Monday, December 15, 2014

Korea Perspective: Chapter 6, Pieces of the Puzzle

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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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Korea Perspective,Chapter 5: Revise and Amend, Part 2 Impasses

This week we continue to look at negotiation styles.

Impasses, Bottlenecks and Deadlocks
In his classic When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures British linguist Richard D. Lewis illustrated well how different cultures communicate.[1]  Lewis’ work included crafting diagrams looking at a number of countries. Below are the German, American, and Korean perspectives—no one perspective is right or wrong—just different. In the diagrams below, you can see how groups may hit an impasse.  Frankly, my role over the years has been to recognize when one side hits a bottleneck or deadlock and then to move the talks past that point.







An example comes to mind. 
Over time negotiations in what had been a very promising partnership lapsed from an agreement to be executed by year end to a rather long dragged out ordeal.  Specifically, a bottleneck developed each time revisions in content were proposed by the Korean team.  These changes needed to reviewed and okayed by the American working level team before the Korean team would submit to their leadership.  Once the Korean leadership approved, the proposed changes then had to be reviewed by the American teams legal counsel.  As one can imagine, if the American counsel had edits, the entire process would restart.

I analyzed the situation that had been occurring for months and as Step One suggested bringing all those involved together in weekly conference calls to address the major concerns.  A second call was also scheduled as needed for the legal counsels.

As a Step two, I pressed both sides to recognize that the relationship was very positive and sound despite obvious frustration and doubts that an agreement would ever be signed—To ease the bottleneck I stressed the need to compromise and to minimize future revisions in order to achieve a signed agreement.   With all parties collaborating, the project progressed to a signing in a timely manner.


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[1] When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures, Richard D. Lewis Paperback, Third Edition Published September 29th 2005 by Nicholas Brealey Publishing (first published 1996). 


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