Happy Memorial Day…. some thoughts for a holiday read.
Contracts, legal agreements, and business plans go hand in hand with global business. I was once told that in Korea the purpose of signing a contract or agreement was essentially to formalize the partnership. Over time terms would be subject to change and re-negotiation.
My Korea facing experience has been that agreements fundamentally solidify the working relationship. However, to maintain any partnership contractual obligations will require on-going changes to reflect business conditions. In contrast, a legal agreement in the West is immutable.
This week, I’d like to elaborate and bring into a broader cultural dimension.
This Culture (with a big C) lesson is Koreans in the workplace and business see and prefer most things as “ gray” ever-changing and subject to revision. What’s set on paper matters, but as just as a Roadmap.
This ties into the “balli-balli” mindset, too.
In fact, Koreans in contrast to the Japanese see this “ flexibility’ as a competitive advantage…. They do craft elaborate and thoughtful business plans, organizational charts, job descriptions, and workflows — often crafted by junior and less experienced teams, but in reality, feel these are subject to change as circumstances shift. In the Korean workplace, the reality is all is ever evolving — shifting and adjusting daily.
In contrast western (US, UK, the Germans, AU) business feels most comfortable when we think through all the potential issues (often based on years of first-hand experience by senior executives) and then set things firmly on paper. In turn, any changes to for example, to a business plan, are subject to considerable scrutiny and critical thinking before altering.
As an option and best practice to working with both Cultures, first and foremost building the relationship and communications matters most. Misunderstandings will surface, but when both teams better understand each other’s mindset, we can move to collaboration and compromise.
In mentoring, I strive to build this understanding, pulling apart the issues to their cultural core, and sharing how to best build bridges and close gaps — something which is more art than science ☺ and not without its challenges.