Thursday, June 18, 2015

Guide for Project Management Consultants in Dealing with Korean Engineering & Construction Companies (Part 1)

For those project management consultants who have dealt with Korean engineering and construction companies first time, the Korean business practices might seem perplexing. In reality, it is not. You just have to ride with the Korean way and reap its benefits.

As mentioned in the book of Thomas Coyner and for many westerners, Koreans are criticized for having their own logic. In fact, westerners are amazed that in spite of that, Korean firms are stunningly successful. 

Having worked for Korean companies, I can attest to the fact that indeed, Koreans have their own 'logic'. For many, that logic seems not sound nor practical but the underlying principle conforms to that espoused by western management. 

Why is that so?

Indeed, the Korean way of doing business is focused on RESULTS. So with RESULTS what do you expect? There is a good business. 

While it is true that there are a lot of challenges in working with Koreans, many of those can be tackled by prudent approach.

The way I see it, the major hurdle to overcome is communication. This is because many Koreans are challenged to communicate in the English language. 

The most obvious problem is on communication re-contextualization. Sometimes you say something and you mean it this way. But they understand it differently. This can be addressed by asking back how they understand your statement. If they understand your message exactly as you intend it, then you have no problem. Otherwise, you have to tell them clearly what you mean.

Coming from a hierarchical culture which values harmony, Koreans usually express themselves in a mild or subtle way. That is why, don't be surprised if they tell something indirectly. Like my boss in one of his answers to my email he wrote, 'there seems to be no problem.' For many of us, the use of qualifications such as 'seems' could mean something not certain. But for my boss, what he really means is that 'there is indeed no problem.' 

More on this topic in my next post. Please watch out!!!

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