Sunday, May 12, 2019

North Korea: A Measured Displeasure

North Korea. There is always some concern among Western teams when North Korea saber rattles... I will try to give some perspective.

I see no need for alarm even amidst a new round of missile launches and an alert by the North for "full-combat posture."

Having followed North Korea since 1989 including a mix of academic work, friendships with some of the top experts on North Korea, as well as watching the more recent Trump-Kim talks... I've always felt any negotiations with the North seem like two steps forward, and one step back—not to mention North Korea is skilled at brinkmanship.

My take on the latest missile launches is that the North appears to be demonstrating measured displeasure with the breakdown in talks following the February Hanoi summit between leader Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. 

The North also seems to be determined to put pressure on South Korea and Washington for the resumption of dialogue. Missle launches do get our attention.   

For North Korea resumption of high-level Trump- Kim talks are the key to getting sanctions lifted, which is much needed for North Korea's struggling economy.

And finally, resumption would help Kim show his leadership—many feel his failed efforts in Hanoi were damaging...including loss of face.

Questions? Comments?



Saturday, April 27, 2019

May Culture Update: Holidays

Just a reminder as Korea has some holidays coming up...

In South Korea, May 1st is known simply as "Workers' Day". It is not a public holiday, but a paid holiday for workers by the Designation of Workers' Day Act.

A National Holiday, Children's Day falls on a Sunday in 2019, the following Monday, May 6 will be celebrated as the holiday. Workers get a day off work and children get a day off school. 

Families make an extra effort to do something special on Children’s Day. Parents will often take their children somewhere special and treat them to snacks or ice cream. One of the theme parks, zoos, and historic sites are popular places for Koreans to take their children, too.

This year Buddha's Birthday, a National Holiday, falls on Sunday, May 12. Buddha’s Birthday is not only an important and auspicious day for the nation’s practicing Buddhists (a religious group that makes up approximately one-fifth of South Korea’s population), but it is also a public holiday that is widely celebrated across the country. 

Festivities surround the holiday and Buddhist temples are transformed into kaleidoscopes of color--vibrantly colored, lotus-shaped lanterns hung throughout. 

Buddha's Birthday


Friday, April 12, 2019

Korea Q & A, Part 2 Blindsided w/ Don Southerton

Part 2 Q & A looks at how to offset the unexpected.

In many cases, leadership and team do need direct support. I want to strongly encourage you to reach out to me. At least for a neutral second opinion. Best, too, to engage early, and not put off until issues escalate or go sideways. Waiting rarely makes things better. 
Call, text, Message or email and we can discuss. 


Tuesday, April 09, 2019

A Working with Korea Q & A

Question?  Don, working with Korea, how can we ensure projects stay on track amid changes and forces from outside of our control.

Answer. Great question. I will answer in two parts, in this posting, Part 1.

First, the short answer is it’s critical to stay aware and sensitive to not only the scope of the project but the broader circumstances that could impact the work.  One needs a 360 vs. a very linear mindset. In many cases, my work is providing this insight—honed over decades—more art than science.

Next, have countermeasures as options already in place.

To elaborate on both points…
Pondering on the question, it made me reflect on within the Korean workplace that the most savvy, long term staff and executives are both highly intuitive, sensitive and vigilant to all that goes on around them. They read situations and adapt accordingly. Little gets by them. In particular, they even anticipate senior leadership’s next moves. More so, without such a skill set few ever get to an executive level.

As a best practice, they also plan accordingly with countermeasures in place for all projects. In Korean we call this  miri miri…(Pronounced me re me re). It can be translated as preparing ahead of time and in advance.  It is in contrast to doing things at the last minute and then having to go balli balli.

Bottom line, look beyond the surface to gain insights into what may impact projects, assume some road bumps head, develop countermeasures, and be ready to execute quickly.

In Part 2,  I will discuss how even the best-laid plans can get blindsided. As always, need support? Need context and a 360 viewpoint? I am open to new projects and engagements, too.

Call, text, or email and we can discuss.


Monday, April 01, 2019

Hit the Target 2019

Hit the target 2019. A week does not go by without a colleague or client expressing deep concern for what seems an overarching and singular need for their company to reach their sales numbers.
To most, despite a number of vital business initiatives, they feel the monthly demand to meet “Plan” matters most.
I can recall a few years ago while mentoring a new American divisional vice president being pulled aside by his Korean expatriate counterpart, an Executive Coordinator. The Korean who I was also coaching seemed troubled and obviously under duress. The Korean manager knew I understood the company as well as Seoul HQ expectations.  The Korean asked passionately for me to stress to the new American VP they needed to “Hit the Target.”  He repeating the phase, 3 times so to ensure I got it… then patting me on the back and sending me over to the adjacent office with the VP to share the message.
Frankly, as long as I have been working with Korea facing global business it has been the driven force.
In another case, I was a speaker at LG’s Mobile Phone National Sales Meeting.  Capping the upbeat and motivating event, the Korean CEO with a huge graph projected behind him shared their amazing unit sales growth over for the years. He then added the next year’s “stretch goal” as a hush came over the room.  The new goal a huge bump over past years, which had pushed teams and the organization to their limits.
 To be fair, this model is not unique to Korean business. But it has been the subject of frequent discussion in Korea.
However, South Korea’s modern economy was once rooted in a state-run export-driven model—the government fixing private industries and well as the nation’s overall production and sales quotas in many sectors.
Today despite leading international as well as Korean economic experts arguing the old model is dated and need to move more to the service sector…   the export production model still remains a driving force… In part with so much of the Korean economy and jobs tied to export production the Groups are under pressure to continue to seek growth each year— and push their teams even harder. 
 So what’s the solution?
First, we need to accept this has long been the foundation of Korean business.   Change is underway but will take time.  It’s part of their Culture and a still a norm accepted by many.   In turn, others do hope and argue for Korea to re-invent and redefine itself, less focused on growth numbers and more on a being a leader in new technology and innovation.
Here as always, and actively interested in new and challenging projects.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Building Bridges: Closing Gaps

Snow Storm and blizzard conditions here in Golden, Colorado... That said, wanted to share some thoughts--building bridges: closing gaps.

It can be challenging to come up with a workable solution to a pressing issue, especially when under stress and the demands of day to day, not to mention the need to consider the Culture.

For me, sound advise requires pulling apart the matter to the core and then sharing a plan to best build bridges and close gaps — something which is more art than science ☺.  Critical thinking is a key component in this process, too, as it goes beyond rudimentary decision-making. It often involves the ability to analyze multiple data points and make an intelligent, practical interpretation or decision. 

I find when presented with a business issue clear thinking is a must. I have found stepping away amid the process valuable and useful. Martial arts and bouldering are a big part of this recharge and re-focus routine.  I find after a demanding workout session constructive thoughts flow along with clear thinking. Both needed to tackle the challenges of Korea facing business.

On martial arts,it has been a lifetime endeavor-- entering my 47th year of training, teaching and study.  Like with martial arts where I have been fortunate to have studied in the most disciplined, traditional and demanding of the arts, I take my bouldering serious, too. 

Regarding bouldering, it’s a form of intense low height (up to 20 feet) rock climbing without the use of ropes or harnesses. Most often we climb on small rock formations (boulders) or in a climbing gym on artificial rock. Bouldering is not to be confused with free soloing, the later made famous in this year’s Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo and risk-seekers climbing above safe heights, where a fall would always result in serious injury or death.
building bridges, closing gaps
Living in Golden, Colorado has its benefits…. Golden, Colorado is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, only fifteen minutes from the heart of Denver but a world apart. Golden is also home of the internationally famous American Alpine Club and nearby some of the best climbing in the Americas… It also has an Earth Trek climbing gym and it’s not uncommon to find some the best sport climbers in the world training.

Now, how these ties into Korea facing work…

As I noted above, I find a constructive thinking process a must when a solid solution is required for a perplexing business issue. Adding a layer of concern and pressure are the ramifications for clients if not addressed and resolved.

In other cases, clear thinking is needed when I see a situation unfolding with long range implications, but the client often burdened with presentism and day to day workload and needs to be nudged to act… Again, in this situation and after years of Korea facing work, I have seen the ramifications if no action is taken—with most downsides avoidable.

Bottom Line
With work centering on—Strategy, People and Culture…and always the element of Korea, I’m here to discuss your challenges. Happy to set a time to chat, too.