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.”


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Everything Korea August 28 Episode The Korean Business Toolbox 2017

I’d like to share a new Korean business Toolbox that provides solutions to a recurring and deep concern by western management of South Korea-based companies.


I find this issue surfacing often and so draw upon what I have found to work best to overcome and move forward.


In crafting the Toolbox over the past month and sharing sections as drafts, it’s received considerable feedback and positive reviews. These are always much appreciated.

As always we look for your comments and thoughts, too. So please share.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Everything Korea August 21 Episode Mending Korean Business Partnerships

Korean Business with Don Southerton

As shared in my book Korea Perspective there is an interconnectedness in the Korea workplace. In particular, complex relationships abound.


This is true whether operations are in South Korea, Germany, Brazil, India or the Americas. Directives and requests originating in Korea headquarters radiate to global operations. In turn, inputs from local working teams, Korean and western, make their way back to Korea impacting decisions by leadership. Relationships also play a strong part in this process.

What may appear one sided and perhaps top down may actually be the result of months of study, benchmarking and research, as well as internal discussions and Korean peer input. For reasons unclear to local overseas teams, projects can stall, while others re-boot.

Amid the disruptive business conditions, how overseas teams, Korean and Western, work together matters.

We all recognizing that within divergent cultures and mindsets it requires both sides to bend, compromise and adapt, as both are in actuality all are parts of a greater whole. That said, at times tensions culminate in relationships between Korean and western team souring.

The good news even in this era of disruptive business the most strained relationships can be repaired. In fact, a negative relationship turned positive can be a very strong one. Here are some key takeaways as noted in a Harvard Business Review article: “Fixing a Work Relationship Gone Sour.”


  • Give up on who’s wrong or right
  • Look forward, not back. Take a solution-focused approach.
  • Understand from other person’s perspective. “How do they see things?” “What are their contextual factors that need to be considered?”
  • Instead of debating what went wrong and who is at fault, try to create a space where you’re aligned. It can be helpful to focus on the bigger picture — the common, shared goal. 
  • Don’t assume that things will change immediately ­— repairing relationships can take time.


BTW, communications styles do vary.

Here are two “process” perspectives, Korean and American.


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…. learnmore.Koreabcw.com

Monday, August 14, 2017

Everything Korea August 14 Episode, Korean Business—Tempering Intervention


In this final segment in the series on Korean business intervention, as promised, I will provide some proven workarounds—in particular, tempering Korean teams’ pressing for immediate results.  


1. Foremost, to soften the Koreans’ inclination to jump into implementing a plan with hopes of producing immediate results, look to minimize the anxiety for both the local Korean team and the headquarters team.  Show confidence that the challenge can be overcome (I can coach you on specifics).

2. Acknowledge your high engagement and insure the teams that action will be promptly taken.

3. A next step upon receiving a directive from Korea is to have an informal discussion with local Korean teams to brief them on possible action steps that enable the team to work through what needs to be explored more deeply.

4. Follow up with email correspondence confirming what was discussed verbally.  

5. Allow a day or two for the Korean team to review. In many cases the Korean teams are not familiar with local practices and the vocabulary used to describe Western technical nuances.

The local teams may also want to report back to Korea on progress.

HQ leadership are ultimately responsible, so the better informed they are, the more trust they will have in local teams—Korean and Western—that the project will progress.

6. Remember you may not receive any immediate feedback.

7. Conducting informal daily updates to the Korea teams and sharing the steps undertaken with the local Koreans can also be helpful.

8. Even better is reporting any positive accomplishments in your review process.

9. It is particularly important to address the potential trade-offs and risks as action steps leading to solutions and ensuring the team that this step will not impede the project and may, in fact, avoid costly setbacks.

10. Finally, having said all this, maintain trust through strong relationships between the Korean and Western local organizations is essential.

In the next commentary on Korean business, I will discuss turn-around steps when the relationship between Korean and western get rocky…

One more thing….

I’d be happy to discuss and share my suggestion for a Korean business workaround…

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


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Everything Korea, August 7 Episode, Consequences in Korean Business

Korean Business with Don Southerton

In my last commentary, I noted the huge challenges surfacing because of the current disruptive Korean business climate.


In particular, I shared the “why” behind Korean expatriates intervening in the local decision process. In some cases, these decisions are one-sided, lack collaborative and mutual engagement and have consequences.

In turn, western team see themselves consulted only to validate preconceived ideas or to implement directives from Korea.

Drilling Deeper

This has lead to local management seeing their input and expertise being marginalized-- more so with complex situations and long-term planning “drilling deeper” may uncover ramifications.

More specifically, Korean teams under pressure are driven to take immediate action. This can result in little joint discourse related to potential trade-offs and risks in projects assigned to the local subsidiary.

Particularly with a narrow and reactive workplace approach, one can draw an analogy to jigsaw puzzle building.

The pieces to a puzzle have many unique sides. There may be different ways to place them into the puzzle. What is required is to look diligently at all possible options.

Like all challenges, one needs to explore the different possibilities to find the right solution and how the piece fits into the overall puzzle—essentially one needs a reflective mindset.

As a Korean colleague once pointed out, their society beginning with grade school does not promote reflective thinking and instead looks to promote a thought process that leads to more immediate results. In fact, Korean high school students spend more than 14 hours a day studying, memorizing and preparing for exams—a model that stifles creativity. 

I also see a cross-cultural aspect with many Korean decisions the result of a team workplace’s collective thought process, and in contrast, reflective thinking stems from an individual’s core consciousness.

Bottom line - reflective thinking requires taking acquiring knowledge and then calling upon one's own experience, utilizing evaluative skills and admitting personal bias.

The result is a broader perspective and a better view of the bigger picture.

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—required in times of high stress.

All noted, in my next commentary I will provide some workarounds to soften the Korean reactive inclination to jump into implementing and producing immediate results—something we find dominating the current Korean business climate.

More on Korean business at learnmore.koreabcw.com