Never quite the same again. Once you have undertaken an interim management assignment in China, there is a different perspective.
I have recently completed an interim management assignment based in China for a large Chinese electrical engineering company, to get first of type production established for a wind turbine, but not in the way others do – we are building the product and the production process for intermediate volume. Complicated but successful; very hands on, keeping everything on track whilst driving through the organisational and production engineering issues.
Much of what is written about China has truth but is incomplete. Like seeing pictures of wild cats and then going on Safari, you have to be there. Unlike Safari you need to be there a while and be totally immersed – there is a different way of thinking. And whilst it’s critical to be sympathetic to the culture, you must never go native. This is a substantial part of what the client is paying for – uncomfortable as it may be on occasion (for all).
It helps to have done it before. Previous interim assignments include recovering a material handling project based in Hong Kong and running a business in Germany (the design authority for the Chinese turbine was a smart German company). But it’s also the ability to recognise what you don’t know and or can’t understand, then find a solution that makes the difference – and you are on your own. Interims generally are. Standing on the assembly floor when things are moving very fast but not quite as they should, I could not turn around and ask ……. nobody would know what I was talking about, sometimes literally if my interpreter had gone for tea ………. and Europe was 7 hours behind. But the problem is now, right now. Never quite the same again.
Andrew Sharratt is an experienced Interim Executive