Today’s colonization is much more gentle. But it is colonization.

Many organization hq’ed in Europe and the West promote “open” organizational communication, the legitimacy of conflict at work, and  the importance of solving conflict expediently and moving on. These same hq’s play down the importance of not discussing issues, discretion and solving problems by ignoring them.

In many parts of Asia and the Middle East, organizational and conflicts are resolved discretely and under the radar, to prevent loss of dignity, loss of face, and/or to prevent undermining authority. Very often disputed points are ignored and never discussed, or resolved “back room” by innuendo, silence or a carrier pigeon.

Corporate values, change consultants, OD consultants and coaches promulgate a western approach to conflict resolution. This often has disastrous results. Here are a few things folks have told me.

Som from Bangkok: “I have been taught my whole life to keep my opinions to myself and control my emotions to create harmony. I used to love this company, but in the new training program, i was forced to betray myself by “resolving a conflict”  and I feel abused. I am getting out.”

Emi from Japan: “The entire staff got along very well until the recent team development exercise to develop transparency. Now that all this damage has been done, our office is very tense. They (HR and facilitators) do not understand that when we showed our anger to one another, we may never communicate well again.

Inam from Amman: As per company policy I shared some of my thoughts with my boss. I really did not want to, but HR was really riding us to be compliant with company “values” in the way we operate. I now need to look for a new job because my boss is upset.. Everything has been ruined.

Colonization often meant severed limbs, decimated local cultures and massive executions of the vanquished. Today’s colonization is much more gentle. But it is colonization. And OD is often used as the tool of beating the locals into submission.

You can follow me @AllonShevat

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Beginning this week

I shall publish 20 case studies in Global OD in the next 20 days.

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Staff bets how much time will pass till their boss Harry gets the axe

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

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Global OD Case number three

Hans, Zvi, KT and Howard  set up a meeting whilst in a management meeting in Antwerp.

Hans is German. Zvi is Israeli.  KT is Indian. Howard is American.

The meeting was scheduled to start a 1400-1630 Central European Time and analyse possible ramifications to a 6 month delay of a key software release.

Hans came in at 1355 and shut off his phone.

Zvi arrived at 1415, talking on his phone; when he finished talking, he put it on vibrate.

KT came in at 1410, opened his three phones in silent mode, and texted constantly.

Howard came in at 1400, and kept his phone turned face down, and looked at it ever 15 m.

Hans read out the agenda. “Ve vill go market by market unt analyse the ramifications.”

KT wanted to focus on the difference between generic and market-specific ramifications. “Ve makes fools of ourselves unless we show generic and market-specific”!…and then talked for 10 m, while Hans listened yet tried to go back to the agenda.

Zvi spoke for 20 minutes, trying to see “what do we mean by delay” and what if, due to the delay, we release a killer release and gain market domination.   What then?”

Howard said that the meeting needed better process, and then talked about the American market, “which guys, let’s admit, is the most important”.  Howard also wanted to ensure that we all “touch base” with the same assumptions.

After 90 m, there was a half a definition of what a delay was, and a shabby definition of what we mean by delay. Some risk analysis was done and no market specific ramifications were generated.

When time was over, Hans and Howard wanted to leave. KT and Zvi skipped out on their next meeting and contiuted to talk, generating some interesting (oral) market specific ramifications of the delay.

Hans complained at supper about the lack of discipline. Howard claimed that meetings need process and he remembered a book he read…..well….he forgot the name. KT said the meeting was great, and that he had learned a lot. Zvi said the meeting was “not bad” and that “ve shoult have exchanges like dis more ahfen”.


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Global OD Case number two

Tom White, OD Manager for a US based law firm, was sent to Asia to do some interviews for the corporate in Asia and solve burning issues “on line”. Tom was top of his class in OD in an Ivy League University and he was also a certified coach. He had undergone study groups in Tavistock and T Groups in the States.

One of the Brits in the Bangkok office told Tom that he had heard gossip from a secretary that Lawyer Jai (f) was very upset with her subordinate Lawyer Phrem (m); Phrem (who studied law in the US and France) had shown a lack of respect to Jai on their last trip to a client in Belgium. Phrem pushed Jai aside by speaking out when Jai was looking for words and used his knowledge of French to make Jai look bad. What made this worse was that Jai was the account manager on the deal, and Phrem was supposed to be a quiet #2.

Tom approached Jai and asked for another meeting, even though he had interviewed her in the morning. “Hey Jai, can you tell me a little bit about what happened in Belgium as week.” Jai smiled and said the trip was `wely sasexful“.

Well, said Tom, can you describe the dynamic with Phrem-he asked.

Jai evaded and Tom then told Jai what he had heard, emphasizing the lack of respect that Phrem had shown. Jai felt she wanted to throw up and felt dizzy… she smiled.

Tom said,“I want to give you some direct feedback, Jai. Managerial responsibility entails the ability to provide Phrem with feedback so he can improve his performance and learn from mistakes. It also makes no sense holding your anger inside: do you see things differently“        Jai smiled and said“-ok Khun Tom“

Tom told Jai he would organize a 3rd party intervention that afternoon and Jai smiled.

Tom asked Phrem at lunch how the trip to Belgium went and Phrem told Tom how important it was that he was invited: “Jai is such a good lawyer and I complemented her oral English“, said Phrem who wanted to make an impression on Tom, who was at time struggling to understand Jai.


Tom asked Phrem if he would be ready for a 3rd part intervention w Jai and Phrem agreed.    `Great“said Phrem.


Tom sat Phrem and Jai down in a room. The goal of the meeting was to debrief the Belgium visit in a no penalty zone environment and establish some lessons learned which can be agreed to and possible shared. (Jai felt dizzy)


There may be some disagreements, said Tom, but we can meet in the middle. After all, isn’t that the most sensible thing to do. (Jai was seeing double)


Jai was asked to describe what happened at the client site. She said: “Thank you so much, K Tom. But we is lawyers and we hap (have) mek (made) a good contac.“

I agree, said Phrem. “What is this meeting about anyway, Tom“-said Phrem-stabbing Tom in the back, and smiling at Jai.


Tom gave a short lecturette on managerial maturity and open communication. Jai asked him how he was enjoying his first trip to Bangkok.

Jai sent VP HR Asia and Japan  the following email.



Maybe Mr Tom can focus on Japan office or Singapore office. He seems to suffer from heat. He get all confyus and maybe not feel so good.

Thank you we not see him again.



That night, Jai sent Tom to a restaurant in a cab which passed thru a 2 hour traffic jam. The restaurant was closed due to reconstruction.

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Getting started

Welcome to my new blog.This blog will address my more serious thoughts about Organizational Development as practiced in the real world, not as taught in a world that “should be”. I am a 63 year old OD consultant that really does OD, only OD, all the time.

My homepage is

I suggest you follow also Gloria Ramsbottom at Gloria is the HR manager no one wants to work with.I could never have realized how disastrous Gloria is without having worked with very competent HR people in my 38 year career.


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