Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Cost of Patience

In the Chinese work environment, especially start-up companies, one needs a great deal of patience. Things seem complicated if you are an American, and many things rely on private connections that are out of your control. So I was discussing this patience with my boss. On-line I read this:

Patience is the ability to endure waiting, delay, or provocation without becoming annoyed or upset, or to persevere calmly when faced with difficulties. It's a learned art that requires discipline. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement, and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.

However, I tend to differ somewhat with the above person's perspective. Maybe it is true in many personal situation, but not always in business. There is often a direct relationship between patience and cost. The more patience required, the more it is costing you in both time and money. The cost of patience is often high, and unmeasured by the calm manager. My reactions in my job have gone through a cycle of cultural adjustment. Reaction A- Objecting. "This is ridiculous! I can't believe we have to do it this way." Reaction B- Embracing or understanding. "Oh, this can make sense, and actually presents a good opportunity that wouldn't exist in the U.S, even though it might be complicated." Reaction C- Merging the two.

As a start-up company in China, you have to sift through the chaos of opportunities and relationships while still being good managers of your resources of time, people and money. The people have to see the light at the end of the tunnel to stay motivated, requiring goal setting, goal achievement and communication. Goals have to be met and money has to be returned with a profit, all which cannot happen if our capacity for patience is unreasonably large. Previously when some of these things haven't happened as they should, and I started to object, I was told that there were cultural differences, and I just had to be patient and let people do things their way. Lately, as I've gained more understanding though, I have been able to communicate these ideas more clearly and now we are meeting somewhere in the middle. Now we work together. I strive to appreciate the new and different ways business can be done in China, that might not follow a strict system. However, I am able to directly push my supervisors to make reasonable goals, communicate them better both up and down the line, and invoke a little impatience to make sure that they get met. Too impatient never got anyone anywhere in China. But I still hold my ground that it is possible to be too patient, because patience can come with a cost that any good investor would not be willing to bear. The challenge: Finding that middle ground.

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