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Transcript of Ellen Moore
Analysis & Recommendations
The Ellen Moore case provides an example of how well intentioned leaders can fail in international endeavors when they underplay or ignore the cultural context that makes their leadership styles inherently different. Our team has reviewed this case and associated readings in order to provide an discerning analysis of the issues as well as recommendations for improvements moving forward.
Priority 1 - Engage Top Leadership
Considering the slow progress on the project milestones and high confusion within the project team, we recommend a meeting between the senior leadership across JVI; Mr. Cho, Robert Brown, and Bob Stewart. While meeting on this particular topic may create conflict, addressing the challenges head-on while keeping the end goal in mind, will result in functional, constructive conflict.
Priority 2 – Realign Project Organizational Structure
We recommend moving Ellen into the Lead Program Manager role. This role will focus on program strategy and will be accountable for the overall milestones and deliverables. Jack will report to Ellen. He will be the Project Manager and will be responsible for leading the Korean system engineers as the day-to-day manager of work tasks.
Priority 3 –
Re-commit and Re-communicate
The senior leadership team along with Jack and Ellen will communicate their go-forward plan to the operational staff together as a unified team. This communication should mitigate the challenges related to the North American preference for high context communication versus the Korean preference for lower context communication.
The causes of the conflict being experienced by the SI Project Team stem from two main factors: a lack of clear and constructive communication and complications around cultural differences.
When building any cross-cultural relationship, effective communication is the primary building block. Communicating effectively becomes more difficult when colleagues speak a variety of languages and come from a diverse set of cultural backgrounds.
This project would optimally be completed on time and within scope of the originally defined agreement. The two leaders would learn and grow within cultural and leadership contexts and be better prepared for future international projects. Each person involved would become culturally fluent and better prepared to work with diverse individuals in the future.
Priority 4 – Cultural and Professional Development
We believe the senior leadership team should sponsor and participate in cultural education for the project teams and leaders.
Based on these recommendations, we believe that JVI has a strong likelihood of getting back on track with the system implementation project and more importantly in developing a strong global culture that promotes differences as strengths and encourages leaders to grow through experiences and well designed training programs.
Provide an insightful analysis of the Ellen Moore case that reinforces our team's understanding of the key concepts presented thus far in the Leading and Managing Global Business course. Also, provide recommendations for getting this project back on track.
Leverage reading materials and in-class discussions to provide observations into what is taking place between Jack and Ellen and how it is impacting the overall project team and timeline.
Thoroughly consider short-term and long-term impact on the project, project team, leaders, and partnership while providing helpful recommendations that improve the cultural understanding of the team and move the project towards a successful completion
Poorly defined roles and responsibilities
Jack was under the impression that he was leading the project from the beginning. This created competition with Ellen from the onset of the project.
Cross-cultural conflict avoidance played an important role.
Jack refused to discuss the issues with Ellen. He communicated his own objectives to the team and wouldn't address Ellen in any direct way.
Ellen's lack of understanding of the low context communication style of the Korean culture kept her from finding the best approach with Jack. She relied on words instead of intuition or feelings.
Ellen would have been more effective if she had recognized the differences between low and high context communication styles.
In the Korean culture (specifically the traditional Confucius culture), women were expected to take care of the household.
The American consultants were aware of this potential issue from the onset, but were given the green light to assign Ellen Moore as the Project Lead by their Korean partners.
Collectivist cultures with high power distances like that of Korea should be approached differently than individualistic and low power distance cultures like that of the US.
Ellen was not completely aware of these cultural differences and was therefore unable to find the best approach to insert her leadership style with both Jack and the Korean engineers.
Although Ellen was effective at leading the team in Jack's absence, she was unable to insert any influence when he was present.
These communication and cultural issues have created a big disconnect between the two leaders, Jack and Ellen.
Ellen and Jack appear to be competing with each other for relevance and for the overall leadership role on this project instead of working together.
Leaders are not learning from each other and have not gained the cross functional skills that would help them on this project and those in the future.
The entire project team is not focused on the core goals and timeline which has caused the project to fall behind schedule.
Frustration between senior leaders has surfaced based on misunderstandings of the core issues.
Each leader has placed the blame on the counterparts project manager.
Opportunity for Improvement
Based on the case, there is no reason to believe that either party is ill-intentioned. There is significant opportunity for both Ellen and Jack to grow from this experience while getting the project back on track and refocusing their team on the objective.
By working together, this cross-cultural team has the opportunity to learn, grow, and develop from each other in an engaging environment while working towards a common goal.
The job of the leadership team is to remind, engage, and encourage people to embrace this opportunity for learning through experience.
Setting the Stage
Based on our analysis of the case and our collective belief that there is an opportunity to drive the project towards success, we have several recommendations that will help propel the team in the right direction.
Gain Sr level alignment around next steps.
Provide clear direction to Jack and Ellen which was obviously missing at the beginning.
Get buy-in from the top down in order to drive the project forward.
Leverage Ellen's skills to lead this project to completion
Jack will benefit from her leadership as he lacks the technical experience necessary to lead this program alone.
Risk of Jack and or Ellen not buying into the new structure.
Jack has to take a step back and report to Ellen which could be difficult for him to deal with.
Ellen has less of an opportunity to expand her team leadership skills which may have a negative impact on her growth.
Gain the team’s collective effort directed towards the same goal of completing the SI on time. This means that they are asking the Korean team to re-commit to the clearly communicated direction, objectives, scope, and end goal.
It may be difficult for Jack and Ellen to show their support for this realignment.
Team may not feel confident in the new direction and may need additional time to adjust to the change.
Provides Jack and Ellen with opportunities to develop into stronger cross-cultural leaders.
Creates a foundation for JVI to have continued success in the future.
Helps the entire team develop cultural synergies among diverse people.
Shows support and understanding which should be a key point for a global organization.
Develops culturally fluent associates for future leadership roles.
Training is an investment and requires time and money.
Risks/Benefits of Our Recommendations
Although there are some risks associated with our plan, they are more than offset by the potential gains of following through with our recommendations.
The order of our model is an important factor as we developed our recommendations in a sequential way.
We believe that the cross-cultural training point is of vital importance, but so is the timing. There is no time at this point in the project to stop progress and train everyone on cultural topics. This must be done at a logical point once the project is back on track and the timeline permits.
1. Finishing the project on time is of utmost importance.
2. Developing Jack and Ellen is important to both firms.
3. That the Sr. Leadership team will be able to align around how to move forward since it is in both of their best interest.
Holfstede's 5 Cultural Dimensions
There are significant cultural differences between the US and South Korean Cultures.
There is a moderate difference in the Power Distance which indicates that the Korean workforce is more conscious of subordinate relationships and hierarchy when compared to the US.
The S Korean culture is much more collectivist when compared to the individualistic characteristics of the
There is a moderate variance in the Masculinity dimension which suggests that the Koreans are more focused on modesty and a preference for cooperation.
S Korea exhibits a much higher tendency for uncertainty avoidance
Korea exhibits a long-term orientation where people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.