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Cultural Differences

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Kira Skinner

on 25 November 2013

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Transcript of Cultural Differences

Cultural Differences
What is culture?

“Collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group or category of people from another”
- Hofstede, 1993, p. 82

A large Korean organization made up of over 40 companies
Sales over $3.5 Billion US

Major IT company based in USA
Excess of 50,000 employees
Includes Systems Consulting Group (

In 1990, KCI and WSI came together to form JVI
Largest consulting project to take place in Korea to date
WSI did not expect to get the contract and thus had to put this project together quickly
WSI was responsible for implementing & recommending IT systems in over 100 offices
SGC would be involved in the first 7 months of the project

Joint Venture Inc. (
American– Western Systems Inc. (
Korean Conglomerate Inc. (

To assist in system design and provide recommendations for system implementations as this was an area the Korean consultants acknowledged they had LIMITED EXPERIENCE
WHY is SGC involved?
Ellen Moore: Living and Working in Korea
Key Players
Summary of Events
Current Situation
“I remember thinking, “I can’t believe they are shouting at each other.” I was trying to understand how their meeting had reached such a state. Andrew raised his voice and I could hear him saying “I don’t think you understand at all” Then, he shouted, “Ellen is not the problem”” –Ellen Moore
Project is now over a month behind + moving in wrong direction
Koreans were conducting side projects that where beyond the scope of the main project- EG. Market Research Project
American Consultants: Blame the Koreans
Korean Consultants: Blame the Americans
***Senior management was requested to get involved to resolve this situation***
Business in Korea
Confucian Culture:

Became the state religion in 1392

Values and principles continue to affect social and work relationships
Hierarchal Authority
Obligation to Parents
“Strict rules of conduct , involving complete obedience and respectful behaviour within superior-subordinate relationships”

Traditionally Male Dominated Business Environment

Business in USA
Hofstede’s Framework
Comparing the Organizational Cultures of the United States and South Korea

Individualism vs. Collectivism
USA: 91 (Highly Individualistic)
South Korea: 18
Power Distance
USA: 40 (Less Power Distance)
South Korea: 60
Uncertainty Avoidance
USA: 46
South Korea: 85
Masculinity vs. Femininity
USA: 62
South Korea: 39
Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation
USA: 29
South Korea: 70
South Korea: “characterized by large power distance, collectivism and communitarianism ... and strong uncertainty avoidance”
USA: “characterized by a focus on the individual, short-term Orientation, low power distance, tolerance for risk and ambiguity, and a masculine society.”

Substantive Differences
Predominant leadership style in Korea
Subordinates take direction from Managers and Executives
A style of leadership that is much more common in USA
Emphasis is placed on cooperation between managers and subordinates

Potential Alternatives:
Culture Shock

Neither party received sufficient cross-cultural training prior to beginning project together
Women are not usually in positions of power in Korea. As a woman, Ellen's opinion tends to be ignored by Jack and consequently the rest of the team.
Each side blames the other for the lack of project success.
Ambiguous Job Scopes

Project was supposed to be co-managed by Ellen and Jack, however this was never properly communicated to all stakeholders
Ellen and Jack are never on the same page – they consistently give the rest of the team different orders.
Result = Confusion within the team as to who’s authority to follow
Unclear Structure
Relationship between consultant and client is quite different in Korean culture than in culture in the USA:
USA: “Managing client expectations”
Frequently communicate with client and consistently inform them of the best way to meet their goals
Korea: “Hierarchical”
Must obtain permission to see client. Will follow any order from client even if it may not be in the best interest of the client’s final goal
Lack of Communication
There is an inefficient matrix structure of project management – therefore, all stakeholders are not on the same page.
This is especially a problem for Jack and Ellen
Lack of Experience
Neither party has the proper experience to help this project succeed.
Jack/other Korean consultants have no experience in this type of project - a fact unknown until Ellen's arrival.
Ellen has no experience leading a project in Korea. Although she is well traveled, all cultures present unique challenges.
Diverse Personalities/Different Perceptions

This catalyzed the confrontation
EG’s: Ellen’s unpleasant experience during the dinner with Jack, Andrew’s conflict with Mr. Song in the meeting.
What are the problems?
Why do they exist?
1. Terminate Jack and assign Ellen as Manager for the rest of the project.

2. Terminate Ellen and assign Jack as Manager for the rest of the project

3. Start from scratch – terminate both Jack and Ellen, and bring in someone new to lead project.

4. Bring in a mediator to repair relationship between parties + develop plan to get project back on track using strengths from each side.
o If Jack leaves, it is possible that the other Korean consultants will not respect Ellen. This problem would likely be accentuated because she is a woman.
4. Bring in a mediator to repair relationship between parties + develop plan to get project back on track using strengths from each side.
Andrew's Action Plan
Project off Course

A combination of these problems has resulted in the project being aprox. one month behind schedule.
Reasoning Behind Action Plan
Future Recommendations
Sufficient Cross-Cultural Training:
Should be mandatory and happen prior to beginning any part of the project.
Role Clarity:
Clear, concise roles and responsibilities must be established prior to beginning any part of the project. Strengths of each party should be utilized. There should be no room for interpretation.
Detailed Leader Selection:
False perceptions of the abilities of Jack and Ellen led to the assumption they possessed skills that they did not. A more detailed selection of leadership is necessary to avoid this mistake in the future.
Regular check-ins should be scheduled for the duration of the project to keep all parties on task and ensure established roles and responsibilities are being respected.
Team-Building Activities:
These should be planned throughout the duration of the project to foster an environment of respect, teamwork and open lines of communication

Thanks for reading your handout :)
"A learned system of meaning and behavior that is passed from one generation to the next"
"all the customs, values, and traditions that are learned from one's environment"
- (Sue & Sue, 1990, cited by Southwest Educational Development Laboratory)
- Carter & Qureshi, 1995, p. 241, cited by Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

o Jack does not have the technical knowledge to lead the project on his own.

o This could potentially get the project back on track, but would not repair or strengthen the relationship between the two parties.
Market Culture
“Prefer organizations that internally resemble markets”
Individuals are assumed to be the primary actors within an organization
Focus on Managers
Managerial duties are viewed as more important and significant

Culture shock
Ambiguous Job Scopes
Unclear Structure
Lack of Experience
Diverse personalities and different perceptions
Project Off Course

**OVERALL: This plan will
mend and strengthen the relationship
between the parties and will
allow for successful project
completion which should both be priorities.**
Full transcript