Monday, September 04, 2006

A Commentary on Globalization

Labor Day Update: A Commentary on Globalization

Its September 2006 and Labor Day weekend, so an update is timely. I see Globalization as a key and far-reaching issue. One example of Globalization’s reach is the impact of a strong Won and weak Dollar on budgets for U.S. affiliates of Korean-based firms.

I would like to provide insights into some recent trends.

But firstÂ…
In Bridging CultureÂ’s December 31, 2005 New Year’s commentary, I noted trends for the upcoming year. At the time I wrote the year-end commentary I was reading Thomas L. Friedmans The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. The author notes that we have become 24/7/365--the process driven by mobile phones, Blackberry, Instant Messaging,…and Goggle. One of my goals for 2006 was to further embrace not only new technology but also the mindset whereby I worked in a 24/7/365 global business market.

ItÂ’s Fall 2006, and my world has become 24/7/365. This has been helped along by new global clients with whom I interact daily, (and nightly). With new challenges, come new opportunities and the insights they provide. IÂ’ve learned to look forward to 7 PM Internet video meetings with Korea and 5 AM phone calls from the East Coast. In September, BC will begin training teams in Europe at 1 AM PST.

Labor Day Insight #1 Seek to embrace a 24/7/365 global mindset. Encourage your teams to think beyond their temporal and spatial borders.

An Anglo-American View
As for Globalization, my views have broadened. Much of this centers around how to best explain Korean business norms and practices to Europeans and other global non-Korean teams. This is a challenge since my focus had been on Korean-American business interactions...itself, no small endeavor. Interestingly, despite cultural differences, Americans and Koreans share many norms, especially strong work ethics and relentless drive. When one compares Korean business norms to Western European norms, with their short workweeks and long summer vacations vast differences surface. Exploring cross-cultural differences between multiple cultures has confirmed that Globalization required detailed study and an open-mind. This includes probing for not only regional norms and customs, but also a specific countrys workplace practices. Workplace norms, for example, in Slovakia are very different than Asian or North American.

More significant has been the realization that Globalization does not mean Americanization (or Koreanization) of markets and culture. Earlier this year I suggested clients read Thomas Freidman’s The World is Flat. In the work, Freidman provides an upbeat view of global market trends.

I am currently reading a more detailed study of Globalization by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz titled, Making Globalization Work. Stiglitz's work is not as positive —except his analysis of East Asia--China, Korea and Japan. (BTW His explanation of the 1997 IMF fiscal crisis that rocked Korea is fascinating).

With regard to globalization, Professor Stiglitz argues against forcing a “one-size fits all” economic policy and culture on markets. He points out that in addition to the Anglo-American model there are many successful forms of global market models (i.e. Nordic, Japanese, and the European social models).

This is significant because Americans and Koreans tend to feel business must be conducted their way regardless of the market. One lesson I am learning is that a variety of localizations must occur in each respective global workplace.

Labor Day Insight #2 Seek to appreciate successful alternatives to Anglo-American business practices and economic models. Be flexible.

The Challenge
One often hears that for successful worldwide business, a company should“ Think Globally, but Act Locally. This means a company should have a global mindset, but localize their operations to specific markets and cultures. This localization as I’ve noted is more difficult than it sounds.

The challenge is to separate operating practices and business strategies, which can vary globally from market-to-market, from a company’s core values and procedures. For example, business norms for teams in Latin America or Eastern Europe may differ than those in South Korea or the United States, but the core principles of the company are universal. The Company Way (GE Way, LG Way, Hyundai-Kia Way, HP Way) needs to span all cultural borders. Company core values and practices serve to align and link the global organization. Interestingly, some of my recent work is to define Korean Company Cultures and convey these values and expectations to global teams. ItÂ’s fascinating work.

Labor Day Insight #3 Look to align and link Core Company Values throughout global organizations. Define those business practices and strategies that need to be modified to fit the local market.

To conclude
As I offered earlier this year, two strategies will prove valuable for American and global affiliates of Korean-based firms. First, more than ever, I see education as the solution to cross cultural management issues and challenges. BC’s new Global Web-based Training was developed to assist in offering this training 24/7, regardless of a teams location or time zone.

Second, to better embrace globalization, look to define a Corporate Culture that builds on and aligns both the Korean mother company and global affiliates’ strengths. BC is dedicated to supporting your efforts to build a strong and vibrant organization.

I look forward to working with you and your team. Feel free to call or email your thoughts and needs. (Remember, I work 24/7/365.)

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