Friday, 8 August 2008

The Olympics / Chinese productivity challenges


    For my blog's anniversary, I asked whether there were subjects readers wanted me to post upon.  One question was raised by Jo: How will we respond to the productivity challenge created by India and China? (thanks Jo).

Today's marvelous opening ceremony at the Olympics certainly demonstrates China's capability and I think, their productivity very powerfully (I certainly can't see London matching it in 4 years time!).  This is also something I've previously posted on and referred to in other fora, for example my Global HR trends and differences presentation on's VIEW last year.

However, outside major successes such as these, which are relatively few, China clearly suffers from some major competitive problems.  China's poor educational system is well known, although improving quickly, and People Management / Mercer also point out shortfalls in Chinese companies' leadership development:

"Experience suggests that not having a well-articulated leadership strategy has led organisations to over-rely on buying leadership talent from the market rather than grooming from within. While many multinationals report that they get significant value and peace of mind from having expatriate talent in China, a more cost-effective and sustainable strategy over the long-term would be to focus on systematically grooming tomorrow’s leaders."

I've also recently finished reading Will Hutton's latest book, The Writing on the Wall: China and the West in the 21st Century, after seeing him present on this recently.  Hutton points out major problems in China's economic and political institutions and systems which convinces him that China's current rate of growth is unsustainable.

In light of these problems, China isn't going to be able to reproduce mini-opening ceremonies in every business marketplace, but it's also important to recognise that its problems can be overcome.

So how should 'we' (which I take to refer to HR practitioners, psychologists and the like living and working mainly in western economies) respond to these challenges?

To me, the main thing, which I referred to in the recent Economist debate, is that we continue to develop the skills and other competencies to enable us to continue to pursue a 'high road' path to competitiveness.  Strategic HCM anyone?