KFS (KM) in China:
XII Telephone interview with Sridhar Vedala

Position: Partner at a management consulting company in Shanghai
Interviewer: Stefan Broda
Date: 22.2.2005

Topic: Knowledge Management in China, cultural perspectives

Mister Sridhar Vedala founded a consulting company with fellow students from business school in Shanghai with offices in Europe, the US, Korea and India. Offering strategy development services, he often deals with knowledge work related issues.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to you. This study mainly focuses on Chinese culture focusing knowledge creation and sharing. Have you encountered that during your work?

Yes indeed, for a multinational company, we implemented a shared services framework. What happened was that during their China expansion, each company's division set up its own offices in the different cities which were autonomously organized, each with their own finance, HR, etc. So it was the objective of our project to centralize these services into internal service organizations - a process that requires each subsidiary to give up control and share their knowledge with the central organization. There was immense resistance.

Author: Could you elaborate on that?

The restructuring was decided from the corporate level in headquarters and only communicated when it was already implemented. Everybody was scared to lose his job. I think the company could have saved a lot of trouble if it had discussed this change with the China offices in advance and let them be part of this development. Then there would have been less fear and more willingness to buy in.

Lets talk about implementing knowledge sharing practices. What do you think is important to consider in China?

I think the most important aspect in China are the people. You have to create common grounds for them so that trust can develop. Also, the commitment of senior commitment is crucial to the success of any policy because that who the employees listen to.

Another experience, I have is that Chinese tend to form subgroups in team with other Chinese. We worked for a long-term project with a larger team of ten to twelve people including 3 Chinese. After a while, the Chinese had formed their own sub-group and did not share their work practices with the rest of the team. When they needed to deliver, they gave us the result but did not describe their methodology something which is very important in knowledge management since it is sharing methodologies which enable you to avoid reinventing the wheel twice.

Where do you see where knowledge work is going in the future?

I see a big change in the Chinese culture. The younger generation, especially the freshly graduated 18-24 years old, is much more willing to adapt new management practices and are more loyal to companies because they want to build a successful career in the long-term. It is much easier to work with them, than with somebody who is 30 for example. And that holds true through industries.

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