Monday, November 23, 2015

Everything Korea: November 23 Episode, The New Book

I’d like to share a short preview of my next book on Korean global business.  

Following in the footsteps of my other recent publications, it will continue to provide  “knowledge of the tribe” and insights--- all worthy of probably my most original title, which I will be disclosing closer to the release date along with cover art.

This said, I have always found books about Korean business and culture informative, but they can be locked in time. In other words they are relevant and accurate at their publication, but with Korea’s ever changing society and economy shifts in workplace norms, practices and attitudes the content requires constant revisions and updating.  In particular, with regard to overseas Korean operations Change is even more dramatic.  

Recognizing this challenge, I have taken an approach to my latest book sharing insights into Korea facing business by building upon a recent round of my articles, commentaries and case studies—then all updating and revising to stay as current as possible.

Noting this, I share my observations and remarks on Korean global business —many subjects revisited while new trends are explored and all deconstructed.  

Look for publication updates as we get closer to a release date.  

In the meantime, would you like to schedule a time to discuss your Korea facing business needs?  

To facilitate and with my rather demanding workload and travel, Stacey, my personal assistant at can schedule us for a time.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Everything Korea, November 16 Episode: Crafting a “Way”…

Stepping back to August 2005, I was conducting cross-cultural training and coaching sessions at a manufacturing facility. In the early months of the plant operations, tensions between the American and Korean teams were mounting.

Startup operations are always a daunting task.  The additional cultural dimensions and language differences only compounded the odds of having a smooth launch. Recognizing the challenges, senior Korean leadership asked if I could provide team-building workshops that would allow the respective managers to better address escalating concerns and issues.

Consensus was that the problem was “cultural”—Koreans not understanding Americans and visa-versa. I had been working across their organization for several years and I had dealt with what I thought were similar situations.

However, a few hours into the team-building workshops I uncovered the true cause of the strained relationship, but it was not what I had expected.

Most of the American teams were production veterans—hand picked because they had been top performers at Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mercedes Benz, and GM North American plants. In contrast, the Korean teams were career employees—most having worked for a decade or more at a sister plant in South Korea.

What surfaced in discussions was that many of the new American managers had been searching in earnest for a Way—documented policies and procedures that would guide them in decision-making and day-to-day work. For example, former Toyota managers looked for a model similar to the Toyota Way, while others who had worked for Ford Motor Company sought standard operation procedure manuals (SOPS). Not finding a set Way resulted in some Americans feeling that there might be a communications and language issue. More concerning, a few hinted strongly at trust issues and that Koreans were deliberately withholding vital information.

Listening to the group, I had a realization. Over the years working with the company and other Korea-based businesses, I found sharing historic background and differences between Korean culture and other cultures as a proven, effective and commonly accepted cross-cultural learning model. Nevertheless, it became crystal clear to me that what was truly needed in this situation was to clarify and impart an intangible—the Way or vision.

A Shared Mindset 

Jumping forward several years... on a number of occasions I have shared my quest to better understand the companies’ Way (and triggered by the work at the plant ) with veteran Korean staff and executives. Time and time again, I found those long employed by the Company reflecting for a moment and then stating frankly that the company’s approach was not easy to explain.

For example, one senior Korean pointed out that within company there are several management styles and approaches to tackling an issue depending on the person’s lineage.

Groomed by their seniors, junior members of teams adopt the mentor’s methodology and leadership style—some “hard” and demanding, others “soft” and preferring collaboration.

Another executive imparted that their Way was acquired over time. He added that, with the exception of some minor differences among the sister companies, the transferring of key people among divisions, creates a shared mindset.

At a minimum, Korean teams understand the thought process and methods of others across the organization regardless of the affiliations.

The Korean executives did agree that understanding the corporate mindset by both Koreans and non-Koreans working across the organization was vital to the continued success of the Company.

In Contrast

Recognizing lessons learned in incorporating a Way in the operations of other American plants, I’d like to share a success model.  In 2009 Korea based Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia’s senior leadership took a bold approach Day One.  The crafted their “Kia Way.”  Key elements include:
  • Continuous Improvement
  • One System One Team
  • Effective 2-Way Communication
  • Cooperative Mindset
  • Harmony -Teamwork -Trust
At the core, the “Kia Way” aligns teams—Korean and American. In particular, it provides continuity as new Korean expatriates are assigned to the plant, as well as Americans formerly employed within the manufacturing industry and who join the team in Georgia.

All said, I am a strong advocate of crafting a “Way,” for Korean operations overseas—one that addresses and tailored to local needs while still aligning with the global organization Culture.

Would you like to schedule a time to discuss steps to implement a “Way” in your organization?

To facilitate and with my rather demanding workload and travel, Stacey, my personal assistant at can schedule us for a time.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Everything Korea, November 9 Episode: Mentoring Korea Expatriates

It’s common for Korean overseas business to embed Korean expatriates in their

local operations. Their functions and responsibilities vary with each company, but

frequently an expat’s role is liaison between Korea and the local subsidiary.

For westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, an expat’s responsibilities usually

translate into the Korean required to sign off on all departmental decisions—trivial

to substantial. This can be a huge challenge when newly assigned expats have

limited background in or knowledge of the host country’s operations and market.

They do however know the mother company procedures well. They have been

successful at their past assignments. And, they often were assigned to the

headquarters’ overseas support teams, have traveled extensively to subsidiaries,

and were educated or experienced life outside Korea. However, like western teams,

their experiences and skills can vary.

Once overseas, workload can strong impact an expats’ performance.  Cognitively,

they recognize localization is needed but, especially if under pressure to perform

and hit goals, may defer to their former Korean HQ procedures and cultural norms.

What I strongly suggest is American management mentor new expats.  Here are my

  • Mentoring Koreans is building on the relationship.
  • Express genuine willingness to support. Tell them that you care. 
  • Ask, and listen to whatever they want to talk about.  
  • Then respond anecdotally if possible.  In many cases, share what other successful expats have done well in the past. 


In Korea most team members have a Mentor within their company, in fact that’s the

role of a Senior.  Much of the mentoring happened when they go out to dinner with

alcohol drinks.  Knowing it may be difficult to share with the boss their challenges,

Mentors use the effects of drinking to get their teams to open up and talk.

Would you like to schedule a time to discuss mentoring?

To facilitate and with my rather demanding workload, Stacey, my personal assistant

at can schedule us for a time.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Everything Korea, November 2 Episode: Deconstructing the Murky

Supporting clients and their challenges requires getting to the core issues. It’s distinguishing between what are the organizational and what are the cultural impasses then providing practical solutions and work through’s. Much of my work is first listening carefully to clients and their challenges.  Equally 
valuable is walking around the corporate offices, observing and capturing multiple viewpoints. 

Nothing beats being onsite. Nothing beats getting face to face. 

Too often, I find challenges as murky, complex and layered with frustrations, so a deconstruction is needed. Not to mention there is a growing Korean business dimension to an overseas operations.  

In most cases I bring a fresh perspective—one rooted in years working with Korea-facing business.   I’d like to share that in addition to mentoring, I have recently began to work directly on specific and very select high profile projects with clients.  

To often an initiative that can dramatic improve local operations fails to get the needed support or approval from Korean local leadership or from the mother organization in Korea. I work to ensure these proposals get taken seriously. 

Make sense?  

Why not schedule a chat?

Monday, October 26, 2015

“The Hyundai Whisperer” A Special Edition of Everything Korea

On a recent client workshop and mentoring session in NYC I was introduced by the

team leader to the group of participants noting my long history supported Hyundai,

Kia Motors and others. Then pausing for a moment the team leader added I was

known as the “Hyundai Whisperer.”  I smiling and graciously acknowledged, but at

the same time was quite puzzled….

What took me back in a very flattering way was how the phrase has journeyed.

As context, the phrase is derived from a “Horse Whisperer” – these are highly

regarded experts working with horses who have developed a natural

communication style through an understanding of ethnology coupled with a deep

insights into behavior.

What is intriguing is how the term Hyundai Whisperer has gone ‘viral.’ For me, it

first surfaced just a few months ago in a Starbucks’ meeting in California where a

new acquaintance (a top creative long involved in the car business and with

Hyundai) used it to describe what he had come to learn as my work and reputation

in the industry.

Just days later, in a meeting with another car business client, they, too, used the

term.  Then a few days later at an industry event, another client used “Hyundai

Whisperer” to introduce me to others in describing my consultancy.  In all these

instances, the clients worked within or with Hyundai or Kia but in different roles

and firms.

How it journeyed from the West Coast to the East Coast and perhaps beyond….has

been the pleasant surprise.

At one level it is an example of how one’s reputation matters….  on another level it

shares that dedicating one’s work to a niche matters, too.   Personally, I will continue

to provide  “knowledge of the tribe”, insights and client support worthy of the

title—the Hyundai Whisperer.

It’s here, I will segue to a related topic—the book i wrote titled Hyundai Way:

Hyundai Speed.  Published a few years ago, my objective for Hyundai Way: Hyundai

Speed was to share insights into the Hyundai Motor Group—a unique inside view of

a unique corporate culture.

The book is offered on Amazon and with others in eBook versions. I also just had my

publisher run a limited printing of the book in hard bound cover …  the hard bound

version is not available for purchase…. but for those interested in a copy, please let

me know… and we’ll see how best to get you a complimentary signed copy.

Until next time…. all the best….

Monday, October 19, 2015

Everything Korea October 19 Episode: Stop Blaming Your Culture

Some quotes to start the Vodcast…
1. Working with and within a culture is sensible, practical and effective.
2. Within an overarching corporate culture, there are generally several subcultures each with the own unique elements.
3. Use the culture you already have.                                                                           ….take pains to stay within the most essential tenets of existing culture.
4. [it’s] Critical to fully understand the culture, then be able to de-construct and simply aspects relevant to your situation.  
These quotes are from a well crafted article titled, “Stop Blaming Your Culture”
A colleague recently shared the article recognizing the concept had value for his own company in working with and within their Culture.  In particular, I was asked then to assist with providing insights into the Korean side of  my client’s Culture.  Echoing the article “Culture matters!”
I strongly recommend you download the article and study.  I’d then be happy to share my thoughts on how to work within your specific Culture.
Week of October 19
Culture article link
Questions, Comments, Thoughts?   

Monday, October 12, 2015

Everything Korea, October 12 Episode, more Context vs. Data

One of my recent themes has been Context vs. Data.   

Background matters. Decisions, strategies and tactics need to take into account circumstances---some reaching back decades. I like to think I provide Context.  In part, I have invested years of research, study and first hand experience looking at Korea facing business. My books and commentaries reflect this work.

This short book I authored several years ago, Hyundai and Kia Motors
The Early Years and Product Development focused on the Korean brands mid 1960s to 2000.

At this time Korean automakers went through a dramatic transformation.  They went from essentially partnered for technology and design with Ford, Mazda, and Mitsubishi.... to developing their own integrated research, development, and manufacturing, not to mention the economies of scale needed for the Korean automakers to compete globally with industry heavyweights such as Toyota, Ford, GM, and VW. 
In the book I look at Hyundai and Kia models from the past such as the Pony and Excel, Brisa and the Pride, 
and the Sephia, as well as some still very popular and successful such as the Sportage, Rio and Santa Fe.

To access a complimentary copy of Hyundai and Kia Motors: The Early Years and Product Development, go to: