Yang Jianguo was recently promoted from country manager for China to global head of product development at a French perfume maker named Deronde. He had been country manager for the China operations, having been promoted from his job running a lab that had produced two hit scents in the Asian market. The company’s CEO, Alain Deronde had chosen Jianguo over three other rising stars. Yves Saurac, one of the three rising stars, was the vice president of the company who everyone had assumed to get job instead of Jianguo. Yves was also close friend with the CEO’s family but Jianguo succeeded in the competition. Jianguo was eager to succeed in his new role in Paris. There were several issues to deal with in the first place. The company’s best prospects were in emerging markets, yet consumers in China and many other Asian markets found the Western scents unpleasantly strong.
Sales were weak in Latin America as well. Given that after decades of double digit growth, Deronde’s market share was also sliding. Jianguo had no doubt that he had some winning ideas, but they seem to be falling on deaf ears. During the Jaingguo’s pitch at the board meeting, everyone at the meeting felt unease about Jiangguo’s idea pitch. Members of the executive team, for their part, find Jianguo to be largely indifferent to their input. Those other board members, including the three rising stars kept opposing to Jianguo’s ida pitch. He was getting nowhere. Jianguo’s first pitch to board members turned out to be very disappointing. Those three are competitor, but they had known each other for years and as a result, they also shared degree of trust. When, three of them had a moment to connect privately, Yves expressed his earnest concern about company’s future and how Jianguo avoid talking to him about the issue of connecting Eastern and Western culture.
Problems at hand indentified – what needs to be changed
As the world embraces the global economy, modern corporations might need to promote diversified management staffs in order to keep pace in the emerging market economy. Thrusting onto the world stage, Jianguo Yang became a new generation regional managers in French perfume company. Even he equipped with intimate knowledge of local market and local Chinese management skill but differences in national and corporate cultures within the same organization can pose significant hurdles in a new environment. Different attitudes and behaviors of new colleagues might make him a hard time to work and get familiar with. The persuasive argument and strong communication might help someway but the most importance is to understand the diversified peers’ culture and adapt to it. Making the transition to the global arena can be challenging so can Jianguo make the transition? And what should Jianguo do?
Analysis of causes
From regional star to global leader, from a Chinese local manager to a multi-national executive, a lot of things have changed for Jianguo. It seems, on the surface, it is a good thing. But this transition period is actually very tough to handle. It is very easily to change into a bad thing. Jianguo is facing a turning point. The teammates wouldn’t like to cooperate with him. His superior has some misunderstanding towards him. He was uninvolved in strategic thinking, feeling frustrated and confused. In fact, his problem is resulted from three aspects.
First aspect is the cultural difference. Jianguo came from China. In Chinese companies, the main organization structure is hierarchy. What does it mean? It means that employees report to his direct head. Department employee reports to department manager. Department manager reports to general manager. Leapfrog report is definitely taboo. The logic is supposed to be like this. However, in French companies, they mainly worship flat organizational structure. It is totally a different picture. The term “Leapfrog report” never exists under this circumstance. The General Manager welcomes every single employee to report direct to him. For Jianguo, as a Chinese, he doesn’t know that. So when he found his French employees leapfrog reported to his head instead of him.
The conflict turns up. He didn’t feel well. He held bias and misunderstanding towards his employees. Besides, in Chinese culture, the employees get used to move under the team head’s order, which is identified as top-down organization style. Jianguo gets used of this mode. He never listened to his subordinates suggestions. Instead, he intended to give orders. In French, the organizational style is bottom-up. You listen and you make decisions. Secondly, it goes to role difference. Jianguo was once a Chinese local manager. Now he is a global company’s executive.
The role has changed, with a lot of things following. In the past, his decision making was mainly on intuition, experience and anecdotes. Now, his decision should be based on strategic thinking and data, which means more scientific and logic. In the past, his leadership type was transactional, which means he was a task driven manager. Now he should become transformational, which means he has to inspire his team members, to listen to them and to communicate to them. Also the focus and the political wisdom are different now. I got a table to illustrate as follows.
Thirdly, it has to go to the ineffective communication. Jianguo might be a smart guy based on his outstanding achievement in the former position, and obviously he has a lot of good ideas for marketing in the new position. But he did really a bad job to promote himself and his ideas. His colleagues didn’t buy it. He never initiates a deep talk with his subordinates. He doesn’t know what kind of people he is working with.
He never listens to them patiently, given that he seems too eager to prove his capabilities. He shows no respect to his teammates. What was worse, he never penetrates his ideas to his superior. He didn’t know what kind of character his superior was and what kind of marketing direction he was in favor of. During their meeting, Jianguo failed to notice the fact that the superior felt unease to his idea. Jianguo just focused on his own idea and himself. This ineffective communication may ruin his career.
Evaluation of the actions in the case
Jianguo was not dynamics enough to acclimate himself to new working role and multicultural environment. Working culture and environment in French company would be definitely different and beyond what he had anticipated. Being only one promoted he probably could not rely to the colleagues who feel betrayed as much as he would do in the previous role. Jianguo had many options to deliver some quick wins and demonstrate his value so the colleagues could make themselves look bad by becoming his enemies. So now the leadership and communication skill would play important role if he would like to keep pace in his career development further. To succeed, Jianguo had to make some changes in his beliefs and behavior.
Approaches to solve the problem
The problems encountered in this case can be viewed from two aspects: the aspect of Jianguo Yang and the aspect of the organization. Jiangguo Yang should make some changes to fit the organization; meanwhile the organization should also make some change for further development. In this case, three experts give their commentary advices, which mainly on the aspect of Jianguo Yang. However, in our approaches to solve the problem, the aspect of the organization will be the main part. There are two reasons for this. First, fairly speaking, for Jianguo Yang, the experts have already given some very good advices, which we don’t want to challenge on. Besides the truth that the advices are really practical and effective, at least we think so, these experts are very experienced and insightful. They are Katherine Tsang, the executive vice chairman and CEO of Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai, Mansour Javidan, the dean of research and the Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona, and James Champy, the chairman of consulting for Perot Systems and a coauthor of Reengineering the Corporation (Harper, 1993).
Mansour Javidan is also the president and chairman of the board of the GLOBE research project. He has lived or worked in 22 countries. Second, we think characteristics of an organization, such as organization structure, organizational culture and organizational change, are no less important than the humane issues in a company. This is also an very important topic in Organizational Behavior. Before we moved on, we should notice that they did notice the side of the organization. Although the three experts are all focusing on the side of Jianguo, one expert, James Champy, mentioned some about the organization. He said that “Deronde International needs to adjust as well. If the company is serious about making a global move, Alain should take his whole team through some sort of cultural appreciation and immersion process. Culture begins at the top, and in this company the executives seem comfortable stereotyping anybody who doesn’t look and speak the way they do.
It’s no surprise that Alain’s direct reports aren’t comfortable with Jianguo. I’m not entirely optimistic about Deronde’s chances for transformation, however. Company cultures and behaviors don’t budge easily – especially if the CEO has more of an appetite for foie gras than for change.” However, this comment is not very practical and detailed. Now, let’s talk about why the organization needs to change and how. The value of Jianguo is not fully used in the company. Reasons are already talked in the former part. However, we need to see his values and that is the reason for the company to make some change to fully use the potential of its employees. Jianguo’s value can also be proved in James Champy’s comment. ‘In my experience, in a family-run business, loyalty and comfort trump other considerations. Look at Ford Motor: Young Bill Ford was not ready to run that business. The company has continued to lose market share, but the family seems to be comfortable with a trusted person at the helm.
So I was surprised that Alain had chosen Jianguo. It would have been so much easier to choose Yves, whom he knows and trusts. Yet Alain seems to have made a clever strategic choice. Presumably, he sees that in a recession, Deronde’s prospects for growth lie primarily in emerging markets. Jianguo appears to be connected to the young Chinese consumer, and Alain evidently has the smarts to connect the dots.’ Having known all the facts above, what changes should the company make? The bureaucracy form both sides, Chinese and French, should be reduced. Although the bureaucracy has some strength, such as functional economies of scale, minimum duplication of personnel and equipment, enhanced communication and centralized decision making, in this case the inefficiency of communication is large due to the bureaucracy in the minds of people from both sides.
The weaknesses of bureaucracy are subunit conflicts with organizational goals, obsessive concern with rules and regulations and lack of employee discretion to deal with problems. Here is an example for this. “Jianguo began with a quick review of the ideas he had pitched at lunch the day before and then launched into his proposal for a line of skin care products aimed at young men. He thought he had the perfect spokesman: Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang. “Will people know who he is?” Yves asked. “Outside China, I mean?” He looked around the room. “Yes, China matters, but let’s not forget that most of our customers aren’t in third world countries.” Jianguo moved on without comment.
“Before we can even start talking about new products for these markets,” How can we change the organization? We want to use the Lewin’s Three-Step Change Model. The three steps are unfreezing, movement and refreezing. There are two forces, driving forces and restraining forces. Driving forces are forces that direct behavior away from the status quo. Restraining forces are forces that hinder movement from the exiting equilibrium. Unfreezing is to change efforts to overcome the pressures of both individual resistance and group conformity. Refreezing is stabilizing a change intervention by balancing driving and restraining forces.
What we learned from this case
From what we discussed above about this incident in the case, we learn quite a lot about how to face an issue like that, how to analyze it in terms of organizational behavior theories. On one hand, we can see that the organizational behavior issues commonly exist in the organizations and this kind of issues are not only important for healthy development of the organizations but also complicated and very sensitive. On the other hand, to avoid this kind of thing happen, to solve this kind of things, both the organization and the person mainly concerned should make efforts. For avoiding, the organization or the superior should take more responsibilities. The whole organization should cultivate a more flexible mechanism of decision making under the situation of such a big but necessary high-level personnel change for company’s strategic movement. As a superior, it must consider carefully and completely about the problems probably confronted with before making such a decision.
First, Pay attention to cultural difference. In this case, due to the existing cultural difference, he should create some chance for Jianguo, to let him own the working experience in different cultural, like working in the overseas branch or in the department with different cultural atmosphere. Second, do enough preparation for promotion. Appointing the person to assist the superior whose position he will be promoted to or make his job rotated in different departments or branches should be a good preparation for promoting him. Third, cultivating a teamwork spirit is important to become a good leader. For solving the problems, the person mainly concerned, like Jianguo in the case, should take more responsibilities. First, he should analyze the cultural difference, the role difference and make an effective and efficient interaction with his colleagues.
In other words, he should change himself according to this new environment, and make achievements which can help him get higher trusted by his opposites. In mutual trusted circumstance, he can promote his idea more easily. Second, he must started to learn more about the market, and convince others with scientific research, like doing field survey, get learned more accurate figures, which can improve his ideas and make his arguments more supportive and persuasive. Last but not least, he should find a breach to reverse negative trend, and this breach is Alain, who promoted him to such a position. Alain can consider this whole issue on a higher position and in an all-round manner.
The consensus between such two main persons involved definitely would help the whole issue move towards the better direction. In conclusion, this kind of issue is caused by three problems, including cultural difference, role difference, and ineffective communication. So, to deal with this issue need to minimize cultural difference, minimize role difference, and improve communication. The solutions we mentioned above along with the suggestions given by three experiences persons in the case, should make good sense, and solve the problem the company faced in the case. In current situation, the most key person for dealing with this problem is still Jianguo. Only if he deals with this issue in the ways we suggested above, be patient, and get co-operated by Alain, it is believable that he can change the current situation and realize the original strategic intension they expected successfully.