Songdo: Korea’s Smart City

Fair article on Songdo International Business District.   All projects comes with some challenges… that said, Songdo tops my list for aspiring to be the City of the Future.

Songdo South Korea

Skyline

City of the Future

Check it out….

DS

A Korean Business “Working Within the Culture” FAQ

Korean business

Korean Business and Why do Americans/ westerners need Korean cultural training?

For westerners this may be the first time working with Korean business and a Korea team. This opportunity brings with it the need to better understand their new partner’s culture, workplace norms and expectations.

In most cases, the western team will be interacting with a Korean expatriate team. Some of the expatriates will hold a line managerial position with day-to-day responsibilities alongside western managers, while others will hold key management C-level positions, such as CEO, COO, or CFO. In many, if not most, cases these expats may operate as a “shadow management” with considerable oversight of local operations.

With the best of intentions, the expats will look to build strong collaboration and teamwork and advocate less a sense of us and them. However, they do bring with them Korean work norms that can conflict with western work-life balance and western ways of working.

More so, Korean teams may make seemingly one-sided decisions with the best interest of the company in mind but without consulting local teams causing mistrust.

A solid training program followed by on-going support can address differences, such as sharing work styles, hierarchy, and comfort levels, plus providing work-arounds.

 What are some typical issues that arise, especially without training?

As with all individuals, no two of us are alike –and the same goes for westerners and Koreans… Each has his or her unique strengths, skills, experiences and personalities.

That said, expecting local teams to simply “get it” without support and training seldom works. Even if a better understanding of the work culture eventually occurs over time, this “learn as you go” approach we see as costly, contributes to stress, poor productivity and even employee turnover.

 What have Koreans told you about Americans? Work habits, commitment, etc.

If you ask Korean expats how they perceive Americans and westerners in general, responses would be very positive and respectful, especially toward western work ethics and work habits. Koreans see great value in American and western teams providing them with new insights and perspectives, as well as best practice

What might be covered in such training?

I see the training as two fold — 1) providing teams with an understanding of the Korean partner’s history, heritage, trends and popular culture and 2) looking at the Korean workplace and its norms, practices, and expectations.

Above all I feel a best practice is to share similarities and shared values when possible, along with instilling an awareness of and respect for cultural differences.

Addressing the team’s questions and concerns is also vital with issues, such as work-life balance, safety and quality processes and procedures and the overall expectations of Korean partners.

 Anything else?

To conclude, the need for Korean business cross-cultural training programs for local employees and management is a high priority.

The assumption that local and expatriate teams can bridge cultural gaps through practical on–the–job experience might work with those few highly intuitive individuals with the exceptional ability to assimilate cultures.

What stands out in numerous studies, however, is the need for ongoing multicultural training, that can successfully impact people, especially those who need to quickly adapt to new or changing business culture and values, while fostering sensitivity and teamwork among all members of the company.

Finally, I would add that I have found a Korean business tiered service model – training, mentoring and on-going strategic support — to be the most effective approach for an organization.

www.bridgingculture.com

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South Korea Market Entry

Korean business

Looking at Korea and market entry ?  Here are some hints.

DS

 

Analysis: South Korea – Four Best Practices for Market Entry

 

 

The De facto Korean Business Norm

A familiar Korean business term is balli balli. It translates as hurray-hurray. Actually, balli means hurray, but it word is always used in tandem adding to the need to move fast. I first recall hearing the word in the 1970s in martial arts class—the Korean instructor at times commanding we move faster in executing a kicking drills.

Don Southerton

To many Korean firms balli balli it’s a de facto business norm— 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.

For westerners, moving fast can often be a concern–conflicting with the Western business model of careful meticulous study and planning before implementation.

In contrast, one complaint voiced with frustration by my Korean colleagues is how slow Westerners move on projects.

In turn, my Western clients shake their head and argue Koreans want to jump into a project or situation with little preparation.…. and balli balli seems to perpetuate a culture of waiting to the last minute.

Now not being judgmental, and yes, I know the challenges in moving fast without exploring all the potential shortcomings… still I’d like to share the Korean perspective….

Observing the Korean model for years, I have come to see where moving faster may be more than meets the eye. In fact, it’s very entrepreneurial trait. When one shortens the time needed to complete a project, the focus is then on identifying the critical tasks that contribute most and with quickly moving on to execution.

In contrast, the longer the deadline, the more time gets spent in analysis and discussions with an ever-lessening focus on the task. The phenomenon is a corollary to Parkinson’s Law (i.e. “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”). In particular, we find end productivity and quality are equal or higher with a shorter deadline due to greater focus.

All said, when working with Korean leadership and teams understanding their perspective is key…. and allows us to, in turn, “ work within the Culture,” and then provide alternatives. The later, something I strive to provide as a mentor and executive consultant.

 

DS

Everything Korea September 11 Episode. A Revisit- Working with Korean Teams

Korean Business with Don Southerton

For most of my career I have worked with Korean teams—many based in Korea, many in local overseas operations. I find both exchanges rewarding, but very different and require a varying set of skills. I’d like to offer some best practices.

To begin

We find with Korea facing international operations the primary communication channel between the Korean HQ and local subsidiary is through expatriates—although in some cases this is shifting.

In key positions, Korean expats serve in roles including the CEO who is responsible for managing the local company or region. The CFO and technical support can be expats, too. Most often these Korean expats along with local leadership executive form the core for business operations in the host country.

By the way, the expats below senior management are often referred to as “Executive Coordinators” or “Executive Advisors” in the West. As a caveat, this model does vary some and in some organization we see a mix of “Coordinators” and Korean assigned as line managers. However, the Korean term for these expatiates is ju jae won.

In the larger overseas subsidiaries, the Korean expats are assigned to the major departments.

In many instances, as I mentioned, the expat Coordinators are not assigned a direct managerial role but still hold considerable oversight over the local operations.

Roles vary with each company, but frequently a Coordinator’s primary role is to be a departmental liaison and communication channel between Korea and the local subsidiary.

That said, for westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, this “oversight” usually translates into the Korean expats requiring sign off on all decisions—trivial to substantial.

This can be a huge challenge when newly assigned expats have little specific background in or knowledge of the host country’s operations and market. More so, when their decisions are motivated by what they feel would please the HQ in Korea.

Cognitively, they do recognize local management skills and expertise, but especially if under pressure to perform and meet expectations may defer to engaging in decision-making.

Of course, this can be a challenge.

New ju jae won are skilled and accomplished in Korean style business operations, norms and practices.

However, they are now assigned to an overseas subsidiary where norms, practices, expectations, and laws differ. Adding to this “Managing westerners” is very different than overseeing a Korean team…

Next, I’ll cover several scenarios with best practices for supporting overseas team. All take finesse and collaboration, plus recognize norms and practices differ… as well as require working “within the Culture.”

To again clarify, my perspective is based on years working with Korea and especially in daily mentoring and providing strategy for their overseas operations—Koreans and Westerners.

Scenario One

It’s common for a Korea expatriate, frequently called a Coordinator, to directly request members of the team to gather information or data on the local operation. Usually, Korea has asked for this information and the Coordinator is executing the request. These always have a sense of urgency.

The Challenge is the local departmental head may be circumvented (often unintentionally)…. and requests disrupt operations and designated priorities. More so, the line of management for the department is blurred—i.e. staff confused on “who is in charge.”

The Workaround centers on an effective working relationship between the Coordinator and the department head. An understanding must be reached that when requests from Korea (or from the senior Korean leadership at the subsidiary), it is first brought to the department head… and they handle who will execute.

In particular, the local western manager is more familiar with their team, individual workloads, any special situations and skill sets. In fact, with a clear communication channel the work will be performed with better results by the individuals tasked with the assignment, and less stress on the Coordinator asked to acquire the data.

As a caveat, one burden on a department can be when a high percentage of work and tasks teams are engaged are to support Korea and not the local operations.

Scenario Two

As noted, a Coordinator’s role is to support the local operation. Local teams and specialists are hired with a high degree of knowledge and experience. A clash occurs when decisions best left to those in the know are deflected.

The Challenge occurs when Coordinators override a decision or unilaterally make the call. This can range from the hiring of new employees to pushing off a much-needed program.

Again, the Workaround is a clear Company-wide defined role for the Coordinator. They are advisors who can provide much-needed input and an HQ / mother company perspective… but not assume line manager responsibilities.

In other words, clarity must be established in regard to as long as they are acting on behalf of the mother company considerable weight must be given to their input. That said, even when they have the company’s best interest in mind, their own personal views must be gauged and moderated.

Scenario Three

Perhaps the most challenging situation is moving Coordinators to make a decision.

The Challenge In most Korean companies leadership decide on direction and major issues. In turn, the working team’s role is to implement or gather needed information. This role/ skillset changes when working level Koreans are assigned as an overseas Coordinator.

Workaround When conducting a meeting where a decision must be made recognize that your Coordinator will have considerable say in the outcome. First, since the topic and subject matter may be new to your Coordinator, I recommend you share prior to the meeting any needed background documents (best provided in PPT format).

In addition, have an informal pre-meeting Q&A with the Coordinator to brief and update them on any specifics. Note: they may need a day to review proposals and agreements, so timing is critical.

Even in the best cases, expect that the Coordinator may want to postpone any decision until they can carefully review and perhaps confer with Korea. I suggest all documents and meeting PPTs be immediately forwarded to the Coordinator.

I’d create a sense of urgency with a timeline for execution and implementation. Regardless, expect some delays and be patient.

Over the years, I’ve found that Coordinators appreciate when their overseas co-workers recognize that the internal approval process takes time and be ready to offer, as needed, additional supportive data or documents.

BTW, if you are a vendor and your firm provides services to a Korea-based partner, it’s best to provide both the western and Korean teams with background information prior to any meetings. Moreover, be prepared to share the meeting’s content in digital format afterward with the Korean team, too.

With the shift to ever-increasing daily interactions with Korean HQs via web and phone conferences, western teams need even deeper practical insights into working within the Culture along with new skill sets.

In particular, the Executive Coordinator/ Advisor model has had its limitations…but the Koreans assigned as expatriates do learn local norms and adapt over time. This means the Coordinators mold to local operations with a little need for many of the local teams to become skilled in Korea workplace norms.

In contrast, working with teams based in Korea takes a different approach.
Korea-based teams follow deeply embedded HQ and company norms. They are not likely to model or adapt to their overseas subsidiaries.

This now means 1) becoming acquainted with Korea norms, understanding the Korean workplace “in’s and out’s” and “do’s and don’t.” And, 2) developing strong skills in managing the relationship with effective cross-communication taking on a new heightened significance.

Over the past years, I’ve shared solutions in my books, articles and case studies… that said, I find that each situation requires one having to drill deeper to truly grasp and then provide a solid resolution.

Thoughts?

As always, Stacey stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet or chat by phone.

For all urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777

For more information on my work…. www.learnmore.Koreabcw.com

 

Everything Korea; September 5 Episode, Korean Business Relationships Amid Acceleration

 

Korean Business with Don Southerton

 

Amid disruptive market conditions perhaps the greatest ripple effect challenge to Korean global business is how best to maintain positive and collaborative working relations between Western and Korean teams.

 

From a cross-cultural perspective Korean commerce is dependent upon relationships and interpersonal interactions. Western business, in contrast, leans toward process and procedure.  Therefore when Korea-facing working relations are strained culturally, there is a heightened impact throughout the entire organization.

Without discounting market conditions and intense pressure to meet aggressive sales goals, I see impact of adapting to a rapidly changing and disruptive business landscape at the core of many strained relationships.

As author Thomas L. Friedman points out in Thank You for Being Late:

“As we transition from an industrial-age economy to a computer-Internet-mobile-broadband-driven economy—that is, a supernova-driven economy—we are experiencing the growing pains of adjusting. ”

Drilling deeper, I have found this acceleration has markets and industry sectors ever shifting. For example, the automotive industry is witnessing and adjusting to new consumer preferences, such as collaborative consumption shared ride services of which Uber, Lyft and Maven are examples, self-driving autonomous technology and eco-friendly vehicles.

That said, we as a society are also experiencing the need to adapt more frequently and at a more rapid pace than ever in the past.  The good news is we are perhaps adapting faster than anytime in history.  Still there is a substantial gap in the high rate of change and speed we adapt. This gap is disorienting and business models that worked in the past have become outdated further adding to stress and frustration.

In my work, this leads to a Korea driven climate of reactive and hopeful second-guess decision-making, or, in some cases, the opposite in stalled action. In both situations, I feel we need to embrace a middle course— a well thought out and responsive plan.

Again Thomas Freidman, too, recognizes this need to ponder.  He notes, and I paraphrase:

Patience… space for reflection and thought. We are generating more information and knowledge than ever today, but knowledge is only good if you can reflect on it.

In closing I return to my original point of the vital importance of maintaining relationships amid the current market condition.  No matter how challenging the situation we need to take time and work to forge strong collaborative bonds within teams Friedman again remarks:

“And it is not just knowledge that is improved by pausing. So, too, is the ability to build trust, …to form deeper and better connections, not just fast ones, with other human beings, our ability to forge deep relationships—to love, to care, to hope, to trust, and to build voluntary communities based on shared values—is one of the most uniquely human capacities we have.”

 

The Korean Business Toolbox 2017

I’d like to share a new Korean business Toolbox that provides solutions to a recurring and deep concern by western management of South Korea-based companies. I find this issue surfacing often and so draw upon what I have found to work best to overcome and move forward.

Here’s the Link. http://www.bridgingculture.com/assets/toolbox-2017_-intervention.pdf

In crafting the Toolbox over the past month and sharing sections as drafts, it’s received considerable feedback and positive reviews. These are always much appreciated.

As always we look for your comments and thoughts, too. So please share.

DS

Korean Global Dining Leader Looks to the Americas

This week, I’d like to share three popular South Korean chef-inspired restaurant concepts that are moved into the second phase of international expansion. Successful launched in South Korea and Asia, Seoul-based SUN AT FOODS now plans to bring their handcrafted artisanal cuisines to the U.S and the Americas.

One of my longtime personal favorites, which I have talked about often, is Mad for Garlic that first opened in 2001. They are known for their garlic-specialized Italian cuisine served in rather unique restaurant settings.

I feel their secrets are Mad for Garlic’s method of removing the garlic’s pungent smell and unique way of cooking Italian cuisine with a Korean twist. In Korea and Asia they have won the hearts of both garlic and non-garlic lovers.

mad for garlic America

Building on the success of Mad for Garlic are two new concepts Modern Nulung and Bistro Seoul.

Inspired by 1930s Shanghai Renaissance era, Modern Nulang is the combination words of ‘Modern’ and ‘Nulang’ –the latter meaning ‘woman’ in Chinese. They have reinterpreted the era’s ‘modern women’ in their dishes, which guests describe as ‘Sophisticated’ and ‘Romantic’ Chinese Cuisine. Best of all, folks love indulging in an exotic Shanghai dining and cultural experience captured so well in Modern Nulang.

Modern Nulang America

A third concept is Bistro Seoul. Here they offer authentic Korean cuisine made with fresh ingredients and seasoning prepared in a traditional but modern interpretation. Savory dishes include Grilled Short Rib Patties, and their ever popular Korean style pancakes that include Kimchi & Seafood pancakes, Crispy Potato pancakes and Minced Shrimp & Seafood pancakes.

Bistro Seoul America

SUN AT FOODS plans are now underway targeting top regional U.S markets as well as meeting with industry leaders and potential regional developers. In fact, I am their market development consultant and we’re eager to meet with potential partners to share the three concepts—each with their unigue appeal.

For more information on the brands, please contact Stacey my assistant at stacey@koreabcw.com, and she can schedule a time to meet or chat by phone.

 

For all urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777

 

#everythingkorea

 

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Everything Korea, April 10, Working with Korea 2017, Part 2

In this Part 2 of my “Working with Korea 2017” series, I cover several scenarios with best practices for supporting overseas team.

All take finesse and collaboration, plus recognize norms and practices differ… as well as require working “within the Culture.” To again clarify, my perspective is based on years working with Korea and especially in daily mentoring and providing strategy for their overseas operations—Koreans and Westerners.

Scenario One

It’s common for a Korea expatriate, frequently called a Coordinator, to directly request members of the team to gather information or data on the local operation. Usually, Korea has asked for this information and the Coordinator is executing the request. These always have a sense of urgency.

The Challenge is the local departmental head may be circumvented (often unintentionally)…. and requests disrupt operations and designated priorities. More so, the line of management for the department is blurred—i.e. staff confused on “who is in charge.”

The Workaround centers on an effective working relationship between the Coordinator and the department head. An understanding must be reached that when requests from Korea (or from the senior Korean leadership at the subsidiary), it is first brought to the department head… and they handle who will execute.

In particular, the local western manager is more familiar with their team, individual workloads, any special situations and skill sets. In fact, with a clear communication channel the work will be performed with better results by the individuals tasked with the assignment, and less stress on the Coordinator asked to acquire the data.

As a caveat, one burden on a department can be when a high percentage of work and tasks teams are engaged are to support Korea and not the local operations. Part 3 in the series will provide some thoughts on shifting workload dedicating to Korea requests to actually running the local operation.

Scenario Two

As noted, a Coordinator’s role is to support the local operation. Local teams and specialists are hired with a high degree of knowledge and experience. A clash occurs when decisions best left to those in the know are deflected.

The Challenge occurs when Coordinators override a decision or unilaterally make the call. This can range from the hiring of new employees to pushing off a much-needed program to the next year.

Again, the Workaround is a clear defined role for the Coordinator. They are advisors who can provide much-needed input and an HQ / mother company perspective… but not assume line manager responsibilities.

In other words, clarity must be established in regard to as long as they are acting on behalf of the mother company considerable weight must be given to their input. That said, even when they have the company’s best interest in mind, their own personal views must be gauged and moderated.

Scenario Three

Perhaps the most challenging situation is moving Coordinators to make a decision.

The Challenge- In most Korean companies leadership decide on direction and major issues. In turn, the working team’s role is to implement or gather needed information. This role/ skillset changes when working level Koreans are assigned as an overseas Coordinator.

The Workaround- When conducting a meeting where a decision must be made recognize that your Coordinator will have considerable say in the outcome. First, since the topic and subject matter may be new to your Coordinator, I recommend you share prior to the meeting any needed background documents (best provided in PPT format).

In addition, have an informal pre-meeting Q&A with the Coordinator to brief and update them on any specifics. Note: they may need a day to review proposals and agreements, so timing is critical.

Even in the best cases, expect that the Coordinator may want to postpone any decision until they can carefully review and perhaps confer with Korea. I suggest all documents and meeting PPTs be immediately forwarded to the Coordinator.

I’d create a sense of urgency with a timeline for execution and implementation. Regardless, expect some delays and be patient.

Over the years, I’ve found that Coordinators appreciate when their overseas co-workers recognize that the internal approval process takes time and be ready to offer, as needed, additional supportive data or documents.

BTW, if you are a vendor and your firm provides services to a Korea-based partner, it’s best to provide both the western and Korean teams with background information prior to any meetings. Moreover, be prepared to share the meeting’s content in digital format afterward with the Korean team, too.

Questions, Comments?

Email me at questions@koreabcw.com Your comments, all kept private and confidential.

Other questions? Stacey, stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet, or chat by phone. For urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777.

Everything Korea, April 3 Episode –Working with Korean Teams, Part 1

For most of my career I have worked with Korean teams—many based in Korea, many in local overseas operations. I find both exchanges rewarding, but very different and require a varying set of skills.

In this Part 1, I offer some insights into the overseas teams assigned to local subsidiaries.
Part 2 will cover my recommendations and best practices for supporting overseas teams, including work-arounds to common issues that surface—for example when department-level expats assigned to “support” local executives begin to assume more direct control over day to day operations.
Part 3 will look at working with Korean teams based in Korea.
To begin

We find with Korea facing international operations the communication channel between the Korean HQ and local subsidiary is through expatriates– although it is shifting some and I’ll cover more in Part 3.

In key positions, Korean expats serve in roles including the CEO who is responsible for managing the local company or region. The CFO and technical support can be expats, too. Most often these Korean expats along with local leadership executive form the core for business operations in the host country.

By the way, the expats below senior management are often referred to as “Executive Coordinators” or “Executive Advisors” in the West. As a caveat, this model does vary some and in some organization we see a mix of “Coordinators” and Korean assigned as line managers. However, the Korean term for these expatiates is ju jae won.

In the larger overseas subsidiaries, the Korean expats are assigned to the major departments.

In many instances, as I mentioned, the expats Coordinators are not assigned a direct managerial role but still hold considerable oversight over the local operations.

Roles vary with each company, but frequently a Coordinator’s primary role is to be a departmental liaison between Korea and the local subsidiary.

That said, for westerners unfamiliar with the Korean model, this “oversight” usually translates into the Korean expats requiring sign off on all decisions—trivial to substantial.

This can be a huge challenge when newly assigned expats have little specific background in or knowledge of the host country’s operations and market.

Cognitively, they recognize local management skills and expertise, but especially if under pressure to perform and meet expectations may defer to engaging in decision-making.

Of course this can be challenge.

New ju jae won are skilled and accomplished in Korean style business operations, norms and practices.

However, they are now assigned to an overseas subsidiary where norms, practices, expectations, and laws differ. Adding to this “Managing westerners” is very different than overseeing a Korean team…

All said, I do have proven recommendations and workarounds, so look for Part 2 in the series.

In the meantime, I’d like to ask if you could share your experiences working with expat teams. Email me @ questions@koreabcw.com Your comments, all kept private and confidential.

Other questions? Stacey, stacey@koreabcw.com, my assistant can schedule us a time to meet, or chat by phone. For urgent matters, text me at 310-866-3777.

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