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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Global OD case number six

Gaby is corporate Product Manager for the White-berry 12 release;

Changsurirothenothenom is product manager for Singapore, Thailand and

Following the launch, Gaby convened a con call with all product managers.
“So folks”, said Gaby, high on adrenalin from NYC, “how did this fly
in your neck of the woods”?

Jacques from Paris said that the vibes from the corporate users were
good but in the under 20 year old market this is going to be an uphill
battle; Jacques was critical of the stodgy look of the new release and
its lack of chic. He slammed corporate for sloppy work on
documentation, which lacked the level of detail needed in France.

Oliver from Germany gave a highly detailed ppt, loaded with facts
without “hi-level” conclusions. Gaby, never a patient person, wanted
to tell Oliver to shut “the fu-up” and “position yourself as a
manger”, but Gaby held back.

Changsurirothenothenom was full of praise both for the corporate users
and youth. True, the product release press conference was held at 2 am
and Changsurirothenothenom had not yet gathered data, but he wanted
Gaby to trust him, so he was effusive with praise.
Two days later, Changsurirothenothenom called Gaby discretely and gave
detailed criticism of the language interface, the lack of
documentation, and the cost which promised slow penetration.
Gaby thought that after this call, he could never really trust
Changsurirothenothenom again, since he had lied in the call.
Changsurirothenothenom thought that Gaby would now include him in his
inner circle, since his praise had been public and his criticism had
been discrete.

When this issue came to SVP HR Gloria Ramsbottom, she mentioned that
Changsurirothenothenom is a hard name to pronounce. Then she offered
Gaby some advice: “You need an expat in Asia, Gaby. It’s really hard
to understand these guys-they lie thru their teeth”

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Why it is hard to communicate with Americans-as opposed to Asians

I have had many teachers who taught me about different forms of communication in the almost 1500 hours I have worked in Asia. These lessons were all very hard for me to learn.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned:-

Khun Som from Bangkok taught me just how much content can be communicated by evasiveness.

Oya from Osaka  taught me that in some instances, it takes years to formulate an answer and in the meantime, it is best to be silent.
Emma from Malaysia and Felipe from the Philippines have taught me that it is far better not to talk about certain things…so that communication can continue.
Bo-wei from Shanghai explained to me how `lying“ can be very truthful.
Igor from Moscow taught me that when he stops arguing with me, he no longer cares.
All the Asians, however, always understood how different I am and never tried to convert me. We thrived on our difficulty to communicate!

My frustration is that when I communicate with Americans(not all, but some) they want me to be like them…maybe this is just my feeling….but I always feel…when you `develop and transcend your savage hang ups, you and I can communicate…. like Americans do.”

OD consultants need humility ….because the world is full of Soms, and Miyazakis and Allons and Pierres and Hans, who find the expedience and sterility or the over directness and face-losing communication of the US hard to stomach.


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