When Mike took over the Israeli, Indian and Thai development teams, he had a kickoff meeting at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel in Pathumwan.
Manager Mike from LA gave a talk about the product road map which lasted for 90 minutes. He used baseball terminology only 3 times! Then he asked: any questions, guys?
6 Israelis bombarded him with 14 questions which challenged each and every assumption upon which he has based his presentation. Mike said, “This is not the place to argue”. He then texted Allon to meet him in the lobby for lunch.
No one from the Thai group asked anything, albeit the very high level of the Bangkok algorithm team. Mike said, “Come on guys, you must have SOMETHING to ask; don’t just sit there and smile.”! Then there was a crushing silence.
2 Indians asked questions. HK asked how many developers can he now recruit and PT asked what the company was going to do to brand itself in the Delhi labour market. Mike was livid: “Hey guys, this is not a bargaining session”.
Mike had heard pushback from the Israelis, passiveness from the Thais, and “it’s all about us” from the Indians.
Allon explained to Mike:
· When Israelis argue, they show commitment. When you refused to argue with them they see you as too expedient.
· Thais are often silent when others are dominant, and thus having Thais and Israelis in the same meetings demands a different type of meeting structure. You failed to do what you needed most to do: protect them from being overwhelmed. And “any questions” does not work in Thailand because many Thais read and write English well but know that the accent is “punishing”.
· The Indians were making you aware that their job market and your requests are not yet aligned-but they were bargaining with you instead of challenging you.
Allon reminded Mike that he has asked to prepare for the meeting and Mike had said, “I do not need adult supervision”.
Mike said: “I struck out”.
Meetings in very diverse global organizations are often very poorly executed. Often they do more harm than good. The configuration of the meeting needs to be aligned culturally.
For example: After Mike’s lecture, each country sits in a small group and prepares two questions for Mike in English. These questions are filtered by Mike and Allon. Two tells the Israelis-2 not 200; 2 tells the Thais, 2 not 0. And the filtering allows re-framing the questions from the Indian team, i.e, 2 questions and not one bargaining session.