Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 Looking Forward: BCW Confidential Executive Commentary

For a number of years I have shared my thoughts for the new year in an executive-level commentary. My purpose has been to communicate cultural insights and trends regarding Korean-based global business. This year the message is quite simple—it’s all about the economy.

First, the economy will drive most decisions in the new year. Understanding how Korean management reacts will be important for domestic Korean operations and overseas subsidiary teams. I’d expect some knee-jerk and ripple-effect reactions.

For both overseas and Korea-based firms, I will help non-Korean management stay in tune with the mindset and mood of Korean management and the Korean government. Look for lots of cutbacks in travel and token gestures of savings—as always these gestures will irk many in the ranks. Expect your organization’s Finance teams to exert more control than usual.

Second, I’d expect the heads of Korean conglomerates to inspire their organizations to meet the challenge with passion and determination. For Korean management who weathered the 1997 IMF Crisis, their leaders will ask that they draw upon past experience and press onward. In contrast, for the new generation of Korean workers who have only seen good times, I’d expect lots of concern and worry.

I’d also expect the Chairmen to urge their teams to capitalize on the global downturn and press for new opportunities. That said, Korean firms will ask for government support and aid during this time of fiscal uncertainty. Again, I will monitor the situation closely.

Watch for the New Years announcements from Korea’s Group Chairmen, as they will be important to study this year. I will post and comment on those I see as significant. Link to New Year Messages. Another Link.

Finally, in early 2009, expect Korean management to take an “old school” hard-core approach. They will use the fiscal crisis to do lots of top-down restructuring. I’d expect more consolidations, which will lead to layoffs. This will occur in Korea and across the global organizations.

To conclude, now more than ever, understanding the dynamics of Korea mindset, its economy, and major business groups is vital. It is critical to take into consideration Korea’s past and current trends in the wake of the fiscal crisis. Culture, global influences, cyber-communication, and a 24-hour workday add to this complexity. In this time of uncertainty, BCW is dedicated to providing much needed research, analysis, and critical thinking to provide you with answers and insights 24-7-365.

Happy New Years
Don Southerton

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