Ellen Moore – Living and Working in Korea

Problem Statement
Andrew Kilpatrick has had an argument with Mr. Song, who is blaming Ellen Moore for problems with the project. Andrew is concerned that the project will not be completed on time and he will be held accountable.

The case, Ellen Moore: Living and Working in Korea, is about a system consultant, Ellen Moore that was sent to Korea to manage a project involving consultants from Korea (JVI) and North America (SCG) to represent a joint venture between a North American information technology company (WSI) and a major Korean conglomerate (KCI). Andrew Kilpatrick, Ellen’s superior, had the responsibility about the project, based on his depth of knowledge on the subject and he chose Ellen to be responsible whenever he was absent. After a certain time, Ellen found out that the Korean consultants were less experienced than expected. Besides that, tensions arose between her and the co-manager, J.T. Kim (Jack), regarding who was given directions to the team and they escalated when the project fell behind schedule. In the end like I mentioned in my problem statement, the Korean Mr. Song is blaming Ellen and Andrew needs to decide how to proceed so that the project gets completed.

The challenge for this paper is to filter out the individual actions and the strategic goals every character has. Also, I will try to relate the actions to the material we covered in class. Finally, I explain the reasons for their behavior, the impact it has on the project and address in my recommendation how Andrew Kilpatrick can proceed to realize the $3.5 billion project that is due in December successfully.

In the Korean culture there are different values than in the North American culture. Confucian thoughts guide the differences and it has a big impact on vabes of business men or the business etiquette in Korea. Certain actions like the exchange of business cards, to know how to address a Korean by name, or replenishing a colleague’s drink at dinner, involved formal rituals that occur at regular intervals. Ellen learned that it was important to provide and to receive business cards in an appropriate manner. The person who receives the business card should always look over and comment on it before he pockets the card. In North America, you would receive the card then you take a short look and after you put it in your pocket. Contraventions would be mistaken as extremely rude in Korea. This is why Ellen Moore was working hard from the first moment to behave right. From my point of view, Ellen Moore was the right person for this job. She had worked in Bahrain a very difficult culture for a woman to gain respect among men and she had high skills in capability, creativity, and project management. Andrew Kilpatrick chose her to be his co-project manager because of her adaptability in countries with different culture values. She tried to copy the Hangul symbols and read the Korean store signs. It seems that she did everything to reduce the cultural barriers and get comfortable with the vabes, values and the overall environment in Korea in order to bring herself in the best position to do a great job on the project. Even if it was hard for her to attend the periodical team building activities apart from their job which were used to strengthen the male bonding under the Korean consultants. Drinking activities while having dinner together, baseball games, and little trips belonged to daily business life in Korea. It was expected that all team members joined the meetings after work and the lunch as well. This created a strong value for teams and social relationships.
Through all these activities, the Koreans took care that Confucian thoughts of loyalty to a hierarchical structure of authority and superiors-subordinate relationships (old/young and male/female) are always redeemed. These are two of the main social values which were respected.
These values had a big impact on the cooperativeness of Jack to tolerate Ellen. The difficulty was that Ellen was Jack’s counterpart on the North American side and to stay with a woman on the same hierarchy level didn’t fit into Jack’s social values but I would like to go more into depth to a later time in this paper.

The differences that were mentioned about the vabes, they exist also for the norms. It is essential in Korea that you don’t provide compliments to someone for work completed as required. As well, it is not appropriate to ask questions because by that you show that your teacher has not done a good job. Contrary to that in North America business men or women give a lot of compliments to show the well performing employee that you respect his performance. Also, you are most likely to ask questions while showing that you are interested in the work. By having these strong differences it is very difficult to acclimatize for a western business person in an environment like that. Another norm for a Korean is not to lose face in front of his/her team members. Also, it is well-known that subordinated do not leave the workplace before the head is gone even the work is done. All this is about the respect for hierarchy, standing and the complete obedience that comes with it to the same time.
Jack looks for me like a person who is living the old fashioned, Korean traditions by Confucian who seeks for power and standing. He needs to influence the environment by telling his consultants what to do even if he is unsure what kind of impact this has on the project. A proof for this was the market research study which was not within the scope of the contracted work. He didn’t communicate this command he gave to the consultants to Ellen which shows that he is not a team player and also underlines his need to show power. When someone else stepped into his “empire”, he became angry. Ellen Moore was the one who invaded into his territory. When he was gone, Ellen Moore had her first opportunity to work with and to lead the Korean consultants on a daily basis. She was very pleased at that moment because she coached them directly, without interference from Jack. She felt that everybody worked together in a very positive manner, in complete alignment. This situation shows that the younger consultants are more open to women in business life and they accept Ellen. Contrary to Jack, who looked angry after he got back from the business trip seeing that everybody worked for Ellen quite well and he couldn’t believe that anyone on the team would refuse his orders to work for a “woman” instead of following his instructions.

Internal-external mindset
Jack was not able to throw away his values and beliefs regarding Ellen and the project. He didn’t accept her in his “own business world”. Even though, she is from a different country and used to other customs, he didn’t let her in his internal system (Reading about Group System Theory). Though she tried to behave right it wasn’t enough to convince his beliefs and assumptions. She changed his external system with her presence and the changes she brought into the project. From this moment on, he felt uncomfortable and competed more instead of working together.
At this point I would like to relate to another reading, which is “Self-Consistency”.
For me, it seems that Jack is not consistent with his own meaning. His self-concept changed after Ellen Moore stepped into the project. It looks for me that she overwhelmed him with her skills to solve problems and he tried to find other ways to compete with her. By bringing up the market research, Jack made a decision without Ellen’s knowledge and deteriorated the situation to a point in which he would compromise the whole project while sticking with his values and beliefs of superiors-subordinate relationships. Away from Jack, I would like to set the focus more on the teams of consultants.
In view of affiliation, the Korean consultants had a high need. Evidences did I mention before when I talked about the business environment and the Korean business etiquette. Social events, periodical dinner, and team building activities are the occasions to develop the positive relationships with each other on the team. A need to like and be liked by others plays a big role in the mindset of the consultants.

The Korean consultants were motivated by the social model of motivation. As I mentioned in the affiliation part, they believed in the social activities outside their jobs to grow together as a team. They were guided by their norms and beliefs in the loyalty they have to their company. Respect and structure determine their motivation to their team members and the firm. If this model collapses and they loose their respect and the loyalty because of any reason, there will be no motivation anymore. Contrary to the Korean motivation is the motivation of the North American consultant who creates their own motivation including all three models: Psychological, social and economic. If we take Ellen Moore she was guided most likely by the psychological motivation, because of her career to improve personally as a business person who sets herself new goals with every new project.
Commitment was not really present with the Korean consultants. They worked on control-narrowly defined jobs, rule books and they never added input on their work. They worked for getting not fired and drank the whiskey-beer because everybody expected them to do so. Controversy to that, somebody who has an impact on the outcome of the work can build commitment. This is more likely in the North American culture, but not in the Korean.

Problems right from the start
After focusing on the actions and behavior pattern I would like to direct the attention on the management who were responsible that everything happened the way it did. The project management on the one side represented by Andrew and Ellen and on the other by Mr. Song, Park and Jack did not work suitable together for having a good business relationship.
In the reading of “One-to-one relationships” it is described how problems arise for many different reasons. One person doesn’t act the way the other person likes it and they have a problem. For instance, when Andrew arrived in Korea to request interviews in order to obtain more information about their business environment, the Korean team reacted very reluctant to set up these meetings. Nobody knows what the Korean mangers thought about to convene meetings suddenly. Maybe they assumed that Andrew didn’t prepare. But, the simple reason why they were reluctant was that they are not used to that. For Andrew this is the first thing to do while having a new project. Sitting together, asking questions and talking about the problems. Andrew’s problem was that the translated documents Andrew had only abstract concepts because of the language barrier. Andrew found it essential to ask for further information. The Korean didn’t know about that and reacted reluctant. Unfortunately he became always the same answers although he was not provided with enough information. This represents a bad start because apparent problems can not developed from the start. These communication problems in the beginning lead us to a different aspect I would like to focus on. Every time you work with another company together for a common goal you need to trust the other side. You assume that they know what they are doing.

In the reading “Are your employees bowling alone?” it talks about blind trust which is essential in the first moment while working together with the other company. You tend to trust whom you know well. In this situation, you only have the reputation about the other side and you trust that information that everything works out well. This trust develops over time. After convincing the Koreans that Andrew understands his business, they wanted Andrew to lead the project and to work on a full-time basis. Due to projects in North America Andrew could manage the SI work on a part time basis and send Ellen Moore after requesting if a woman would be accepted in the position. Part-time working on a project of this size is dangerous and can lead to a lack of communication.
Another trust situation came up between Ellen and the Korean consultants. She did not feel that Jack was letting her be a part of the team. “Trust is an expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of that community.” From my point of view this situation described above never really existed between Ellen and the co-workers of Jack. It looked like they worked for the same thing, without Jack, but there was never real trust.

Human Moments
In “The Human Moment of Truth” we find the problems Andrew has later in the case in which he lacks communication with Ellen. Andrew misses that the problem between Ellen and Jack escalates and the project gets delayed by a month. Here, there are not enough “Human Moments” so that the project seems to fail so that Andrew has to end his wilderness camping vacation with his family.

Managing Interpersonal Conflict
The reason why I refer to this reading is the behavior pattern of the Korean management. First, they accept that Ellen Moore can work as a full-time consultant for Andrew because of Andrew’s other projects in North America and Ellen’s high skills and in the end they change and use Ellen as a scapegoat. Unfortunately the case does not say who gave Andrew the answer that Ellen can do the job. If it would be Mr. Song, Andrew could explain him that he accepted to have a woman in the position and spike Mr. Song on that. Also, he could explain how good the relation and the work climate was when Jack was absent and how it changed at the moment when he got back.

(My recommendation is based on the fact that Ellen Moore can keep her job.)
Due to the one month delay, all participants of the project need to meet in one big meeting to set targets, how the project can be completed on time. By that, they need goals in short-term and in long term. A short term goal might be in a time frame of 2 weeks. Whereas a long term goal would be to see how the work is developing every 6 weeks. Every team needs to get controlled by the managers, and the managers need someone who watches their performance. This can be a person who works for another company or who dealt in the past with consulting projects. Everybody at the meeting needs to know how serious the situation is and that everybody has to work harder to recover the lost time. The management of the company can implement awards to give incentives for people who would like to benefit from the extra work. The management has to communicate to everybody that if everybody pulls the same rope the time problem might be solved.

I would organize a trip at the weekend to a nice hotel near a vacation area. This trip includes all North Americans and the consultants, managers who with the Americans together. Here they should solve communication problems and cross culture relation differences. They can not be eliminated, but you can people make to understand each other better. Reasons why people act like that will be explained. This trip can be in China or in another country. The purpose why to meet somewhere else is that everybody gets away from the job and the stress. Arriving on a Friday night at the hotel, they will have to cook together. The Korean will have to cook something typical Korean and the North American something that expresses their culture. Everything is planned ahead so that there are no supply problems. In Germany, we say that love goes through your stomach. By creating together a dinner they will learn that other cultures are different and interesting. This dinner is a start to understand different cultures and behavior. For the next day there will be hold seminars for understanding each other better. I recommend showing movies about business life in North America and Korea. Also, they will have to go through role playing games in which they have to present a situation in which they had problems with the consultant of the other culture. Additionally, the Koreans get masks with faces of famous North Americans and opposite. This will change the picture everybody has from the foreign consultants and create fun, laughing and change. For the last day, they will have to play some softball/baseball to improve the team spirit. After that, they go on a Jeep Safari and experience some planned adventures. This might create some bonding among the different cultures. Things they can talk about when they sit together at lunch or at dinner. Experiences they can laugh about and which bring the different characters together.

Jack and Ellen Moore will have to meet once a week with a psychologist who knows both cultures, to talk about problems that arose. Every Friday they need to spend one or two hours on talking about what went right or wrong the past week. Everything what is said in this meeting will never be communicated to the other employees who work on the project. Nobody can get offended or compromised.

Jack and Ellen will have to report once in two weeks to Andrew, Mr. Park and Mr. Song about events, progress, problems, changes and difficulties.

I recommend installing three boxes. The first one is for questions of the workers about their work because they won’t change their behavior from one day to another. Ellen Moore has to check the box three times a day. Also, the consultants are required to send emails to Ellen Moore if they have questions. The questions go to Ellen because the consultants are more likely to ask questions to a person from another country so that they are not loosing their faces.
The second box is for work environment problems so that there arise no difficulties among the consultants anymore. Ellen and Jack need to check this box at the end of each day together.
The third box is to hand in improvement-proposals. The consultants can make suggestions how to improve the work processes of the project. With this tool they get more involved and motivated in the project.