Just finished the book, The Disconnect Patterns: Notes for Managing a U.S.-China High Technology Company, by Raj Karamchedu.  Karamchedu spent many years managing the China office of a US high tech company and this book sets what others in similar positions need to know.  Though the book is aimed at technology companies, the advice it contains applies with equal force to any company with a China office.

The book sets up a fictional company with a US home office and a China branch (that term being used loosely, not in its legal sense).  It then discusses the handling of problems/situations from the perspective of both the US and the China team.  By doing so, the reader gains a good understanding of the thinking of both and for why there is such a “disconnect.” Karamchedu goes beyond just explaining why problems arise; he also does a very good job providing tips on how to resolve them.

Karamchedu discusses many of the issues/disconnects about which my clients are constantly complaining, including Chinese employees who all but refuse to take initiative or to go against what everyone else in the market is doing.  On the flip side, the Chinese employees are constantly frustrated by the American employees (and head office) not sufficiently valuing their views on how to operate in/market to China. Interestingly, this is also a complaint I often hear from Americans who run China offices.

The book examines twenty disconnects, many of which will no doubt cause you to nod your head in assent:

  • The U.S. manager demands focus from the China team, but at the same time, causes disruption by ignoring the China manager’s authority.
  • Same company, but the reward and bonus scheme in the China office is out of sync with the U.S. office.
  • Both U.S. and China teams work equally hard, but there is no appreciation of China team’s work.
  • China office wants to be a part of core product development, but it repeatedly leaks confidential future-product documents to the competition.
  • China teams say English language is no problem, but poor documentation by the China teams still persist.
  • China office says they admire the U.S. management process, but the China upper management repeatedly disrupts the company process by changing the priority without discussion.
  • Though the company calls itself a global company, the U.S. team does not give importance to the China team.
  • The U.S. office wants to be in China market, but it does not share company plans with China office employees.
  • The U.S. office wants to sell to China customers, but the feedback from the China customer is not taken seriously.
  • The U.S. office says we are all one team, but the China team is allocated insufficient project time.
  • The U.S. team expects to interact with the China team in a professional way, but feels the China management style as strange and dysfunctional.
  • The U.S. employees are frustrated that their China colleagues won’t take any action unless they have the “authority.”
  • The China team wants to scale up and grow, but does not seem to appreciate open and clear communication.
  • The U.S. office wants to succeed in the China market, but builds the China marketing team by simply moving low-performing technical staff into marketing roles.
  • In China, employees say they have the project management skills, but task ownership and task management is still a big problem.
  • The China office wants to do a full product, but the China marketing teams do not take charge and lead.
  • The U.S. marketing team promotes to China customers, but continues to approach them with a tin ear.
  • In pricing the product for the China market, there is still a strategy mismatch between the U.S. and China.
  • The U.S. office wants to capitalize on China customer demand, but does not understand China customer demand pattern.
  • The U.S. office prides itself on execution but the response to China from the U.S. is very slow.

This is a very practical book and Karamchedu clearly knows whereof he speaks.  I highly recommend it to anyone trying to manage a China office, be it in technology or otherwise.

I do however have a bone to pick with this book and with so many of the China books I have been sent over the years.  It read like it was never edited by a really good editor.  It was not badly written, but it also was not nearly as well written as it could have been, and a really good editor would have made the book a smoother and more enjoyable read.

  • Performance Review

    Yet more China knowledge you take from others and pass off at China Law Blog as being yours. Then you have the cheek to slag his writing style. No wonder people are starting to see right through you and don’t like you very much.

    • What are you talking about? This is a book review. Anyone with an IQ over 80 would understand that I am not claiming to have written the book.

  • Take it or leave it, this style of book review is actually something I appreciate. I will buy books based on one of Dan or Steve’s reviews, and pass on others if the review is negative. I like getting the Cliff Notes before I spring for a work book and plow time into reading the thing.

  • I enjoyed this review simply because I once worked in the Shanghai office for a major US company. It was an incredibly difficult job being the liaison between two equally proud and stubborn entities, the US headquarters and the China subsidiary. There was pervasive mutual distrust and animosity at times but I think the Americans were more to blame than the Chinese, and the book review seems to support this esp point 3 above “Both U.S. and China teams work equally hard, but there is no appreciation of China team’s work.” Sadly it does not seem the Americans are becoming wiser ( I am assuming that Karamchedu’s book is recent).

    My Chinese colleagues and I argued a lot when we worked together and it was not always fun. There were days when I absolutely hated it. But a real bond developed and 15 years later my former Chinese colleagues and I still keep in touch and get together when I am in Shanghai. I don’t think I can say that about any US company I have ever worked for. It was a great experience working in a Chinese company at a time in Shanghai when things were just starting to really change.

  • Genevieve Woodland

    I think your comment about editing (or lack of) could be applied to many books out there. That was one of the biggest complaints from my book club. We came up with a theory that books under 250 pages do not sell. 350 is better.