Posts Tagged ‘cross-border’

Advanced Communications Technologies

Friday, June 4th, 2010

 

The Futurist is a magazine that covers trends, forecasts and ideas about the future and is published by the World Future Society, a non-profit educational and scientific organization chartered in Washington, D.C.  Their website is www.wfs.org.

The Futurist May-June 2009 featured an article titled, Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s World/Forecasts and Implications for Business, written by Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies.  During the next few weeks we will be presenting segments of their article as they relate to businesses and business owners.

Advanced communications technologies are changing the way we live and work.

  • Web 2.0 services are building communities nearly as complex and involving as those existing wholly in the real world
  • MySpace and Facebook have a total of more than 180 million members who form communities of friends, most of whom have never met except on the Internet.
  • However, the millennial generation has already abandoned e-mail for most purposes other than communicating with “clueless” parents and grandparents.  Most have adopted instant messaging and social network Web sites to communicate with their peers.
  • Telecommuting is growing rapidly, thanks largely to ever-advancing communication technologies.  About 80% of companies worldwide now have employees who work at home, up from 54% in 2003.  The number of telecommuters in the United States reached an estimated 20 million in 2006.
  • At&T says that 90% of its employees do some work away from the office, while 41% work at home one or two days per week.  This saves the company a reported $180 million a year.

Implications

E-mail promised to speed business.  Instead, it absorbs more time than busy executives can afford to lose.  Expect the nascent reaction against e-mail to grow as many people eliminate mailing lists, demand precise e-communications rather than open-ended conversation, and schedule only brief periods for dealing with mail.

Instant messaging is likely to be even more destructive of time for the under-30 set.   However, e-mail is a major contributor to globalization and outsourcing, because it  eliminates many of the obstacles of doing business across long distances and many time  zones.

Unfortunately, e-mail and other modern communications techniques also have  made possible a variety of crimes, from online fraud to some forms of identity theft.

The next Futurist article: Specialization

Mediation – Often, People Just Need to be Heard

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

 “Sometimes we just get lucky”

I was asked to facilitate the mediation of an internal dispute between one of the largest divisions of a company among the top ten in the U.S. fortune five hundred list and their joint venture partner in several countries in Europe. To give you a sense of scope at the time, this J.V. was the third largest foreign investor in just the nation of Poland. Their operations were reaching a stage of expansion and disputes began to arise relating to decision making, procedure, philosophy and risk tolerance.

Under normal circumstances I would have interviewed several of the executives from both corporations and those directly operating the joint venture to get a clear scope of the roadblocks from their varying perspectives. This would also give me an insight into, and connection with, all the parties and form a basis of initial trust in me, and the process. The largest company decided that they could handle that “minor detail”, had already done so, and sent me a digest of the interviews that outlined the areas of dispute. Three days later we were to meet. From these transcripts I learned a great deal about the differences of opinion they were encountering technically, but nothing of the personalities, emotional or cultural issues that were behind these differences.

Please know that I would not have recommended this type of process to anyone who genuinely wished for realistic, lasting and qualitative resolution, but I had agreed to do this for a colleague who was in a bind. This was shaping up to be like going swimming with shoes on.

The evening before the meeting I was graciously invited to dinner with the junior executives who had set this session in motion. As we spoke over dinner, I tried to find out as much as I could about the personalities involved and their histories in business and as people. This also provided the chance to see the thinking of these junior executives as a reflection of their corporate culture.

That dinner was the key to how the process would unfold. It seems that the joint venture partner was originally a refugee from Europe and had come to the U.S. with only the shirt on his back. He had developed his business to the degree that he could return to the place that had reduced him to a nearly sub-human condition as a major player with one of the largest companies in the world. For the folks who had brought me into the there were no issues beyond the “bottom line” in their perception of what was involved in the J.V. arrangements. At the end of the dinner I told my hosts that I would be setting aside a special time for listening deeply to the chairman of the smaller company and I wanted their cooperation and non-interference with that process. They agreed but said they didn’t see what that had to do with the issues.

We had the very restricted time frame of 8:30 A.M. until 4:30 P.M. with the top decision makers from all the parties. After the introductions and welcoming statements we moved on to hearing from the gentleman who started the smaller company. I prompted him with questions that might allow him to express his feelings beyond the issues and kept him speaking for over 35 minutes. By 9:45 A.M. he had been thoroughly “heard”. Suddenly, it seemed there were no real issues to be resolved from the past and we moved on to how they all might work in the future. Animosity was dissolved and creative approaches were generated through the rest of the day.

After the meeting my hosts wondered how I “divined” how to handle the situation. I explained that what was a business arrangement to them was almost like a firstborn child to the other side. The issues were not material but emotional and by addressing them in that fashion it was really a simple problem. I guess I could have kept the mystery by saying that sometimes we just get lucky.

 

“Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf.”  ~Native American Indian Proverb

Written by Richard Dash

Understanding the Cultural Matrix

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

 

Here is a further example of the importance of the cultural matrix behind successful solutions and how assumptions can lead to a resounding failure

While in the Middle East, I was the personal business consultant to the chairman and CEO of one of the largest publicly traded development and construction corporations in Israel. My assigned task was to head a project that would help meet the housing needs of a massive immigration from the Soviet Union. Over one million immigrants would enter Israel, an increase of almost 25% of the population within a two-year period. That would be the equivalent of 80 million new immigrants coming to the United States within two years.

Virtually all building there is done with concrete and stone, both for exteriors and interior dividing walls. This is a tediously slow way of doing construction but was the norm throughout the region. The government was encouraging the use of rapid building techniques for both temporary and permanent housing for the new immigrants, in search of solutions to this urgent need. I was responsible for finding the best systems and sources internationally, negotiation of joint venture agreements with those foreign providers of materials and expertise, and establishing projects for the creation of many millions of dollars worth of homes.  

I had sourced and established cooperative relations with some outstanding firms including one of the largest building companies on the NYSE, arranged for the uniting of alien plumbing and electrical systems, substituted coating materials best suited for the harsh sun of the region, shifted roof vent systems among thousands of other details in the planning stages of a small pilot project of some ten million dollars. We had two rooms constructed as test models for assembly systems. The collective wisdom of our building engineering firm and our architecture experts were all satisfied and ready to go. The evening before our final meeting to launch the project I chanced to be in the test rooms while two of the workmen were cleaning up and overheard the following:

1st man: What do you think of this new stuff?

2nd man: I like it. It’s pretty and clean and all the corners are square.

1st man:  Right. I’m not used to everything level and square but that I can live with.

2nd man: You sound like there is something you can’t live with. What is it?

1st man:  Well, I wouldn’t live in it because (he said as he banged his fist on the wall with the      resulting hollow sound that comes from sheet rock) it won’t stop a bullet.

How close we came. All of us, with all our expertise and experience hadn’t taken into account the consumer and one of the most basic of their needs, culture norms and approaches. Our unexamined assumptions would have brought us to inevitable failure. Sheet rock construction for exteriors would never succeed in the Middle East. Although the immigration pressure was immense, permanent housing was and would be virtually all created from block and concrete. All the residents know that concrete will stop a bullet.

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” Confucius

Written by Richard Dash

IP Facilitation: The Critical Awareness of Perspective

Monday, March 1st, 2010

 

Business negotiators and mediators all too frequently ignore the cultural and historical factors that are an unseen basic that make conflicts seem insoluble.

 

I was called to provide some facilitation and coaching for the top leadership of one of the largest paper manufacturers in the world. Getting communications to penetrate through this rather gigantic organization was a problem in all levels of the company from the Board of Directors through the structure all the way to general employees. We spent time over several days with the top management of the company sharpening individual communication capability and practicing the individual communication of a new corporate vision.

One of the participants in my group was responsible for the manufacturing units located in the former Soviet Union. This executive was an American and had been sent to get the manufacturing in Russia up to speed and standards with the existing global employee base. Between sessions he said that he could not understand why it was so difficult for policies, announcements and news in general to reach throughout the fifteen thousand employees for whom he was responsible. He spoke of all the technical approaches that he had taken and the lack of success he still faced.

My question to him related to the cultural norms that he was facing. When he asked for further explanation, I took him through an understanding of the Russian mentality under the Soviet structure. In that seventy-year period workers did not have great control of their economic lives and neither did their supervisors and “bosses”. Where someone in that situation could feel that they had control was in the area of information. The statement “Knowledge is Power” had a peak of reality in that culture. So now under a freer market system, the cultural bias is still to keep control through keeping information to themselves. It is that cultural reference frame that needs to change. Did the company reward for information transfer? Were bonus structures in line for those who got information to all their employees? Had this executive addressed directly with his direct reports the value he attached to this as a function of management?

Without understanding our own cultural reference frame, and the frameworks of those who are party to a negotiation or mediation, although we may be capable of dealing with the principal material points of a dispute, we may be headed towards a distinct lack of success in resolving the underlying conflict. We must always keep in mind that each party has a historical, cultural and psychological background that makes their perspective unique and requires a unique resolution matrix.

Richard Dash, Mediator & Facilitator

“We must not always try to plumb the depths of the human heart; the truths it contains are among those that are best seen in half-light or in perspective” Francois R. Chateaubriand (French author and diplomat, 1768-1848)