By France Griggs Sloat
July 3, 2002—Denny Evans presented his students a simulated business scenario:
The product is a meal of steak, rice and tea, and the purpose is to keep customers coming back.
The problem: the steak isn’t fresh and the tea tastes like rice.
The solution? Just ask the 16 government officials from the Sichuan province of southwestern Peoples Republic of China.
In a recent two-hour seminar on total quality improvement with the Xavier Consulting Group, the Chinese students knew the answer. They had to find better steak and stop boiling the tea in the same water as the rice. A no-brainer. But the simulation illustrated the need to first give customers what they want, whether you’re in business or the government, then focus on being efficient.
“If you don’t give tourists what they want, they won’t come. And that hurts China,” Evans told the delegates.
The Sichuan officials were on campus for a three-month program with the Xavier Consulting Group in an effort to boost their leadership and management skills and contribute to economic growth in their province. Xavier is one of at least 40 universities to host Chinese business and government officials.
“At the time, we thought it would be profitable, but it’s turning out to be more of a goodwill gesture,” says Susan Bensman, senior program manager of the consulting group. “We wanted the experience of doing it and the good PR. They’ve been a pleasure to work with. They’re so polite and enthusiastic and different from the way people in America treat each other. They ask a lot of questions and are eager to learn our way of doing things.”
A second group of Chinese delegates from Hunan Province arrives on campus later this summer. The first group arrived in April to study business and executive management training. Organizers say the overall goal is to expose Chinese executives and government officials to America and Western market economies to improve their understanding of Western business practices.
“Our mission is to study advances in technology and scientific knowledge,” said Zhang Gu, Sichuan’s tourism administrator. “We hope to develop our provincial economy and make big progress.”
Zhang, whose American name is Bryce, wants to see more tourists in his country. Tang Yan, whose American name is Jenny, procures equipment for large international projects in Sichuan’s project establishment division and is interested in seeing the region’s business opportunities expand.
But they’re also going home with a new view of America and Americans. “Jenny” Tang likes the way Americans “are very fussy about sports” and plans to concentrate more on her own exercise. She also thinks Americans don’t understand the Chinese people and culture well because of poor media coverage.
And “Bryce” Zhang is impressed by the housing developments in West Chester. He likes the way the houses are laid out and each looks different. He says a few similar developments are starting to pop up around Sichuan.
They all say the American people and the Chinese could develop greater friendships if they try to understand each other better, but Americans are very individualistic. “American people focus on individual issues, but I found team spirit in the companies,” Zhang Gu says. “American life is quite different. Technology is more advanced and the society is stabilized. Living levels are very high.”
During their 10 weeks in Cincinnati, arranged by China’s International Management Education Center through a Procter & Gamble scientist, the 16 men and women stayed at the Park Lane Apartments on Victory Parkway and walked to class every day. Procter & Gamble arranged all other transportation. They took two-hour courses daily at the Cintas Center in business English, marketing, economics, government, e-commerce, technology and other topics. They took tours of Cincinnati City Hall, Cintas Corp., the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky., P&G, a retirement home, the Statehouse in Columbus, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and local farms.
The delegation left Cincinnati on June 15 for Boston, where they joined another group of Chinese delegates who spent three months studying at the University of Utah. Together they spent a week at Boston College then toured Washington, D.C., and New York City before returning to China.