Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Everything Korea, Episode March 14, The Workarounds

Addressing issues from a cultural perspective, in most cases the only workarounds that we have and I can suggest are centered on education for Western teams working with Korean teams.

Western co-workers need educated in and be sensitive to the Korean communications style. With less an emphasis on formal channels, in the Korean workplace considerable information is shared informally throughout the often-extended workday.

Foremost, the Korean workplace is ever changing, priorities shift day to day and even throughout the day.  For example, a directive might be altered after being requested—or the mission better defined or clarified.

Since change is frequent, many Korean expatriates working in local operations will refrain from sharing developing issues early on. To Americans for example it may appear they have been sitting on information that could have been shared much earlier—while in actuality instead of false starts, Korean expats want to make sure before engaging the local team.

An added dimension can also be Korea’s balli balli, which was topic of one of the past commentaries, and worth mentioning once again. It translates as hurry-hurry.  Actually, balli means hurry, but the word is always used in tandem adding to the need to move fast. It's a defacto core value— with everything from immediately responding to requests for data to launching major projects.  More to the point, it means things need to get done today and now, not tomorrow.  I see balli balli also perpetuating a culture of waiting to the last minute.

Even in the best cases, expect that Korean teams may want to postpone any local decision until they can carefully review and perhaps confer with Korea.

To improve communications, I suggest all relevant information be forwarded to the Korean teams. I'd create a sense of urgency with a “suggested” timeline for execution and implementation. Regardless, plan on some delays, be patient and know that once a go-ahead is given the expectation is the task is executed immediately… if not sooner ☺

Over the years, I've found that Korean teams appreciate when their overseas co-workers recognize their internal processes and why they postpone taking action to the very last minute…. I’d also be ready to offer as needed supportive data or documents as the situations unfold.

For questions, Stacey, my personal assistant at stacey@koreabcw.com can coordinate a time for us to chat by phone or handle by email.

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