Situation: A company recently set up an operation in Shanghai. An immediate shock has been that that the Chinese engineers have not been able to solve problems creatively. To date their solutions are limited to following an outline provided by the home office. How does the company address this? How do you get a Shanghai office up to speed?
Advice from the CEOs:
- Current Chinese culture is to do what you’re told, and not to vary from the direction given by those to whom you report. However, these are smart people. Given time and training they will get through this. Can you be patient enough to allow this to occur?
- The most important role in your Shanghai location is a trusted, competent Chinese General Manager. This individual can get you where you want to be the fastest. It is also the hardest position to fill in China.
- One option is to investigate connections through the SCEA – Silicon Valley Chinese Engineers Association. Many SCEA members are Chinese who have been educated in the US but want to return to China. You may find good candidates here.
- The best candidates have bi-cultural exposure – they understand Chinese culture, but also understand US standards, expectations and operations.
- Be sure to check US references of any candidates who are currently in the US.
- Early operations and adaptations are the most difficult. Talk to people in Shanghai who have solved this problem.
- Develop a separate project selection / development methodology for projects you want to transfer to China. This will change as the Chinese employees begin to approach US standards.
- As you hire new Chinese employees, look for individuals who play and write music. They are naturally more creative. Microsoft has used this approach successfully in China.