We are living in a period of reversals….for most of our lives, decisions have been made in the West and implemented (with mixed success) in the East. From outsourcing shared services to the Philippines and South Asia, to banks developing global platforms by buying local and regional businesses across Asia, to the great manufacturing shift to China and more recently to Vietnam, the emphasis on delivery has the remit of regional and country leaders…with the corresponding frustrations of second guessing intent, explaining without much hope of understanding the challenges of implementation in an emerging market, dealing with the cultural nuances of procurement and supplier relationships. This, set against the context, that western leadership is the benchmark towards which the world should aspire.
How the worm has turned. With the arrival of increasing numbers of Asian (Chinese and Japanese mostly with some SE Asian) acquirers for whom capital is no constraint, the timeframe of returns is different (with stakeholders who have different perspectives), we in the West face some similar challenges.
I’ve tried to capture below some of the key questions which are likely to occupy those who sit in leadership positions under the ownership of Asian investors / corporates; most of these relate to decision making and corporate culture in the broadest sense.
- How do my new owners make decisions…and how can I influence those?
- I’ve been waiting for some direction in terms of this business. What do they want to achieve with it? What are their expectations of performance? So far there’s been a deafening silence….how should I interpret that?
- Arms length or close embrace? What’s the nature of the relationship between us? Should I worry about the ambiguity that currently exists?
- Direct or indirect? Socialised beforehand or debated openly?
- Deep, highly evidence based, rigorous analysis or gut feel? What’s the right balance?
- What needs discussion, collaboration and cooperation / what doesn’t?
- What constitutes good corporate behaviour…to be encouraged amongst my team?
- What gets you fired?
You’ll not be surprised to read that there are no simple solutions to these challenges. Just as the concept of ‘Asian’ investors is as ridiculous as European…the diversity which exists in the East is at least as broad as it is in the West, so the context of history, previous and current ownership, language and national culture have a significant bearing on the way that your corporate operates.
Given the above, I’m going to resist the temptation of coming up with a set of broad assertions which relate to the above questions. You can have a look at a series of blogs I wrote on an acquisition of a family owned business which will give some insight into a specific situation (click on this link for the first, this one for the second and this one for the third…it’s worth reading them in order).
I’d be keen to hear your experiences in this interesting new challenge facing us in Europe.
Categories: Corporate Culture, culture change, Culture clash, Employee Engagement, Functional Leadership, Governance, Mergers & acquisitions, post acquisition integration, Post merger integration, psychology, Strategy, Transformation