Over the years, several people have asked me what I think about “Chinese management style,” or how I’m adjusting to “Chinese management style.” Of course, I generally hold my tongue and utter some neutral comment about how it’s all very interesting and educational.
But to be honest, I’m not completely sure what is meant by “Chinese management style.” Is there a general style of management among Chinese business persons? Is it something that exists just as a natural consequence of the general personalities and characteristics of Chinese people are – they are a certain way, so they act in a certain way – or is it a style they deliberately seek to implement in their firms?
My opinion, based on experience with various local companies, is that calling it a management style is a euphemism. There’s really not much style to it, it’s not a system or calculated practice, it’s just how businesses end up being run as a result of the general personalities and characteristics of Chinese people. I guess I would summarize some of the key characteristics of “Chinese management style” as follows:
Rigidly structured levels of management with leaders at each level demanding strict, absolute obediance from inferiors, and inability for inferiors to question corporate practices or suggest improvements or changes (that would qualify as insubordination);
Endless debate, analysis, controversy, indecision and lingering doubts, and absence of leaders with ability to make clear, firm decisions and implement them unwaveringly;
Widespread lies, deceipt, distortion and concealment of facts from employees, government, customers and suppliers;
Adherence to stupid, outdated, useless policies because that’s the policy and difficulty assessing strengths and weaknesses objectively and acting accordingly.
Refusal to take responsibility for decisions or for problems, accompanied by widespread finger-pointing, blame, false accusations of wrongdoing and harsh psychological punishments inflicted on those being blamed.
What do you think? Have I missed something? Have I failed to understand and appreciate the subleties and the strengths of CMS?