TESTIMONY IN BRIEF - FOR DR. HOON SING KEOW
Mr. Hans-Joachim Paul, the former General Manager of Volkswagen Wolfsburg Car Plant in Germany between 1993 and 1996, warmly recommends Dr. Hoon’s competence in coaching and counseling which he acclaims to have greatly benefited when he was Technical Executive Director (CTO) at Shanghai Volkswagen (SVW) between 1986 and 1989. His success at SVW contributed to his promotion.
The profoundly experienced and overtly confident auto expert Mr. Paul described he and his 20 German colleagues were caught in the biggest surprise by the magnitude of “haphazardness” (in their view) of China’s macro and micro economics conditions. He was frustrated by Chinese’s irrational decision-makers and discovered his single, greatest challenge to be in managing, aligning and motivating Chinese workers at SVW. They were poor in coordinating and delegating tasks and lack personal accountability. He cited numerous examples to show that there was nothing of the Chinese workers that reminded of German work ethics and discipline. All that impeded severely the progress of the construction of a car-manufacturing plant and production.
Dr Hoon, then research scholar, came to SVW to study Sino-foreign joint ventures. She began to explore the condition of SVW’s organizational psychology by interviewing foreign and Chinese managers from the top to all functional departments and levels down to workers from the work floors, as well as other supporting employees. Dr Hoon commenced her in-depth and longitudinal research at SVW between 1986 and 1992, making two visits and staying for a month each year during the period.
Throughout the process of her collecting, analyzing and reviewing the interviewing data, Mr. Paul observed Dr. Hoon’s admirable qualities. She is described to be open-minded, inquisitive, observant and is competent in cross- cultural communication. As was illuminated, Dr. Hoon’s approach to advisory coaching provided him with a comprehension of SVW’s organizational psychology made up of cultural differences combined with disparate organizational practices, and coupled with misperception and thereby diverging expectations, mistrust and lack of communication – all constituted joint-venture organizational problems which Mr. Paul was experiencing. In his words,
“Dr. Hoon helped me to overcome my stress and anxieties in managing unexpected challenges with the Chinese subordinates. She improved my communication with all levels of employees and seek their feedback and viewpoints by assisting in translation in in his daily inspection of the work floors. She also acted as a ‘sounding board’ to my plans and strategies, to which she provided valuable suggestions. Most importantly, her hands-on coaching has enabled me to work on transforming an organization culture from ‘obsolete values’ of the so-called ‘iron rice bowl’, the lack of accountability, unclear rules of rewards and penalties and the seniority system. This was changed into one that comprises collaboration and support, a non-competitive attitude, yet with individual and collective responsibility (team work), and decisions that are made with professional knowledge, competence and professionalism. With this innovative culture, subordinates and teams were encouraged to promote collective learning, sharing of knowledge, even exploring of ideas, and collaborating across all functions.
During the above progression, she worked with my personal leadership psychology to understand the intricacies of communicating and interacting with my Chinese subordinates, my dealings with personal as well as professional strain and worries. She also aspires me to embrace mindful and authentic leadership. I have learned to develop my ‘self-awareness’ and appreciate the indispensable quality of trustworthiness, integrity with ethical values which are essential virtues of earning respects and support from Chinese subordinates, above all, the importance of Chinese value the ‘father-figure role’.”
Mr. Hans-Joachim Paul
Former General Manager of
Volkswagen Wolfsburg Car Plant
As the President of Dow Chemical for Greater China, I met Dr. Hoon at an ASEAD seminar in Singapore in 1994. After the seminar, I invited and hired Dr. Hoon to give a training seminar, “Managing Joint-Venture in a Cross-cultural Context”, for managers in Dow Chemical Greater China, which was a resounding success.
We have stayed in touch ever since. I sincerely thank Dr. Hoon for all her frank opinions and constructive advice over the years. She has played a key role in my career advancement and personal development.