

LINK  PRWEB Press Release 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Professional Services under the KORUS FTA , February 2014

From February 2014

Demand for Professional Services Grows under the KORUS FTA
The KORUS FTA is also opening new avenues for professional services, including specialized business and management consultants, as U.S. businesses expand into the dynamic Korean marketplace. Between 2008 and 2012, U.S. business, professional and technical services exports increased 51 percent. Many success stories on U.S. Korea Connect point to the importance of understanding the Korean marketplace and finding the right Korean business partner as ways of increasing company's likelihood of success, making specialized consultants an increasingly important asset. In the United States, companies are also hiring Korean workers and discovering immediate value in their expertise and existing professional networks.

Korea's economy expanded at the fastest pace in nearly two years in the third quarter of 2013, and Bloomberg ranked Korea first among all nations in its Global Innovation Index. In addition, the creative economy developing in Korea is fueling a renewed spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. All of these combined factors under the KORUS FTA create a highly lucrative environment for entrepreneurial U.S. consultants with specialized expertise, which is highly valued by Korean companies.

Don Southerton, a consultant specializing in supporting and launching U.S. brands in Korea and Korean brands in the United States, believes the comprehensive services section of the KORUS FTA breaks open the Korean market and is a game changer.

"The KORUS FTA provides groundbreaking changes for the services sector that is oftentimes overlooked. Services professionals and business consultants with highly specialized expertise are in an ideal position to penetrate a ripe and flourishing Korean market and should actively explore the opportunities in the Korean market and capitalize on the open services trade framework provided in the KORUS FTA." - Don Southerton, CEO, Bridging Culture Worldwide

For more on US Korea Connect go to:


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed, Part 6 Conclusions

Don Southerton Hyundai

"Conclusions", my final article in the Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed series, shares my personal thoughts and opinions.  I begin with the question, “Considering its strong Korean heritage and corporate culture, is the Hyundai business model globally sustainable?”  I tackle this question from a cultural perspective, leaving aspects of sustainability, such as the production network, consumer appeal and brand image staying power, for my colleagues in the automotive industry.

In my 2012 book, Korea Facing: Secrets for Success in Korean Global Business I note that Korean global companies as a whole have prospered and adapted well to an expanded international scope. Specifically, I call this trend K-lobalization.

To further define K-lobalization, I find Korean teams and management becoming increasingly global savvy. More significantly, following the global recession of 2009-10 when many international firms experienced staggering setbacks, the profits, sales and market shares of Samsung, the Hyundai Motor Group and LG soared.  As a result some Koreans consider their business model superior or at least equal to rival and established western brands.

An additional characteristic of K-lobalization is that Korean firms are boldly promoting their own unique corporate culture and management style across their global organization.  This may take the form of the company-wide introduction of the corporate core values and vision, along with global training initiatives and directives. In Hyundai’s case, we see this in the 2011 introduction of the new HMG management philosophy, core values, and vision (all well discussed in Part 4).  

So, if K-lobalization is the new model, then why still hire local western leadership and management teams? Two challenges for Hyundai and other Korean multi-national Groups have been launching overseas operations and staffing the local branch or subsidiary. In part, Korean leadership is well aware that local expertise is vital for success, and, in part, no Korean Group has a sufficient Korean workforce or desire to entirely staff their international operations with expats.

Several years ago during a group session I hosted for overseas Korean and western Hyundai senior managers, the discussion turned to the "role" of the westerners in local project development. The local western Hyundai teams felt under-utilized and wanted to contribute more. This, of course, was a source of considerable frustration for the westerners because their previous employers had given them considerable responsibility with little direct oversight and fully utilized their experience and expertise.

Pondering for a moment during the discussion, a senior Hyundai Korean pointed out that local input was respected… and expected, but perhaps feedback from his side needed to be better communicated. The Korean manager went on to explain that his team knew how to do things "Korean style", but what was needed were alternate ways of approaching work related issues. Even if the local ideas were not adopted, he noted, senior management reviewed those options and took them into consideration.

In fact, on a number of occasions Korean management has shared with me that Hyundai leadership had high trust in the global organizations. They hired the local teams to provide much needed expertise and know-how. 

Highly relevant to the Hyundai Way, the Korean team explained that the challenges and frustrations they were hearing from their western colleagues were an aspect of the company’s top down “culture.” Specifically, a department’s role (even in Korea) was to provide support and once given an assignment to implement the project. Although perceived as restrictive to the Americans, the approach was never an attempt to limit and downplay the local teams’ expertise.

Listening attentively, one of the western managers smiled and, as I recall, thanked his Korean co-worker for sharing and promised he would convey the message to his team. The western manager also commented that he wished he had understood this corporate culture dimension two years earlier, since the feedback would have reduced stress in his department.  Once again Culture matters.

My concerns regarding sustainability
Over the years as I have worked across Hyundai as well as with other global and domestic organizations, I have come to recognize their gaps, strengths, and weaknesses. On a positive note, top management, especially at Hyundai, has increasingly becoming skilled in handling cross-cultural issues within their organizations. However, a company’s success is highly dependent on the entire team’s collective grasp of the corporate culture and, in our case, the Hyundai Way, which I have pointed out in Part 1 as an intangible acquired over time.

My concern on sustainability is that few individuals can quickly develop a true understanding of Hyundai culture without training and coaching. It just does not “happen.” Hoping the team can grasp understanding or allowing it to unfold over time is a recipe for failure and high employee turnover. More so, even a well financed and professionally crafted Corporate Culture program will have limited impact if offered one time or in some form of a routine annual workshop.

I do recommend teams and key executives receive ongoing support in addition to the company’s corporate training programs. In addition executives will benefit from-- and appreciate-- one-on-one coaching sessions that offer  them an opportunity to discuss situational work-related issues privately and confidentially.

In Conclusion
Not withstanding times when directives from senior leadership take priority, Korean management looks to the company’s global teams and top partners for new ideas. I suggest local teams embrace the Hyundai Way, core culture, vision, and principles. This means moving at Hyundai Speed to discover innovative ways to overcome challenges, and to contribute “out of the box” thinking to accomplish “the impossible.”

Look for Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed in eBook and print formats.  
Publication date March 2014.

Copyright 2014 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed, Part 5 Management Styles

Management Styles
Hyundai’s early management style was influenced by Founder Chung Ju Yung and his charismatic personal leadership, which was also strongly tied to Korean Confucianism. Management teams of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in turn, modeled their style after the Founder. In the wake of global expansion during the late 1990s and 2000s, Hyundai’s management style would evolve. In fact, today, there are a number of methods; a few are common and the most notable contrast autocratic and collaborative styles. All are part of what I see as Hyundai Way culture.

The Role of Mentoring
Looking back several years to a team building workshop, a senior Korean manager openly shared some insights on Korean management styles. Within his Korean division, teams were mentored by seniors in one of several styles. For example, some senior managers fostered a "soft" management style of collaboration, while others used a "hard…don’t ask questions and just do it” autocratic style.

Elaborating, he explained that he was taught and preferred to first present the challenge or situation to the team and then ask the junior staff to prepare some ideas and solutions.  This collaborator style was in stark contrast to a “top down” style in which communication and direction were one way. The Korean manager further noted that in the case of working in the overseas' subsidiary he found what was most effective was to ask the American colleagues for their thoughts on a matter versus directing the team’s actions. He felt the former approach better tapped the experience and creativity of the local teams.

Additionally, Korean teams and management have been assigned to subsidiaries worldwide and have become increasingly global savvy. This results in the teams being exposed to and embracing local management styles. Moreover, an increasing number of Korean team members have been educated at western business schools and have earned MBAs, exposing them to a broad range of leadership and management styles. At times this can also result in a generational divide with those younger managers, influenced by their western education, in conflict with older managers more rigid adherence to old practices.

A Growing Trend
In my experience I see an overall growing trend toward collaboration—from top leadership to team level. There are, however, exceptions predominately because of the strong in-grained hierarchical model. For example, a Korean manager with a dominant “softer” management style may quickly shift to a more autocratic style.  Typically, this is the result of a request or directive from senior leadership overriding their personal preferences in tackling a situation.  In a Korean organization like Hyundai it is not appropriate for middle management and even local senior management to question or evaluate the opinions, ideas or orders of one’s superiors. Leadership’s role is to decide on direction and major issues. In turn, the working team's role is to implement or gather needed information. A request “from above” receives priority over other projects and scheduled meetings.  If a request comes from leadership, the local Korean managers will expect all to follow and execute. In many cases, local non-Korean teams will see such a request conveyed by their Korean colleague as a one-sided demand but local teams need to recognize these hierarchical dynamics.

As a senior Korean manager once reminded me—“no two Koreans are alike,” so I suggest that correspondingly no two follow identical management styles. Moreover, especially in the case of Korean expatriates working abroad their style might shift depending on the situation as well as change over time as they are influenced and adapt accordingly.

All said, regardless of the management style, one overarching aspect of Hyundai corporate culture still dominates--once a decision is made, the expectation is that the teams move at Hyundai Speed to accomplish.

Part 6 "Conclusions", the final article in the Hyundai Way: Hyundai Speed series shares the author's opinions on a question, “Considering its strong Korean heritage and corporate culture, is the Hyundai business model globally sustainable?”

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Copyright 2014