Tag Archive for Korea consulting franchise

Everything Korea: What’s Different? What’s Similar?

Korean Business with Don Southerton

By its very nature Korean facing business is the interaction of worldwide teams.  This necessitates colleagues of different cultures working together on a daily basis.  How we see others culturally is often in the differences and similarities.

The Differences

Particularly for western teams in Korean overseas operations, I believe in the importance of learning about the workplace in Korea—the norms, practices, and day-to-day life. These insights allow us to better understand our HQ-assigned Korean co-workers and their expectations. Recognizing “true differences” can dispel stereotyping, prejudices and ethnocentrism.

The Similarities

Adjusting does vary with an individual. Factors can include distance from the home country, scope and responsibilities of the new job, local social support, and duration of assignment. I would also add frequency of visits to new counties or regions is also a strong influencer.

For example during my recent trip to Ireland, I found that adapting to local culture was exceeding fast. Maybe no more than 24 hours. I found a number of similarities such as language, a well-educated middle class, and even a close-by Starbucks.

Recognizing similarities is one of the most powerful cross-cultural bridges. In other words, to what can you relate in routine day-to-day life? This requires identifying  the local beliefs, values, expectations, and traditions of host culture.

That said, as a best practice and to avoid issues I deal with often in Korean business expatriate teams need to defer to local norms — this includes Tripartite Socialization—the local culture, the host nation’s business culture, and the company’s corporate culture.

Outcomes

Although there is bound to be friction between home and host country cultural values, a successful model accomplishes:

• Awareness and appreciation of both the home and host country with the ability to gain an insight into one’s own personal traits, strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, and interests.

• Realization of similarities and shared values, along with an awareness of and respect for the cultural differences

• The ability to adapt quickly to the new workplace cultures, ideas, and challenges on the job and in the home.

In closing this week I have a request-

How do you see this applying to you and your own experiences as well as working with Korean expatriates? 

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

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Everything Korea October 2 Episode — Exclusively Korea Business

Korean Business with Don Southerton 

In Ireland again this week. Very engaging Korea facing project.  Love the people, and the country. With a strong economy, it’s easy to see why Ireland is seen as the Celtic Tiger. (BTW South Korea has also been called an Asian Tiger)
That said, regardless to where I am at the moment in best sharing my work it’s exclusively Korea business focused.

A big part is supporting Korean global business outside Korea. In particular backing teams and leadership worldwide working with or for the major Korean business Groups—like Hyundai, Kia Motors, the SK Group and others.

Much of this is immersion. My approach is sharing common issues, workarounds, do’s and don’t, the context behind Korean business practices and above all “solutions.”

This can range within an organization to mentoring newly hired C-suite executives and leadership who are assuming key roles within a Korean overseas subsidiary, as well as working closely with team members new to these local operations.  Both I find highly rewarding.

Over time this support moves to mentoring and coaching– addressing issues as they surface.

In many cases I am also engaged to provide sound project strategies for major initiatives to ensure they align culturally with their Korean teams, leadership and HQ.

This is critical as many local projects fail to gain the needed support and traction without the proper approach.

One more thing, I have a number of resources in supporting local teams and leadership that I am happy to share. These include books, articles and cases studies…. Feel free to reach out and we’ll get you copies.

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Everything Korea, Chuseok 2017 Culture Alert, Plus

Korean Business with Don Southerton

It’s that time of the year with Chuseok, (the Korean Harvest Moon Festival) right around the corner.

In 2017, Chuseok holiday falls on October 4-6.  This year the days before and after are also celebrated as National Holidays.

Koreans previously followed the lunar calendar, but in recent history, they have followed the solar calendar in line with international practice.

While public holidays are based on the solar calendar, there are a few days that are celebrated based on the lunar calendar. These are the two most important traditional holidays, the Korean New Year’s Day (the first day of the first lunar month) and Chuseok mid-autumn festival (fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month).

In mass, (and I mean a substantial part of the population) families travel back to their home villages. Over the holiday they may perform ancestral rituals at the graves of relatives as well as share time with their family over traditional foods.

For your Korean colleagues (in Korea), you can wish them a happy Chuseok by phone, text, or email Thursday September 28 after 4 PM (Friday AM in Korea).  Again, for most Koreans the holiday break will begin Saturday September 30 and depending on their work scheduled may continue through Monday October 9.

For expat Koreans working outside Korea, here and globally, you can wish then happy Chuseok on the holiday, Wednesday October 4.

If you’d like to try, here’s a common greeting.

추석 잘 지 내 새요

Chuseok jal ji nae sae yo..

To conclude, even though many things have been changed by Korea’s rapid industrialization, urbanization, and globalization we find in the celebration of Chuseok that family remains one of the bedrock of Korean society.

Questions?  Feel free to reach out.  Email or Text me at 310-866-3777

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Everything Korea, September 18 Episode Global Work Korean Teams

 

Korean Business with Don Southerton

A change is underway.

There is a shift to ever-increasing daily interactions for local western teams directly with Korean HQs via the web and phone conference. This leads to a need for deeper practical Korea facing business insights for “working within the Culture” along with new skill sets.

Why?

For decades, the expatriate, Executive Coordinator / Advisor model, has been effective although it had limitations. That said, Koreans assigned as expatriates do learn local norms and adapt to the market well over time.

This means the Coordinators mold to local operations with little need for the local teams to become skilled in Korea workplace norms.

In contrast today with many in direct contact with Korea-based teams a new level of understanding is needed into the HQ and company norms. In particular, Korea teams, unless having been previously worked outside Korea, are not likely to model after or adapt to their overseas subsidiaries.

So what are the common issues and if any the workarounds?

Noting there are many, but as one example, perhaps the most common issue we find in day-to-day direct Korean team interactions is requests for local market data and information. This adds considerable workload to local teams—already stretched thin with projects and deadlines.

Often these can also come at end of day for the western team (a new day and morning for the Korea-based team). Compounding the situation is often the local team member is an hourly employee working a shift with no flexibility to stay after their scheduled work hours and able follow up immediately on the request.

A gap in workplace culture occurs when in Korea a request may require them to stay late into the evening and even over-night to fulfill—most seeing this as just part of the job—like it or not.

Workarounds

Frankly, I’ve found it always more a matter of relationship building over a process or tactic in workarounds.  The stronger the ties, the most flexibility in dealing with pressing issues.

In this particular case and dealing with the urgent request, I have found best to clarify exactly when the data or information is actually due.  Not all projects despite the tone of the request are needed ASAP.

Many can wait especially when building upon one’s strong ties and sharing colleague to colleague 1) it will be a top priority, and 2) when they can expect to receive the follow-up answer.

All said, I find that each situation requires drilling deeper to truly grasp and provide solid resolution….

Question, comments, thoughts…

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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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

 

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Everything Korea August 21 Episode Mending Korean Business Partnerships

Korean Business with Don Southerton

As shared in my book Korea Perspective there is an interconnectedness in the Korea workplace. In particular, complex relationships abound.

This is true whether operations are in South Korea, Germany, Brazil, India or the Americas. Directives and requests originating in Korea headquarters radiate to global operations. In turn, inputs from local working teams, Korean and western, make their way back to Korea impacting decisions by leadership. Relationships also play a strong part in this process.

What may appear one sided and perhaps top down may actually be the result of months of study, benchmarking and research, as well as internal discussions and Korean peer input. For reasons unclear to local overseas teams, projects can stall, while others re-boot.
Amid the disruptive business conditions, how overseas teams, Korean and Western, work together matters.
We all recognizing that within divergent cultures and mindsets it requires both sides to bend, compromise and adapt, as both are in actuality all are parts of a greater whole. That said, at times tensions culminate in relationships between Korean and western team souring.

The good news even in this era of disruptive business the most strained relationships can be repaired. In fact, a negative relationship turned positive can be a very strong one. Here are some key takeaways as noted in a Harvard Business Review article:

“Fixing a Work Relationship Gone Sour.”

  • Give up on who’s wrong or right
  • Look forward, not back. Take a solution-focused approach.
  • Understand from other person’s perspective. “How do they see things?” “What are their contextual factors that need to be considered?”
  • Instead of debating what went wrong and who is at fault, try to create a space where you’re aligned. It can be helpful to focus on the bigger picture — the common, shared goal.
  • Don’t assume that things will change immediately ­— repairing relationships can take time.

BTW, communications styles do vary.

Here are two “process” perspectives, Korean and American.

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…. learnmore.Koreabcw.com

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Everything Korea August 14 Episode, Korean Business—Tempering Korean Intervention

Korean Business with Don Southerton

In this final segment in the series on Korean business intervention, as promised, I will provide some proven workarounds—in particular, tempering Korean teams’ pressing for immediate results.

1. Foremost, to soften the Koreans’ inclination to jump into implementing a plan with hopes of producing immediate results, look to minimize the anxiety for both the local Korean team and the headquarters team.  Show confidence that the challenge can be overcome (I can coach you on specifics).

2. Acknowledge your high engagement and insure the teams that action will be promptly taken.

3. A next step upon receiving a directive from Korea is to have an informal discussion with local Korean teams to brief them on possible action steps that enable the team to work through what needs to be explored more deeply.

4. Follow up with email correspondence confirming what was discussed verbally.

5. Allow a day or two for the Korean team to review. In many cases the Korean teams are not familiar with local practices and the vocabulary used to describe Western technical nuances.

The local teams may also want to report back to Korea on progress.
HQ leadership are ultimately responsible, so the better informed they are, the more trust they will have in local teams—Korean and Western—that the project will progress.

6. Remember you may not receive any immediate feedback.

7. Conducting informal daily updates to the Korea teams and sharing the steps undertaken with the local Koreans can also be helpful.

8. Even better is reporting any positive accomplishments in your review process.

9. It is particularly important to address the potential trade-offs and risks as action steps leading to solutions and ensuring the team that this step will not impede the project and may, in fact, avoid costly setbacks.

10. Finally, having said all this, maintain trust through strong relationships between the Korean and Western local organizations is essential.

In the next commentary on Korean business, I will discuss turn-around steps when the relationship between Korean and western get rocky…

One more thing….
I’d be happy to discuss and share my suggestion for a Korean business workaround…

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

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Everything Korea: South Korea, Land of Change

Starbucks Korea Reserve

I was sharing with a firm investing heavily in South Korea the considerable opportunity but one that comes with some challenges. Top on my list, I feel it’s a land of change. More than most foreign companies operating or looking to launch in Korea realize.

This translates in deals and agreements more as frameworks, a roadmap and subject to change. It’s rare to see a long- term strategy… 2020 now a common target for planning purposes.

So what am I getting at?

Regardless of where a foreign company today sees their project in 3-5 years… it will need to evolve. The team on the ground needs to focus 100% on the construction deadlines and milestones—but senior overseas leadership need to develop contingencies…

For example,

in one for my project where I served as an advisor, Incheon’s Songdo International District it evolved over the years…. the current model differs lots from the early 2000s original plan and even at midway point 2007.

1000 plus strong Starbucks Korea, too, is evolving more in Korea than even the US… Now with 60 plus “coffee forward” Reserve café, and more are opening monthly—the brand adapting to the Korean upmarket demand for premium goods and services.

So when looking at 2020 and beyond… as my work takes me…

I consider:

What will be seen as new and different in 5 years?

What other projects, product and services in the works or being considered might better target Korea in 5 years?

Finally, as caveat is with regard to local partners… What are the plans if the local partner shifts and alters their focus?

Many do and have exited projects as their goals change. This is common and not an exception.

Again, all said, advising on best practices, workarounds and a sound plan is where I provide a framework, context and strategy.

As always, we open to discussing your needs and concerns.

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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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.

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Everything Korea March 27 Episode Chaebol Restructuring and Reform 2017

Reform in South Korean reaches back to the Asian Financial (IMF) Crisis of 1997.

A bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) shut down insolvent banks and pushed debt-ridden industrial companies into receiverships. The remaining Groups still standing had little choice but to follow government mandates including restructuring and greater transparency.

In some ways little has changed 20 years later… regulators continue to pressure the leading Korean groups to take on a more transparent corporate governance structure– now in the form of a Holding Company model.

So, what is a holding company?

A holding company is a legal entity that owns other companies’ stock. Holding companies typically do not run these businesses, but they do wield control over their affiliates or subsidiaries. In turn, a holding entity collects fees from operating units for the use of the corporate brand, which is considered an asset.

The Korean government has gone back and forth between tightening and loosening regulations on chaebols over the years, and the trend now is toward tightening.

More so, following the Impeachment and graft scandal involving Former President Park Geun-hye, which pulled in Samsung, Lotte and SK, politicians are calling for even greater reform.

Complicated Steps

In most cases, the Model is for a Group to split itself, often the flagship company, into an ownership company and an operating company as part of a complicated set of steps.

This said, South Korean laws mandate a holding company must own at least 30 percent of its publicly traded affiliates. This poses the challenge.

For example, the Samsung Group were to move towards a holding company model with flagship Samsung Electronics as the entity, it would require the flagship to buy additional shares in some of its affiliate companies at a cost of millions.

All said, Korea’s conglomerates are increasingly being reined in with new laws and taxes that seek to hold family members accountable and to increase the transparency of their organizations.

More significant perhaps is a disruptive public mood and presidential contenders who “pledge to shake up corporate governance as they lay out reform agendas.”

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