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U.S. and Chinese Management Expectations By Kimberly Kirkendall

I was meeting with a company recently. They called me because they were considering making some changes to their management team. They were frustrated with the behavior of leader in their company in China, a Chinese executive. Their concern? He (let’s call him Wang) was not on the plant floor enough. He wasn’t communicating regularly with them about day-to-day details at the plant. They wanted him to design and lead some production improvement projects and he wasn’t following through.

I suggested that before they consider replacing him, which is both costly and time consuming, that it would be good to take a look at their procedures.  I could work with them to assess day-to-day business transactions and how they had structured the communication of business needs. This would give us the short term benefit of identifying Wang’s strengths and weaknesses, we could better identify what capabilities we would be looking for in a replacement, and at the same time we could identify areas where we could improve their procedures.

But really…I was thinking during the discussion that the underlying reason for their dissatisfaction with the manager was cultural.  The above complaint is one I hear often, and its common struggle for US owned companies in China. Not because of the capability of the manager, but because of our different expectations of what a manager does.  Let’s take a look at one difference between how U.S. and Chinese value management communication.

To do this I am going to look at the behavior three ways; what we say our goal is, what that really means, and then how we feel about it. So let’s look at management communication in China and the U.S. through that lens.


  1. What we say we do: Americans believe that our management style is open, that we empower our teams to engage and contribute to the organization by giving them overall goals and encouraging them to create a solution.
  2. What it really means: Your boss is going to give you a goal, maybe a loose outline, and expect you to figure it out. You know that phrase, right? To figure it out involves you coming back to them with questions regularly through the process. They (un)intentionally give you incomplete information (because it would be insulting to give you all the details) and expect you to come back and ask for more information. In an American work environment, you should ask your supervisor regularly for feedback as you progress. If you don’t, then they worry that you aren’t making any progress and you may go astray. And you had better ask more questions, because they didn’t give you everything you needed up front in the first place.
  3. How it feels: If you are American, depending on your personality, this can either be liberating or irritating. Yes, you have more flexibility and input, you can be creative and you have a lot of freedom in how you perform your job. Equally, it can be frustrating to only have the outline of the project change as you proceed, watch the goals change as you gather more information, and stop and start while you wait for feedback.


  1. What we say we do: Chinese believe that their management style is clear and efficient, that they give their employees clear instruction and direction and the employee can be successful with less risk to them and the organization.
  2. What it really means: Your boss is going to give you very specific goals, and information and details on how to meet that goal. You are expected to stay within the framework of your role and not venture outside of the parameters. If your task involves coworkers you will go to them early and often to gather information. You should not ask your supervisor questions, if you do that means they failed (they didn’t give you clear direction) and you failed (you didn’t understand it).
  3. How it feels: If you are Chinese, depending on your personality, this can be either liberating or irritating. Yes, you know exactly what to do to succeed, your boss will give you clear direction and you are responsible for your part of the project, not for things that you can’t control. However, it can be frustrating if you want to be creative in your job and/or expand your skills outside of your current role.

CONFLICT: Obviously, the conflict is when you have a boss from one cultural expectations and the employee from the other.


  1. Chinese in the US managing Americans: An old friend of mine was asked to move from China to the U.S. for a six month assignment as interim Director of Supply Chain. She is Chinese, had 20 years’ experience, mostly with U.S. companies and had worked for this particular company for five years. After she was in the U.S. for a month or so I called her. When I asked her how things were going, she said “Americans drive me crazy. They can’t just get things done without coming back all the time with questions. My teams in China would have just taken care of it. It’s such a waste of time.”
  2. U.S. factory in China: I was working with a client in China, the GM of a large 400 person high tech factory in southern China. As we were meeting on a project, his Chinese Plant Manager came in. Their discussion was about a new product that would be coming to the plant, and what lines they would use to manufacture it. The U.S. manager threw out ideas (and then grabbed them back and threw out more). He said “what about lines 4 and 8” and as the Chinese manager was thinking through 4 and 8, with just a few minutes going by…the American said “no…what about 5 and 9” Over 5 minutes the American changed their mind a few times (he was, after all brainstorming). I could see the Chinese manager getting more and more frustrated.
  3. U.S. Manager talking about a Chinese employee: The U.S. manager said to me that the Chinese employee was hiding something, that they weren’t being transparent about the problems at the factory. Why? The Chinese employee only mentions a problem to management after they have identified and started working on the solution.
  4. Chinese intern on a project: I hear this from Chinese students here in the U.S. who are interning at U.S. companies. As a matter of fact I just had this conversation with one of my interns. The students are given a broad outline of a project, and then the boss is gone. They don’t give them much information on how to complete the project, its not something they have done before, they don’t have the data needed, etc. The Chinese intern isn’t comfortable asking the boss for more information, so the project stalls and both sides are not happy.


  1. The Chinese manager would need to understand this is how U.S. workers have been socialized in the workplace. If you aren’t coming back to give your boss updates, you aren’t doing anything. I wouldn’t try to change their behavior – “when in Rome” as they say.
  2. This is similar to the above, but if the U.S. manager really needs his staff’s input to make a decision – he needs to frame it that way. If the U.S. manager had framed the discussion better in the first place, their Chinese manager could have worked within that structure. Rather than saying “we are going to decide where to put this product” if he had said “we are going to think about 5 or 6 different options for this product, and then we will narrow it down to the best two options. Then I want you to take the next few days to analyze those two and give me the pros and cons of both.” No problem – the goal was outlined, and the Chinese manager could work on that (clearly stated) goal.
  3. In this situation the answer is procedures. Having a procedure that forces problems to be written down on a form and management notified. How you implement that depends on the function of that particular position / department. But any client that works with me knows that I am stickler for procedures. They eliminate a lot of cultural misunderstandings.
  4. With my intern, I framed the situation for him – told him I expected him to give me an outline of the project, and then I would comment on it, and give it back to him. And that we would repeat this pattern back and forth a few times. I told him I know he wouldn’t be comfortable working this way. But, this is how Americans are, and to work in the U.S. he needed to get more comfortable with it. The first draft he gave me – 90% complete. Lol.

SUMMARY: Overall, U.S. management behavior expects information to be communicated up. We expect employees to “bring us problems” and “keep us updated.” In China the expectation is that information will be communicated down so that managers “prepare employees to succeed” and employees are focused on implementation of those tasks.

There is not a right and wrong. Or if there is – you should adapt to the environment you are in. Not force your U.S. communication value system onto Chinese employees in China. And Chinese managers/employees in the U.S. need to adapt to the expectations here.

FYI – this is a small part of a training program I have for companies (one for U.S. teams, one for Chinese teams) that started when Disney asked me to work with them more than 10 years ago. There are patterns in behavior like everything else, and as much as the projects we work on involved regulatory procedures and accounting processes and quality systems – those are influenced by cultural norms. There are many reasons why we have the behavior norms that we do, but to learn that you need to take the class!

This client had the class, but its hard to change your own expectations!  I wanted to use the exercise of reviewing their communication and procedures to remind them of those lessons, and help them create a better system to keep everyone on track.

OVERALL – It’s important to be competent both in the transactional side of business, and the cultural / behavioral.  Developing that skill set in your team is critical. Learning from advisors who have both technical and cultural experience is also.

By Kimberly Kirkendall, President, International Resource Development & CFO, Greater Cleveland Chinese Chamber of Commerce

To read more check out the link below:
U.S. and Chinese Management Expectations

2017 NMSDC Conference


As a Minority Business Enterprise for many years now, it has brought unique opportunities and insights in the industry to light at 889 Global Solutions. By adding our Woman-Owned Small Business status recently we are excited to expand this activity. Over the past few days (Sunday, October 22nd – Wednesday, October 25th) our team participated in the 2017 NMSDC Conference.

Ranging in industries from Automotive to Healthcare with many company sizes represented at the conference, there was a lot to learn. The growing use of Supplier Diversity Programs in large businesses has allowed MBE’s to become more interconnected than ever.


AmCon Show a Success

Last week, September 18-20, 889 Global Solutions made an appearance at the AmCon show in Cleveland, Ohio, located at the I-X Center. The turnout was a success for both exhibitors and attendees as American Contract Manufacturers met with local and regional businesses to solve supply chain needs.

The 889 team was excited to create visibility by not only exhibiting, but also presenting a seminar for a local forum at the trade show titled “How to Take Advantage of Global Resources”. AmCon Trade Shows are nationally recognized for having domestic manufacturers come represent themselves and the industry. The show provides a platform for manufacturers to showcase their products and services, as well as, learn about the latest trends in different sectors through educational forums.
As a company that has continually grown since its inception in 2001, 889 has knowledge and experience from past and current practices. It was exciting to learn from others in the space and share what we see as the best way to outsource a supply chain in order to take advantage of labor cost-savings, materials, and also avoid situational road-blocks along the way.

As Alex Anderson, 889 Global Solutions Sales Associate and presenter of the forum, explained “It was a good turnout. There was a good amount of stimulating conversations and general questions about when it is appropriate to look for sourcing solutions internationally, how to go about introducing your company to the practice, and pitfalls to avoid. 889 is proud to consider themselves a leader in this practice and was happy to pass along knowledge that could help businesses be more cost-effective and enhance their supply chain operations.”

Make sure and see 889 Global Solutions showcase more of their services offered at the next trade show being attended in Detroit, Michigan on October 22-25, 2017 for the NMSDC Trade Show. There, you will find not only examples of our international sourcing and manufacturing capabilities, but also our MBE and government contracts capabilities as well. Questions? Please feel free to call 614-235-8889 or email at

Judy Huang, CEO of 889 Global Solutions, recognized as Panelist for Smart Women Breakfast Awards from Smart Business Magazine – Columbus

We are very excited to share that Judy Huang, the CEO and founder of 889 Global Solutions was selected to be a panelist at the 2017 Central Ohio Smart Women Breakfast and Awards! The Smart Women Awards is an annual event held by Smart Business Magazine that recognizes the achievements and success of leading businesswomen and entrepreneurs.

Originally born in China, Judy moved to the United States at age 12. After pursuing a degree in Marketing and Communications from Boston College, she returned to China where she founded the second licensed real estate company in Beijing—which happened to become profitable within 90 days. However, Judy soon found herself in a unique position to leverage her Chinese cultural knowledge and American business acumen to identify targeted growth opportunities within the Sino-American commercial domain. This prompted her to sell her real estate company and create 889 Global Solutions.

889’s core business model involves the implementation of customized sourcing strategies and the utilization of manufacturing facilities in East Asia in order to reduce procurement costs for its clients. As a result of its extensive network of domestic and international contacts in addition to its storied history as a contract manufacturer for 17 years, 889’s unique value proposition arises from its substantial experience and adeptness at navigating the complicated landscape of international supply chain management.

889’s success has led to a variety of clients that range from small and mid-sized US manufacturers to members of the healthcare, food equipment & supplies, and the oil & gas industries. 889 Global Solutions employs and possesses a range of manufacturing processes and capabilities that are catered to the needs of each client.

In addition to serving these primary customer bases, 889 has further expanded to develop strong client-relationships with many government entities, such as the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Commerce, and the Ohio Department of Health to name a few.

Judy was chosen as a panelist in order to highlight her accomplishments as a prominent female player in the manufacturing sector and her commitment to team building and encouraging diversity of thought in the workplace.

Judy’s leadership philosophy emphasizes that the company should be “employee owned,” meaning that all employees feel a sense of ownership and commitment towards the long term strategies and goals of the company. Judy fosters this shared sense of devotion towards a common vision at 889 Global Solutions by facilitating a strong open-door work environment and following a flat management structure.

Ensuring that there is always an open line of communication between all team members is a priority at 889 global solutions, and having the ability to bring up issues openly and discussing those issues as a team minimizes difficulties while bolstering overall employee satisfaction.

As Judy mentioned in her recent interview with Smart Business Magazine, “I’m OK with people challenging my thought process and nobody has to feel like they have to kowtow to me or kowtow to any other department head. It’s about solving the problem.”

By creating this collaborative work environment, everyone is an integral component in solving any of the challenges the firm faces. Every employee is encouraged to adopt an innovative mindset that challenges and improves all of the day-to-say systems and processes 889 Global Solutions implements.

Take a look at Judy’s feature in Smart Business Magazine in the link below!
The Smart Business Magazine

*picture credit

Proud to be a part of a record breaking event!

Last Saturday, April 22 we ventured down to the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center and joined efforts in the 2017 Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions. With more than 1,700 participants, 138 teams, and $ 100,000 raised for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research it was the best year to date. In 1999 Chris Spielman established the fund in honor of his wife. All the funds raised by Step Up for Stefanie go toward research on breast cancer in Breast Cancer Research at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

The annual 4-mile run and 1-mile walk aims to advocate for breast cancer patients like Stefanie who have battled with breast cancer. Unfortunately this is a cause that remains close to many families, and 889 Global Solutions is no different. Although the event has passed, the battle has not ended. To date the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research has raised over $ 1.7million and has made great strides.

By making a donation, you can join us in creating a cancer-free world. One person and one discovery at a time. We encourage you to support the cause devoted to finding the cure by making a donation.

Below is a link to our team page – every dollar helps!

China 2.0

Many things are happening in the atmosphere of globalization, politically and economically. Whether it is through Twitter or not, there are big decisions being made every day. Of course everybody wishes they could see through the crystal ball and see what will come after the first 100-days of Trump’s presidency. But few have been either able or willing; you can decide which one, to predict what will come out of the first-quarter.

What we do know:
We know how we got here – rapid economic growth and industrialization in China since Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 Economic reform. This rise of China and East Asia has caused a new balance in the global economic spectrum. Additionally, we know that what happens next is going to change things for everybody.

Listening to Mitch Presnick’s speech on ‘Doing Business with China: The New Economy and what it Means for you’ we were able to hear what his experience in China has led him to believe will happen. Mitch has spent his career building businesses in China since 1988. He founded Super 8 Hotel China in 2004 and continued to bring Budweiser to China. The China businessman graduated from Peking University in 1990 and is a permanent resident of Hong Kong. His experience has given him valued insight in doing business with China.

Not Quite Mulan Anymore

April 4th brought China one of the New Year’s first national holidays: the Qingming festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day. Celebrated yearly on April 4th or 5th, the holiday represents the rebirth of new life through honoring those that have passed. Typically, family members gather for a few days of food, visiting family gravesites for traditional ceremonies including prayer and paper effigy burning.

The festival got its start in 636 B.C. The Duke of Wen, Chong’er, instituted the “Cold Food Festival” after accidentally killing a trusted advisor in a forest fire the Duke started. In 732 A.D. the Emperor Xuanzong merged the Cold Food Festival with ancestor worship to cut back on the numbers of extravagant rituals to pay homage to deceased family members, and deemed the day Qingmingjie, the Tomb Sweeping Day.


Other methods to save money and still honor ancestors have begun to emerge in the technological era. For the younger crowd, the ever-popular WeChat serves to bridge the distance between city and home with video streams of the tomb cleaning ritual. This is the case at the Yuhuatai Gongdeyuan Cemetery, where staff will perform the ritual at various gravesites and livestream to family members in distant parts of China. Other cemeteries offer a virtual equivalent to traditional burned offerings with online platforms to purchase digital candles and paper products. While this “Internet Tomb Sweeping” may receive criticism from conservative Chinese, for the younger generation this digital revolution may prove to be a lasting change.


From mystical roots in imperial forest burning to modern travel and ritual workaround, Tomb Sweeping Day ties to something much deeper in Chinese cultural psychology: the central importance of family across time and space.

Bullet Train vs. Smart City

In 2008, China began construction on the world’s first high-speed railway. The bullet train travels between Shanghai and Beijing at speeds of 236 MPH, outshining all of the major railways in the United States. Americans have stood envious of “futuristic” technology, but why settle for infrastructure that only solves rapid transit? The Smart City plan in Columbus has taken the applications of technology a step further.

From the bullet train in China, back to the Smart City in Columbus – 889 Global Solutions is a proud contributing member to both communities. One thing assured: technological progression and the applications of the Smart City plan will only continue to grow. The Smart City plan has already started to spread to other Midwestern cities. Detroit has jumped on board with the same self-driving vehicle technology.

“I look forward to working with local leaders and community members to realize the vision of a first-of-its-kind transportation service that increases access to jobs, links neighborhoods, and improves real-time information in a sustainable, safe way,” – Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

To read more details on the plan:

Trumpdate: Great Wall

There were many promises stated during Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. One of those promises was, “immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border, monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”

Many comparisons have been made between Trump’s wall and the legendary Great Wall constructed in north China across the Mongolian borders. Despite the parallels drawn between the two walls, there are many differences. The most significant difference probably is the purpose of the walls. Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to prevent invasion and to protect Silk Road trading infrastructure.

There are some drastic differences in the hard numbers of the two walls. The history of the Great Wall goes back over 2,000 years to produce the glorious 13,170 mile wonder before us today. Trump’s wall with the modern advancement available will take about 3 years to extend about 62 miles. The United States has control of less than 700 miles of the 1,954 mile border, with an ability to actually prevent illegal entries along only 129 miles of that.

The timing for The Great Wall starring Matt Damon could not have been better. If you have not seen the film due to the astounding 35% rating it received on Rotten Tomatoes, then you may not have been missing much.

Fifth Generation legend Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall is also, you know, not terrible on the grand scale of terrible things” – Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central.

However, for those of you who may be nursing headaches over the actions of the White House, this film may be just the relief you need.

In these days when so-called resistance, from D.C. to the streets, uses dishonorable methods, The Great Wall offers a conscientious reminder of artistic principle, the respite of an aesthetically powerful comic book.” – Armond White, National Review.

If you have seen Zhang’s recent blockbuster, then you can rest easy knowing that it’s highly unlikely that we will have to face a giant fire breathing dragon lizard at the gates of Trump’s wall.