For the last month I have been in Southeast Asia trying to better understand how regional and supplier selection can be improved. Despite an inordinate number of evaluative frameworks we continue to form engagements that struggle with culturally related issues. Having been through a number of selection processes with client buyers I have come to realize that a consistent thread is that buyers remain Western in their foreign evaluation visits. We stay in Western Hotels, eat Western meals except for the ceremonial welcome dinner, and enjoy the comforts of private transportation within the urban area. On occasion there might be some local recreation that gives a brief glimpse of life outside of the Western cocoon. At first I thought that this added emersion would be interesting but contribute little value. What I have since learned that an extended, in-depth stay brings out the real world for the people, their beliefs, and lives within the country.
How does this help buyers? There was several things that I leaned while visiting friends and companies within the Philippines. These included,
- Local customs and traditions, Values of family, church, community revealed the level of commitment that employees dedicate their efforts to.
- Position on social related matters. Since I was in the Philippines prior to the election I found a heighten interest in participation. I found campaign posters deep in the woods of North Samar and virtually every nipa hut has a poster attached to it.
- Transportation (mostly informal with no specific schedule of fare base). At almost anytime of the day or night one could secure transportation whether a full sized bus to jeepneys, motorized tri-cycles, to peddle bicycles. Despite the informality of it all its effectiveness and flexibility was amazing. Seeing a motorized tricycle carrying pigs, timber and 14 passengers is amazing even if it would violate every known Western vehicle standard.
- The human element and their attitude about work. I found that despite a large population that virtually everyone has some business. Even cottage agricultural businesses, harvesting coconut, was pursued with a vigor and strong level of commitment. Although the skills aren’t transferable to outsourcing the work ethic is. Generations raised in this environment unconsciously carry this into their lives whether doing the same or something different.
Buying companies looking to reduce risk really should consider a two or three week non-Western emersion into the country as a means to better understand the supplier market beyond the pragmatic evaluation elements. The information that is gained cannot be obtained through training, reading a book or following past visitation practices. Some might view this is unnecessary but if durable long term engaged relations are important then local cultural emersion is a right thing to do.
Until next time feel free to contribute your thoughts or send an email to me at jdurant@Int-IOM.org