If Terry O’Halloran learned anything during his years managing global companies, it is that no two cultures are the same and can’t be treated as such. “Every country, every territory, even every city is different,” he said. O’Halloran (MBA 1983), University of Dallas Trustee and retired CEO of Air Distribution Technologies, spoke on September 13 with Dr. Richard Peregoy’s Managing Global Organizations class at the University of Dallas to discuss global leaders learning from others and change.
One topic of discussion Dr. Peregoy brought up during the class was the barriers of communication that can arise from differences in culture between the parent company and its subsidiaries in different countries. O’Halloran said that he learned, for instance, that correcting an employee’s mistakes at a plant in Mexico had to be handled differently than at plants in the U.S.: “In Mexico, the employees feel a great sense of pride in their work. If you need to correct someone, it’s important to do so in private, so that you are not damaging that person’s standing in front of the other workers.”
O’Halloran told the class leaders must carefully assess the cultural implications of any proposed changes, especially in international situations. “The CEO of the company I worked for wanted me to institute lean manufacturing in India,” he said, referring to a system of manufacturing that reduces waste to improve customer value. “But it just wouldn’t work there. I visited several times over a long period, and I eventually realized that the system was not appropriate for the culture.” The bottom line, O’Halloran said, was that American manufacturing techniques don’t work in every country.
The class discussion on global business cultures eventually led to a conversation about the rapid change taking place in traditional manufacturing and retail businesses. “Companies are scrambling to try to figure out how to adapt to the tastes and habits of millennials,” O’Halloran said. “And the ones who figure it out are the ones who will make it.”
The University of Dallas Executives on Campus program was founded to further the University’s mission of providing practice-based education, by inviting successful business leaders to share their experience with graduate and undergraduate students in the classroom. Through this program, alumni, business leaders, and their companies are invited to partner with the University in our shared pursuit of management excellence.