Lesson 1 Timing is Everything
Getting an approval itself can be a challenge, time consuming, and should take into account such subtleties as the general business mood in South Korean even though the project is outside Korea.
At times, teams can wait days for an approval. This can be because senior Korean management is out of the office and traveling. But, it can also be that Korean teams try to be sensitive to their boss' mood, well-being, and workload, along with an awareness of pressing issues impacting the company and their division.
In other words, if senior management is dealing with a major challenge, or looks stressed, team leaders may delay requesting a meeting that day. In contrast, if their senior management looks to be in a good mood, timing might be better to get an approval. Again timing is everything and good timing--being sensitive--is the sign of a savvy team leader.
In once instance when I was in Korea I witnessed teams (there was a line with one senior bujang from the US ) waiting all day to meet with an overseas business Vice President to get approvals for a wide range of projects. One specifically involving a merger of services in the world's largest and most competitive car market. The delay: the VP was on the phone with his back turned to the door making arrangements for his daughter's wedding...a personal matter, but one which the teams and subordinates would not infringe.
In another situation, a Korean CEO confidentially confided to me that he was preparing to resign. I asked when. The CEO responded he was waiting to first personally inform the Group Chairman of the resignation. That said, the CEO explained that out of respect and not wanting to unduly stress his Chairman he wanted to wait to after a high profile media event launching the brand's new flagship model.
In this interim, the CEO was not making any new decisions for his division with many things on hold until a successor was appointed.
In a word, be patient when waiting for an approval. Recognize that to be effective Korean teams often need to wait and time their meetings with seniors for an approval. Be sensitive and do not unduly press Korean teams. If the issue is time sensitive, (which many usually are), communicate this, and seek clarity on the status. In many cases, pro-actively sharing with your clients, suppliers, and service providers the Korea facing approval process can greatly reduces stress on your side.
In the next Post, I will share more on ‘Approvals’ and ‘Final Approvals.’