Smiling with anger

Khun Chumsai has resigned!

Khun is an honorific before a Thai name.

Chumsai is the Thailand based  “key account manager” for a German based multinational which supplies software for urban traffic control safely.

Reggie Pennington, a Brit who heads Thai, Malaysia and Singapore areas, called me in Tel Aviv and asked me to come to Bangkok as soon as possible to help do damage control and bring Chumsai back from the brink. Reggie is totally dependent upon Chumsai to complete the sales cycle of the new product in major Thai municipalities, which has being going on for 2 years.

Reggie told me that Chumsai has now accepted a job at the very client where he served as key account manager. Reggie  said that he was totally surprised. Chumsai had appeared to be working as usual and had no complaints whatsoever. “He was always smiling”.

Allon booked a week trip to Bangkok and had many  meetings during which he learned about issues contributing Chumsai’s desire to leave. These are exact quotes.

1-Khun Reggie has no time for small talk. So he must really care only about the business and not about the people.

2-When we work late, Reggie never asks us out for a drink after we finish work, he tells us to go home and spend time with our families.

3-Khun Reggie invited Khun Tom, the product expert from corporate HQ, to meet with the client. We planned the meeting in a taxi on the way to the client, so I understand I was being marginalized.

4-At the client meeting, Khun Tom spoke too loudly when the client raised concerns, saying that he was “convinced” that the roll out of the new product would be “seamless”. That caused me huge embarrassment since it was very arrogant; I fear that I will look bad in the local market.

5-After the meeting we debriefed, again in a taxi. “They talked so fast that I could not contribute.  My role as their “yellow face” is over”, and he smiled with anger.

I did not think it was possible to stop Chumsai from leaving. Reggie asked me if “a huge stay bonus may solve the problem”.

Reggie was not an easy client.


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Global OD case study number sixteen

Victor from Raleigh NC had a twenty minute call with his global team.

Here are his main messages and talking points:


1) Given sagging performance, expect to put in extra innings in the next few weeks, till the quarter ends.

2) We are the bottom of the ninth, and if things don’t get better, it’s gonna be bad news.

3) If the team will focus on selling the product road map, it’s going to be a can of corn.

4) Jane’s new idea in her email “Breakthrough” is out of the ball park. From now on, this is way to proceed.

5) If we all do the best, we can get out of the hot box.


Paul in London, Jean Marie in Québec city, Paco in Mexico City and Angela in Aberdeen sat quietly though the meeting.

Archie in Boston texted  his boss Victor after the call: “home run”

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Global OD case number fifteen

Au urgent meeting was convened to discuss the ramifications of the 2 week delay on the “go live” for the project which was to impact 50,000 users in Australia.

Invited to the meeting were Arthur from the Australia (the account manager), Arturo from Mexico, Erez from Israel and Tim from Germany.

Tim came into the conference room 5 minutes early and asked for the (semi existent) agenda.

Erez called in to the meeting because he had to take his kids to a school play and one could hear his wife castigating him in the background: “why don’t you go and live at work”?

Arturo came in an hour late, asked everyone how things are going, and just as the meeting was coming to end, said, “I have a few important issues that are not on the agenda and impact the estimation of readiness for deployment”. Arturo then communicated really bad new. Arturo suggested that Arthur “bargain for an extension”.

Account manager Arthur maintained his cool until Arturo suggested bargaining for an extension with Australian client. “Listen mate, you can bargain in Mexico, but not in Australia!” Arturo fought back and Arthur got furious and lost his cool. Erez said: “This is the first time I see you care about the delay, Arthur; we can help you by working weekends!”

Tim mentioned that the plan would need to be adjusted to reflect reality. “We need to be transparent” stated Tim, who seemed irrelevant in the semi Levant.

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Leveraging culture to make the system work-a case study

Samuel is a change consultant and coach, based in Salt Lake City; he has bagged a job from a Miami based firm operating in Europe and Asia.

Sammy;s first assignment is with a company in which the staff circumvents and bypasses the purchasing process. Often company staff contact vendors who supply on the basis of email commitments, and Finance is then forced to pay due to local regulations. SAP had been introduced, yet compliance is low.

Samuel has interviewed 3 people to find out why there is such a low level of compliance.
Helmut from Germany, who is on loan as a SAP consultant, claims that there is “no consequence” to by passing the system.
Wang from China claims that he gets great prices in his oral and semi clandestine dealings with vendors with whom he has been working the longest time and using SAP would only “drive the price up”.
Igor from Russia claims that “ve don’t trust the system”.

Samuel, the global consultant that he is, agrees with Helmut. There is a need for consequence for non compliance. So a process is implemented to force all vendors to re-register before any business can be done.

Yet Samuel failed to produce any change and he was fired; another consultant, who name starts with A, was hired. After a month, here is what happened-

A Chinese-American expat was sent to China and after a year, he severed  China from SAP, in coordination with the CEO.

Russian-based Igor was transferred to the Dutch office, and, removed from his vendors is under intensive scrutiny, he has  began to trust the system.

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Mr Wow wow wow falls flat on his face

Paul, the legendary North American product evangelist, was sent to France for a week to train the 5 top French technical presales folks.

Paul emphasized three points:

1) Project  full belief in the new product as a killer app.

2) Exude enthusiasm

3) Stress the fun of the product to minimize justified criticism

The French folks were to undergo three days of training.

Paul went home to Baltimore after day two and “shot off” an email that there is a morale problem in the French office, which over analyses and critiques the product more than the competition.

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5 tips to get a very meaningful “seat” at the senior management table

I also publish a humorous blog about post modern HR:

1) Use the term “business partner” twice daily. If you did not study the business, use the term 4 times a day,


2) Deny that “business partner” means firing people by the dozen, kissing the boss’s rear end and becoming a sycophant .


3) Become a profit center. You issue a weekly news letter? Sell it to your avid readers. You doing “outdoor training”. Charge the loosing team.


4) Define your core business. Is it “firing people”? Is it writing mission statements? Is it entertainment? Once you define it, become lean and mean. Fire locals and hire abroad.


5) Learn to text quickly. 500 words an hour whilst driving is sufficient.

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Why are we not hitting our numbers? A case study

Mohammed Albaz is a 3rd generation American whose family comes from Egypt. He heads the Middle East and Asia sales division of a Fortune 500 company.

He has convened a meeting of his staff in Larnaca and has just conveyed the bad news…..there is a 30% drop in revenue. All managers were asked to give their opinions and suggest corrective action.

Hans, a German who heads sales in Indonesia, gave a very, very detailed blow by blow description of what was causing delay.  Mohammed, never known for his patience, told Hans to “focus on the woods and not the trees.”

Anat, an Israeli, (Israel and Greece Sales) argued that the way corporate recognizes revenue makes no sense. “Anat”, he said, “I am also a Middle Easterner, but sometimes bargaining and positioning need to end”.

Watanabe, a Japanese managing Japan and Korea, sat and was silent. Mohammed said “silence is unacceptable”. Watanabe looked at him in shock. “I am thinking, Mohammed-san”. Do you want me to act with haste on such a serious issue”?

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Global OD case number nine

Paul Wight is the Head of R&D in Denver. Sales are slow, profitability is down and the management has stated that WE have to cut costs.

Paul oversees several development sites: in Brunswick, NJ, Vancouver BC, Québec City and Manchester UK.

Paul has been asked to close down one site as well as downsize his whole organization by 30%. Paul will convened all his site managers in Denver to execute this plan.

The biggest issue is which site to close. The head of the Manchester site is Chester Man.

Chester really mistrusts Paul to make the right decision; Chester believes Paul does not like the time zone difference, the late night and early morning Concalls as well as the management overhead of flying to Manchester once a quarter in coach class. Chester attributes to Paul a “hidden agenda”

which will lead to the closing of Manchester.

Denise Thibadeau  leads the Québec site. She believes Paul will close the Quebec site due to a hidden agenda stemming from communication difficulties

(accents) and costs which stem from the need to comply with language laws to protect the French language, albeit that development costs are subsidized by the provincial government via tax concessions.

Paul always shows lack of patience on calls when he cannot understand what people say “the first time around”.

Denise and Chester have been speaking informally as of late on how to “throw a block” at Paul’s attributed attempt to close one “of the remote sites”.

Denise and Chester have agreed to form a coalition. Despite the animosity between Denise and Chester, they will agree to cooperate and assume joint responsibility for continuous engineering of a profitable legacy product, and jointly commit to develop a new platform in record time and very low costs. They have agreed to lie about how long this will take and “clean up the mess” later on.  Denise and Chester will both build on their strengths of low turnover to make this happen, forcing this decision on Paul via Paul’s boss, who himself is a European.

Paul has asked his HR manager to prepare an activity to enable trust in this session. Ms Gloria Ramsbottom prepared a cooking class, followed by a webinar of a horse running faster and faster, albeit eating less.

Paul closed the Vancouver site. Denise and Chester grew their sites by 20%.

Denise will replace Paul who is “moving on to his next assignment” in March.

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A foul problem – deep cultural divides

The heat was already over 100 when I arrived at 0730 to MBD (David’s Poultry Farm), on the Syrian Border. There was calm on both sides of the border, and one could see the outposts of the Syrian Army. From time to time, one could hear the bombings due to their civil war.

In MBD however, things were less than calm. MBD is the largest poultry farm in the North of Israel; the proprietor is David, a 55 year old native of Tiberius.

David is trying to enjoy the fruits of his 35 years hard work by stepping back, and he has transferred almost all of the managerial responsibility to Alexandra (a native of the Former Soviet Union), who immigrated to Israel in 1973.

Alexandra is a PhD is agricultural science and served in the Soviet army in Logistics of Food Transport. Since Alexandra has joined and stepped into her role as “Operations Manager”, all hell has broken loose. Sick leave is up, the new time clock was sabotaged 23 times, and there have been all sorts of maintenance issues cropping up which are totally unjustified.

BUT-Production is up 75% and market share has grown drastically due to accurate shipments and brilliant supply chain management.

David, who remembered me from McGill where we studied in the same years, asked me to visit and make recommendations.

Alexandra told me  that David was soft on the workers and this is a transition period which will be painful. “It vill take a year. David treated the Russian workers softly, so they came late, left early, and malinger when there is no work or it is too hot. The “native Israelis” workers are constantly arguing and asking “why” and David never demanded obedience. They must stop asking “lama” (why) or dey vill be fired”

From Arab villages, the workers come very early (515 am) after morning prayers, and David paid them for sitting around and waiting till work begins simply because David loved to banter with them-since David’s native language is Arabic. “Ve now have formal shifts dat start at 0700, and if they come early it’s der problem”, said a proud Alexandra.

Alexandra told me that David must FULLY step back and ” I vill whip dem into a team in a year.”

Igor (m, from Ukraine) told me that Alexandra is an OK technologist and has no idea how to manage. Igor told me that Alexandra stripped him of his title as supervisor and his peers laugh at him for taking commands from a Babushka (Russian Granny).

Igor and David run together on the weekends. Igor is married to David’s cousin.

Inam (f, Arab) told me that Alexandra installed a time clock, and checks daily if people have stamped in. This is highly insulting because David worked on the trust system “and when there were problems, we dealt with this quietly, via our oldest worker, who acted as an intermediary between David and the workers”. Alexandra does not understand that the girls need to travel ALL TOGETHER in in one truck organized by her village in the morning, or else, “there may be trouble” and added “We do not set the timetable of the village truck with the male escort.”

David had hired a consultant before me and he had done a “group discussion” and “outdoor training” which failed to produce changes.

Since each population requires a different style of management, David now needs to make some tough choices.

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Global OD Case number seven

Ex Montréal resident Jean Marie McDonald is the CEO of a Cincinnati based global company in internet and data security, called M-A-S, with offices in 25 countries.

Bob, a 66 year old former executive from a Fortune 500 company, is his Chairman.

Bob got his chairman job as a “going away present” from a crony who wanted him out of the F500 company; Bob agreed and wanted to fish, travel and spend time with his newly acquired girlfriend, Som (Orange) from Bangkok.

Folks who new McDonald were surprised when he got the CEO role from Chairman Bob. Jean Marie comes from operations; he lacks creativity; he is not a strategist and his style alienates people who work with him. Yet he charismatic and charming and very good with managing senior level relationships. He also speaks perfect Japanese who helped crisis management in Japan. The Japanese skills and operations background was the compelling reason McDonald was hired.

When McDonald took over M-A-S, there were too many products, too little investment in continuous engineering for the bread winning products and 3 top tier customers were about to uninstall M-A-S’s products. There was ample cash.

3 years after Jean Marie as CEO, revenues are down 40%; cash is running out and there is a massive exodus of engineering talent. 3 acquisitions have failed and the mind share of the company has plummeted.

Bob invited Jean Marie for lunch.

Bob told him that he had not interfered until now and now was a good time to part as friends. Bob offered Jean Marie a discretionary  bonus of 8 million US dollars, use of the company jet and country club fees for life under the condition that Jean Marie would retire for personal reasons in two months and never say a word to anyone, for ten years. The 8 million would be paid out of a slush fund based in the Isle of Man over 10 years to ensure compliance. Jean Marie was also told that he needed to downsize 30% of the staff before he left in a month.

Jean Marie told Bob that 8 million is not enough. Jean Marie hinted to Bob about his knowledge about the use of the company jet for personal purposes. Jean and Bob agreed on 12 million discretionary bonus, over a 9 year silence period.

Jean and Bob then prepared the guidelines for the Board presentation, assisted by CFO

Fabien Lebrun and HR Manager, Gloria Ramsbottom, who showed up with less cleavage than usual, since she had noticed that Chairman Bob had looked at her in great depth in their last meeting.

Fabien helped launder the pipeline to allow the present budget to pass.

Gloria sharpened her axe and prepared the guillotine, after negotiating an SVP for herself and first class travel to Asia here on in.

Fabien spread rumours about a possible acquisition and stock prices went up, two days after Jean Marie left. Bob retired a week after Jean Marie quit.

In the tenure of Bob and Jean Marie, 70% of the company’s employees had been terminated in their tenure; market share dropped by 60%, and a cash crisis was imminent.

In the town square, there was quiet.

There were a few angry talkbacks however in a local Cincinnati web based economic rag.

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