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Finance Admin Essay

4693 words - 19 pages

The Globe

Samsung’s unlikely success
in mixing Western best
practices with an essentially
Japanese business system
holds powerful lessons for
today’s emerging giants. by
Tarun Khanna, Jaeyong Song,
and Kyungmook Lee

A

s today’s emerging giants face
the challenge of moving beyond
their home markets, they have
much to learn from the pathbreaking experience of South Korea’s Samsung Group,
arguably the most successful globalizer of
the previous generation.
Twenty years ago, few people would
have predicted that Samsung could transform itself from a low-cost original equipment manufacturer to a world leader in
R&D, marketing, and design, with a brand
more valuable than ...view middle of the document...

indd 142

6/7/11 12:25:56 PM

HBR.ORG

are unlikely to secure their future in global
markets. To move to the next level, they,
too, must reinvent themselves in ways that
may seem contradictory. And when they
reach new plateaus, they will need to do so
again.
For seven years, we have traced Samsung’s progress as it has steadily navigated
this paradox to transcend its initial success
in its home markets and move onto the
world stage. It is a story we believe holds
many important lessons for the current
generation of emerging giants seeking to
do the same.

The Rise of a World Leader
Founded in 1938, the Samsung Group is
the largest corporate entity in South Korea, with $227.3 billion in revenue in 2010
and 315,000 employees worldwide. Best
known for its flagship, Samsung Electronics (SEC)—producer of semiconductors,
cell phones, TVs, and LCD panels—the
group’s highly diversified businesses span
a wide range of industries, including financial services, information technology
services, machinery, shipbuilding, and
chemicals.
By 1987, when Lee Kun-Hee succeeded
his father as only the second chairman in
the company’s history, Samsung was the
leader in Korea in most of its markets. But
its overseas position as a low-cost producer
was becoming untenable in the face of
intensifying competition from Japanese
electronics makers, which were setting up
manufacturing plants in Southeast Asia,
and rising domestic wages in South Korea’s
newly liberalizing economy.
In the early 1990s, Lee spotted an opportunity in the reluctance of Japanese
companies—the analog market leaders—to
adopt digital technology, which consumers
were flocking to in cameras, audio equipment, and other electronic products. This
opened the door for Samsung to surpass its
rivals if it developed the agility, innovativeness, and creativity to succeed in the new
digital market.
For those qualities Lee looked to the
West. In 1993, he launched the New Man-

agement initiative to import Western best
practices related to strategy formulation,
talent management, and compensation
into Samsung’s existing business model.
The aim was to markedly improve marketing, R&D, and design while retaining core
strengths in manufacturing, continuous
improvement, and plant operations. Execution of this mix-and-match strategy took
three broad forms:
• A formal process to identify, adapt, and
implement the most appropriate Western
best practices.
• Steady efforts to make Samsung’s culture more open to change by bringing outsiders in and sending insiders abroad.
• Intervention by Lee to protect longterm investments from short-term financial pressures.
In this way, slowly and steadily but not
always smoothly, Samsung has built its
hybrid management system as a series of
experiments, first in SEC and eventually
throughout the Samsung Group (see the
exhibit “Seeking the Best of Both Worlds:
Samsung’s Hybrid Management System”).
The results have been...

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