When a manager imposes a “dialogue” on cultures which value face saving or extreme directness, the outcome is fatal. The vessel for communication needs to be adapted for the audience. It is NOT a matter of training people to be open and authentic. Below is an illustration.
Harry Foreman, SVP APAC+ and ME+, assembled his 2 divisions at the Amari Watergate in Bangkok for a 3 day sales conference in order to drive a campaign to sell products as they are, without deviations from the product road map.
Harry, sweating like only a faraang (foreigner) can sweat despite the air-conditioning (set at 75 degrees), asked his folks listen to the presentation and only then engage in dialogue, not debate, about the presentation.
Harry then jumped into his 33 slide presentations which basically said that the product road map must be respected, clients should not be given leverage to ask for modifications/customization until the next major release, due in 17 months. “We need to manage our customers’ expectations about what they can and cannot get in negotiations with us, and we need to dig in our heals”. …..OK “guys”, I would like a discussion. Who’s first?
Oya from Japan thanked Harry for his presentation. “And I thank Foreman-san in advanced for even more details and tools for Mitsubishi”.
KT from India started to explain the intricacies of the Indian market, where the solution needs to be cheap and customized….which in the end pays off due to high volume. “Are you debating?”, asked Harry.
KT said that “we are in full agreement, Sir”.
Dov (Bear) from Israel said that the idea “won’t flies” and that “I do not care if you call it a debate or a watermelon, you, Mr Harry, with all my love for you, are way off”. Harry said, “I guess we all know Dov’s style”. Guys, please, no debate.
Som from Thailand sat quietly and smiled. As the best performing market-manager in his division, Harry said to Som, please K++ Som, “speak up.” Som, who was wearing a lovely orange+++ outfit, smiled (the smile of embarrassment). “I am tsuwa (sure) that mahket forces cannot be shenjed (changed). And we also know K Hally (Harry) is so senior. I am tsuwa (sure) we all know what to do. Thank you Hally! Som continued but no one really could understand her thick accent.
Harry thanked Som for her positive input.
At lunch, bets were on that Harry would be out in a year. Som was most adamant-why copolat (corporate) send their chit (shit) managers here to talks bla bla.
+ Asia Pacific and Middle East
++ K is short for Khun, a honorific
+++play of words….orange is Som in Thai