Sunday, December 10, 2017

Still Time in 2017



With a few weeks left in 2017, I’m happy to report that this year we offered over 33 Korea 101 and 201  "working within the Culture" workshops.  

Most were the new 2 hour format. We offered sessions not only across North America, but also to teams in the UK, France and Ireland. 

BTW  There is still time left in 2017 for sharing the training to your teams.  

And, the program is a great way to end the year strong and prepare the team for the many Korea facing changes coming in 2018.  

Contact me at 310-866-3777, Text or email.

Regards,

DS

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Everything Korea: What’s Different? What’s Similar?

By its very nature Korean facing business is the interaction of worldwide teams.  This necessitates colleagues of different cultures working together on a daily basis.  How we see others culturally is often in the differences and similarities.



The Differences

Particularly for western teams in Korean overseas operations, I believe in the importance of learning about the workplace in Korea—the norms, practices, and day-to-day life. These insights allow us to better understand our HQ-assigned Korean co-workers and their expectations. Recognizing “true differences” can dispel stereotyping, prejudices and ethnocentrism.

The Similarities

Adjusting does vary with an individual. Factors can include distance from the home country, scope and responsibilities of the new job, local social support, and duration of assignment. I would also add frequency of visits to new counties or regions is also a strong influencer.

For example during my recent trip to Ireland, I found that adapting to local culture was exceeding fast. Maybe no more than 24 hours. I found a number of similarities such as language, a well-educated middle class, and even a close-by Starbucks.

Recognizing similarities is one of the most powerful cross-cultural bridges. In other words, to what can you relate in routine day-to-day life? This requires identifying  the local beliefs, values, expectations, and traditions of host culture.

That said, as a best practice and to avoid issues I deal with often in Korean business expatriate teams need to defer to local norms -- this includes Tripartite Socialization—the local culture, the host nation’s business culture, and the company’s corporate culture.

Outcomes

Although there is bound to be friction between home and host country cultural values, a successful model accomplishes:

• Awareness and appreciation of both the home and host country with the ability to gain an insight into one’s own personal traits, strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, and interests.

• Realization of similarities and shared values, along with an awareness of and respect for the cultural differences

• The ability to adapt quickly to the new workplace cultures, ideas, and challenges on the job and in the home.

In closing this week I have a request-

How do you see this applying to you and your own experiences as well as working with Korean expatriates?

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Everything Korea October 2 Episode -- Exclusively Korea Business



In Ireland again this week.  Very engaging Korea facing project. 

Love the people, and the country.  With a strong economy, it’s easy to see why Ireland is seen as the Celtic Tiger. (BTW South Korea has also been called an Asian Tiger)

That said, regardless to where I am at the moment in best sharing my work it’s exclusively Korea business focused. 

A big part is supporting Korean global business outside Korea. In particular backing teams and leadership worldwide working with or for the major Korean business Groups—like Hyundai, Kia Motors, the SK Group and others. 

Much of this is immersion. My approach is sharing common issues, workarounds, do’s and don’t, the context behind Korean business practices and above all “solutions.” 

This can range within an organization to mentoring newly hired C-suite executives and leadership who are assuming key roles within a Korean overseas subsidiary, as well as working closely with team members new to these local operations.  Both I find highly rewarding. 

Over time this support moves to mentoring and coaching-- addressing issues as they surface.

In many cases I am also engaged to provide sound project strategies for major initiatives to ensure they align culturally with their Korean teams, leadership and HQ. 

This is critical as many local projects fail to gain the needed support and traction without the proper approach.

One more thing, I have a number of resources in supporting local teams and leadership that I am happy to share.  These include books, articles and cases studies…. Feel free to reach out and we’ll get you copies.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Everything Korea, Chuseok 2017 Culture Alert, Plus

It’s that time of the year with Chuseok, (the Korean Harvest Moon Festival) right around the corner.


In 2017, Chuseok holiday falls on October 4-6.  This year the days before and after are also celebrated as National Holidays.

Koreans previously followed the lunar calendar, but in recent history, they have followed the solar calendar in line with international practice.

While public holidays are based on the solar calendar, there are a few days that are celebrated based on the lunar calendar. These are the two most important traditional holidays, the Korean New Year’s Day (the first day of the first lunar month) and Chuseok mid-autumn festival (fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month).

In mass, (and I mean a substantial part of the population) families travel back to their home villages. Over the holiday they may perform ancestral rituals at the graves of relatives as well as share time with their family over traditional foods.

For your Korean colleagues (in Korea), you can wish them a happy Chuseok by phone, text, or email Thursday September 28 after 4 PM (Friday AM in Korea).  Again, for most Koreans the holiday break will begin Saturday September 30 and depending on their work scheduled may continue through Monday October 9.

For expat Koreans working outside Korea, here and globally, you can wish then
happy Chuseok on the holiday, Wednesday October 4.

If you’d like to try, here's a common greeting.

추석 잘 지 내 새요

Chuseok jal ji nae sae yo..

To conclude, even though many things have been changed by Korea’s rapid industrialization, urbanization, and globalization we find in the celebration of Chuseok that family remains one of the bedrock of Korean society.

Questions?  Feel free to reach out.  Email or Text me at 310-866-3777

Monday, September 18, 2017

Everything Korea, September 18 Episode Global Work Korean Teams




A change is underway.

There is a shift to ever-increasing daily interactions for local western teams directly with Korean HQs via the web and phone conference. This leads to a need for deeper practical Korea facing business insights for “working within the Culture” along with new skill sets.

Why?

For decades, the expatriate, Executive Coordinator / Advisor model, has been effective although it had limitations. That said, Koreans assigned as expatriates do learn local norms and adapt to the market well over time.

This means the Coordinators mold to local operations with little need for the local teams to become skilled in Korea workplace norms.

In contrast today with many in direct contact with Korea-based teams a new level of understanding is needed into the HQ and company norms. In particular, Korea teams, unless having been previously worked outside Korea, are not likely to model after or adapt to their overseas subsidiaries.

So what are the common issues and if any the workarounds?  

Noting there are many, but as one example, perhaps the most common issue we find in day-to-day direct Korean team interactions is requests for local market data and information. This adds considerable workload to local teams---already stretched thin with projects and deadlines.

Often these can also come at end of day for the western team (a new day and morning for the Korea-based team). Compounding the situation is often the local team member is an hourly employee working a shift with no flexibility to stay after their scheduled work hours and able follow up immediately on the request.

A gap in workplace culture occurs when in Korea a request may require them to stay late into the evening and even over-night to fulfill—most seeing this as just part of the job—like it or not.

Workarounds

Frankly, I’ve found it always more a matter of relationship building over a process or tactic in workarounds.  The stronger the ties, the most flexibility in dealing with pressing issues.

In this particular case and dealing with the urgent request, I have found best to clarify exactly when the data or information is actually due.  Not all projects despite the tone of the request are needed ASAP.

Many can wait especially when building upon one’s strong ties and sharing colleague to colleague 1) it will be a top priority, and 2) when they can expect to receive the follow-up answer.  

All said, I find that each situation requires drilling deeper to truly grasp and provide solid resolution….

Question, comments, thoughts…

Stacey, stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet, or chat by phone. For urgent matters, Text me at 310-866-3777

Monday, September 11, 2017

Everything Korea September 11 Episode. A Revisit- Working with Korean Teams

For most of my career I have worked with Korean teams—many based in Korea, many in local overseas operations. I find both exchanges rewarding, but very different and require a varying set of skills. I’d like to offer some best practices.



To begin


We find with Korea facing international operations the primary communication channel between the Korean HQ and local subsidiary is through expatriates—although in some cases this is shifting.

In key positions, Korean expats serve in roles including the CEO who is responsible for managing the local company or region. The CFO and technical support can be expats, too. Most often these Korean expats along with local leadership executive form the core for business operations in the host country.

By the way, the expats below senior management are often referred to as “Executive Coordinators” or “Executive Advisors” in the West.  As a caveat, this model does vary some and in some organization we see a mix of “Coordinators” and Korean assigned as line managers. However, the Korean term for these expatiates is ju jae won.

In the larger overseas subsidiaries, the Korean expats are assigned to the major departments.

In many instances, as I mentioned, the expat Coordinators are not assigned a direct managerial role but still hold considerable oversight over the local operations.

Roles vary with each company, but frequently a Coordinator’s primary role is to be a departmental liaison and communication channel between Korea and the local subsidiary.

That said, for westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, this “oversight” usually translates into the Korean expats requiring sign 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. More so, when their decisions are motivated by what they feel would please the HQ in Korea.

Cognitively, they do recognize local management skills and expertise, but especially if under pressure to perform and meet expectations may defer to engaging in decision-making.

Of course, this can be a challenge.

New ju jae won are skilled and accomplished in Korean style business operations, norms and practices.

However, they are now assigned to an overseas subsidiary where norms, practices, expectations, and laws differ. Adding to this “Managing westerners” is very different than overseeing a Korean team…

Next, I’ll cover several scenarios with best practices for supporting overseas team. All take finesse and collaboration, plus recognize norms and practices differ… as well as require working “within the Culture.”

To again clarify, my perspective is based on years working with Korea and especially in daily mentoring and providing strategy for their overseas operations—Koreans and Westerners.


Scenario One


It’s common for a Korea expatriate, frequently called a Coordinator, to directly request members of the team to gather information or data on the local operation. Usually, Korea has asked for this information and the Coordinator is executing the request. These always have a sense of urgency.

The Challenge is the local departmental head may be circumvented (often unintentionally)…. and requests disrupt operations and designated priorities. More so, the line of management for the department is blurred—i.e. staff confused on “who is in charge.”

The Workaround centers on an effective working relationship between the Coordinator and the department head. An understanding must be reached that when requests from Korea (or from the senior Korean leadership at the subsidiary), it is first brought to the department head… and they handle who will execute.

In particular, the local western manager is more familiar with their team, individual workloads, any special situations and skill sets. In fact, with a clear communication channel the work will be performed with better results by the individuals tasked with the assignment, and less stress on the Coordinator asked to acquire the data.

As a caveat, one burden on a department can be when a high percentage of work and tasks teams are engaged are to support Korea and not the local operations.


Scenario Two


As noted, a Coordinator’s role is to support the local operation. Local teams and specialists are hired with a high degree of knowledge and experience. A clash occurs when decisions best left to those in the know are deflected.

The Challenge occurs when Coordinators override a decision or unilaterally make the call. This can range from the hiring of new employees to pushing off a much-needed program.

Again, the Workaround is a clear Company-wide defined role for the Coordinator. They are advisors who can provide much-needed input and an HQ / mother company perspective… but not assume line manager responsibilities.

In other words, clarity must be established in regard to as long as they are acting on behalf of the mother company considerable weight must be given to their input. That said, even when they have the company’s best interest in mind, their own personal views must be gauged and moderated.

Scenario Three


Perhaps the most challenging situation is moving Coordinators to make a decision.

The Challenge In most Korean companies leadership decide on direction and major issues. In turn, the working team's role is to implement or gather needed information. This role/ skillset changes when working level Koreans are assigned as an overseas Coordinator.

Workaround When conducting a meeting where a decision must be made recognize that your Coordinator will have considerable say in the outcome. First, since the topic and subject matter may be new to your Coordinator, I recommend you share prior to the meeting any needed background documents (best provided in PPT format).

In addition, have an informal pre-meeting Q&A with the Coordinator to brief and update them on any specifics. Note: they may need a day to review proposals and agreements, so timing is critical.

Even in the best cases, expect that the Coordinator may want to postpone any decision until they can carefully review and perhaps confer with Korea. I suggest all documents and meeting PPTs be immediately forwarded to the Coordinator.

I'd create a sense of urgency with a timeline for execution and implementation. Regardless, expect some delays and be patient.

Over the years, I've found that Coordinators appreciate when their overseas co-workers recognize that the internal approval process takes time and be ready to offer, as needed, additional supportive data or documents.

BTW, if you are a vendor and your firm provides services to a Korea-based partner, it’s best to provide both the western and Korean teams with background information prior to any meetings. Moreover, be prepared to share the meeting's content in digital format afterward with the Korean team, too.

With the shift to ever-increasing daily interactions with Korean HQs via web and phone conferences, western teams need even deeper practical insights into working within the Culture along with new skill sets.

In particular, the Executive Coordinator/ Advisor model has had its limitations...but the Koreans assigned as expatriates do learn local norms and adapt over time. This means the Coordinators mold to local operations with a little need for many of the local teams to become skilled in Korea workplace norms.

In contrast, working with teams based in Korea takes a different approach.
Korea-based teams follow deeply embedded HQ and company norms. They are not likely to model or adapt to their overseas subsidiaries.

This now means 1) becoming acquainted with Korea norms, understanding the Korean workplace “in’s and out’s” and “do’s and don’t.” And, 2) developing strong skills in managing the relationship with effective cross-communication taking on a new heightened significance.

Over the past years, I’ve shared solutions in my books, articles and case studies… that said, I find that each situation requires one having to drill deeper to truly grasp and then provide a solid resolution.

Thoughts?

As always, Stacey stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet or chat by phone.

For all urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777

For more information on my work…. www.learnmore.Koreabcw.com

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Everything Korea; September 5 Episode, Korean Business Relationships Amid Acceleration

Amid disruptive market conditions perhaps the greatest ripple effect challenge to Korean global business is how best to maintain positive and collaborative working relations between Western and Korean teams. 

From a cross-cultural perspective Korean commerce is dependent upon relationships and interpersonal interactions. Western business, in contrast, leans toward process and procedure. Therefore when Korea-facing working relations are strained culturally, there is a heightened impact throughout the entire organization. 

Without discounting market conditions and intense pressure to meet aggressive sales goals, I see impact of adapting to a rapidly changing and disruptive business landscape at the core of many strained relationships. 

As author Thomas L. Friedman points out in Thank You for Being Late:  "As we transition from an industrial-age economy to a computer-Internet-mobile-broadband-driven economy—that is, a supernova-driven economy—we are experiencing the growing pains of adjusting."

Drilling deeper, I have found this acceleration has markets and industry sectors ever shifting. For example, the automotive industry is witnessing and adjusting to new consumer preferences, such as collaborative consumption shared ride services of which Uber, Lyft and Maven are examples, self-driving autonomous technology and eco-friendly vehicles.       That said, we as a society are also experiencing the need to adapt more frequently and at a more rapid pace than ever in the past. 

The good news is we are perhaps adapting faster than anytime in history. Still there is a substantial gap in the high rate of change and speed we adapt. This gap is disorienting and business models that worked in the past have become outdated further adding to stress and frustration. 

In my work, this leads to a Korea driven climate of reactive and hopeful second-guess decision-making, or, in some cases, the opposite in stalled action. In both situations, I feel we need to embrace a middle course— a well thought out and responsive plan. 

Again Thomas Freidman, too, recognizes this need to ponder.  He notes, and I paraphrase:

Patience… space for reflection and thought. We are generating more information and knowledge than ever today, but knowledge is only good if you can reflect on it.

In closing I return to my original point of the vital importance of maintaining relationships amid the current market condition.  No matter how challenging the situation we need to take time and work to forge strong collaborative bonds within teams Friedman again remarks:

And it is not just knowledge that is improved by pausing. So, too, is the ability to build trust, …to form deeper and better connections, not just fast ones, with other human beings, 

“Our ability to forge deep relationships—to love, to care, to hope, to trust, and to build voluntary communities based on shared values—is one of the most uniquely human capacities we have.”