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Do You Speak My Language?

Author(s):

Andrea Charman
Andrea Charman, Executive Director: CTS Inc, New York, NY 10017, 212/661 5682.
Ming Tsuai
Ming Tsuai, China Specialist, CTS Inc, New York, NY 10017, 212/661 5682.
Elaine Whittington, C.P.M.
Elaine Whittington, C.P.M., Educator, G & E Enterprises, CA 91040, 818/951 4956

82nd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1997 

Abstract. In today's competitive marketplace, companies must adopt global sourcing strategies. This inevitably presents purchasing professionals with new and changing challenges. New challenges because many of us with only limited exposure to international, intercultural business now find ourselves interfacing with unfamiliar cultures; changing because the countries and cultures where we are sourcing our products, parts and widgets are commonly in a stage of economic transition and rapid change. Information technology is more often than not the main driver of change. This set of circumstances results in an urgent need for purchasing professionals to keep current, to keep informed about developments in these 'source cultures'; it also means we must continually hone our intercultural knowledge and skills to ensure maximum performance. This workshop addresses these challenges. It opens with a critical issues checklist and a suggested basic toolkit for successful global sourcing, irrespective of the country. It goes on to highlight common problems encountered by American purchasing professionals in crossborder transactions and business partner management. The session suggests how American cultural preferences may encourage inappropriate handling of a selection of situations. The workshop focuses Asian business with particular emphasis on China, the emerging ' center of the world.' A series of presenter simulated situations will be used to illustrate and explain the consequences of culture in US-People's Republic of China business interactions. Participants will go on to contrast Chinese, Japanese and South Korean approaches in a short casestudy exercise. The workshop will close with a Q&A session.

Introduction. Business today reflects a new world (dis)order. The development of the 10 emerging economies of Asia, the reawakening of the PRC, and the changing role of Japan, are all having an effect on American business. This workshop opens by seeking to clarify the starting point for a purchasing professional in this increasingly crossborder global arena? It will list and review the critical issues in global purchasing decision-making in general as a basis for the rest of the workshop.

A Basic Toolkit. Once we have defined a list of critical issues in global purchasing in today's business arena, we need to develop a toolkit to deal with them. This set of competency-based tools every successful purchasing professional needs in order to compete and to remain in the game.

Culture's Consequences. We are all victims of our own culture. Culture is a silent language. It communicates all the time. The problem is we may not be able to hear it particularly when we are faced with the cultural language of a business counterpart who does not share our heritage; someone who does not share our business structures, practices, and preferences; in short someone who does not speak our cultural language. This makes communication more difficult than we think. The more removed the culture is from our own - Chinese, Japanese or South Korean, for example, in the case of Americans - the more difficult the task. This section of the workshop highlights some of mainstream American business preferences which may cause misunderstandings at best, disaster and financial loss at worst.

Understanding China. Nothing replaces knowledge. W.E. Deming was so right! So, what does a savvy purchasing professional need to know about China and the Chinese in order to minimize failure? Not every Chinese is the same but we can make some useful generalizations while keeping our global business toolkit in mind. Here the workshop takes participants into a short simulation involving our American and Chinese experts. See for yourselves the potential consequences of culture in American-Chinese business transactions.

Routes to Solutions. And what of other nationals in the region? A comparative interactive exercise reviews the possible strategies of other nationals with a focus on the Japanese, the South Koreans, and the Taiwanese.

Conclusion. There is always more than one way of looking at a business situation, of negotiating a solution to a business problem, and of managing a business partnership. One is not necessarily better than another. Cultures are different and so are solutions.


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