Thursday, January 13, 2011

The holy grail and China's business management - review

Jack Ma speaks during The Future of the Global...Jack Ma of Alibaba via Wikipedia
As China's economy keeps on moving upwards, and the West is still hoping the worst of the financial meltdown might be over, the quest for what makes China's business tick is heating up. In China's Management Revolution: Spirit, Land, Energy, Charles-Edouard Bouee uses the power behind consultancy agency Roland Berger to embark on his search for the holy grail of China's management revolution. And possibly into the question why the MBA-induced management strategies are failing.
He warns us in advance for those who hope there will be a holy grail: the evidence of its existence is still very frail. It takes us well into the second half of the book, before the first building stones are discovered.
Zong Qinghou of Wahaha tells us how he prefers salary reductions over dismissals to face a crisis; unfortunately for the interview his fight with Danone is off limits. Jack Ma of Alibaba explains how he uses tai chi in a management setting. Although his fight with Yahoo and Ebay could have been more interesting to support his case. And Liu Chuanzhi saves his company Lenovo (former Legend), after a merger with the PC department of IBM seems to head for a multicultural disaster.
Now Michael Porter's Five Forces might have outlived themselves, seeking for the secret behind the Chinese management culture is potentially interesting. Was it not the Japanese culture of Just-in-Time (JIT) that not only explained why a section of Japan's manufacturers worked more efficiently, but also provided Western producers good tools to revolutionize their production processess?
Unfortunately, China is not yet giving away its secrets yet and - as the author sights - often well-placed managers of successful Chinese companies have often no clue what they are doing better. In the process he offers us names and faces of a new generation of Chinese business gurus that only seldom make it into Western media, like Zhang Lan of the restaurant chain South Beaty and Feng Jun of the electronics producer Aigo.
If there is a holy grail of China's business management, asking those people questions is the only way to find it out. One day, when we learn to ask the right questions, we might even get the good answers. If they are willing to answer those questions.

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