亚布力专栏 | 早期的BCG中国

我的管理咨询工作生涯于1988 年在美国的麦肯锡公司开始。当时我加入了麦肯锡的旧金山办事处。在那个时候,麦肯锡已经是美国以及全球最具盛名的管理咨询公司,它们享有一个“McKinsey Mystique”(麦肯锡的神秘感)的称号,在当时的企业界已经建立了相当出色的地位。

其实在我申请麦肯锡的同时,波士顿咨询公司(BCG)亦向我招手。BCG 亦希望我能加入他们。当时他们的华裔合伙人郑力行先生(Bob Ching)正在建立一支能服务中国业务的团队,希望我能加入。那是1988年,在当时的中国,恐怕无人知道什么叫管理咨询。在我选择加入麦肯锡以后,郑先生仍然继续与我保持着联络。当时,他一部分时间在旧金山湾区,一部分时间在上海。

转折点发生于1991-1992年左右,当时我已从旧金山搬回香港,原本的计划是随着麦肯锡开拓中国市场。但可惜,当时麦肯锡决定暂缓进入中国市场的计划,而同时BCG却在郑先生领导下决定在中国上海开设办事处,希望我能过去加入BCG 在中国的业务。在仔细思考之后,我决定从麦肯锡过档去BCG。

郑力行先生是BCG非常资深的合伙人。他在上海出生,十岁前到了台湾,在日本的美国学校完成高中学业后到了美国深造,在加利福尼亚理工学院获得了物理学学士,在哈佛大学拿到物理学硕士,在卡耐基梅隆大学拿到信息科技和经济硕士。在1960年代末加入刚成立的BCG,曾长期从事BCG北美和日本的业务。在1980 年代中期,郑先生已经回到上海开始咨询的工作,为世界银行在上海做项目。当时,外资咨询公司是不能在中国建立独资公司的,只能做合资。在当时的上海市前市长汪道涵先生的协助下,郑先生为BCG建立了一个合资企业。中方有两个,一是交通银行上海分行,另一是上海交通大学管理学院,BCG 占50% 股权,中国两方各占25%。

BCG的合资企业是中国政府批准的第一家国际战略咨询公司在华的办事处,极具历史意义。郑先生担任合资公司的执行董事长,后来我非常荣幸继任此工作。该合资公司于1993年1月在上海正式成立。董事长是李家镐先生,是上海市前人大常务副主任,后来创建了中欧国际工商学院,并任首任中方院长。高级顾问是杨锡山先生,他是上海交大管理学院的首任院长。同时设有一支高级顾问团队,由不少有相当名望的上海人士来担任,现在回头一看,真是人才济济。

从创立初期,BCG上海公司的基本理念是建立在以BCG 全球化的使命为中心的基础上,正如我们的创始人BruceD. Henderson 所说,要使我们的客户在他们的领域内变得更有能力、更有价值。

在日常工作团队里另一核心人物是李大刚。大刚在国企出身,在30 几岁已被提拔为上海机床集团公司的副总经理,是上海市第一批市一级公司领导干部年轻化的代表,在郑先生的引进下,大刚是BCG合资企业的第一位雇员。还有季正芳,她亦是机床公司出身,后来加入BCG,掌管我们的内部行政,成为我的助理,非常能干。

我们首两位咨询顾问是钱军和张璐斌。他们两位都在宝洁公司(Procter & Gamble) 做过,主要做销售的工作,当时宝洁是中国最红的外资,年轻人都想到宝洁工作。他们都是上海交大的毕业生,是杨院长的学生。后来他们两位都有很好的发展。张璐斌去了美国Vanderbilt大学读MBA。钱军则去了美国哈佛商学院,并是我们在中国内地保送去外国读书的首位员工(公司付学费和开支)。这是一历史创举,当时在中国是无人可以想象雇主(特别是外国来的雇主)居然会为员工付钱去攻读如哈佛商学院的国际顶尖学府。我记得钱军的故事曾经在上海市的报章刊登过。张、钱两位后来读完书后相继回国,后来的职业发展相当顺利。

现在BCG中国区的负责合伙人廖天舒亦是当时我从宝洁请过来的。天舒是钱军和张璐斌介绍的。我还记得第一次与她见面的时候是在广州某大酒店咖啡厅。转眼20年之后,她已成为BCG 的资深合伙人和中国区的领导者。

BCG在中国建立办事处的时机特别好,因当时适逢邓小平先生做了“南方讲话”,肯定了中国改革开放的道路,令不少外资公司蜂拥到中国来投资。BCG巧妙地利用了它的国际网络,从各个地方透过当地的合伙人将客户引进到中国来。当时我们的客户真是蜂拥而至,来自不同的国家和不同的行业。所以从第一天,其实BCG在中国的业务已经完全融入全球体系,而我们亦需马上建立多方面的能力,因为这个原因,我从一开始在中国就没有在一、两个行业里聚焦。这对我来说,是一个很大的恩赐。因为在不同的行业,不同客户和不同时空里让我见到别人看不到的东西,对我的咨询工作生涯有莫大的帮助。

当时,BCG的上海办事处和香港办事处是无缝隙的共同合作执行中国的项目。我亦是香港办事处的合伙人,负责建立当地的团队,可以说,当时在香港的团队人才济济,不乏有能之士。

BCG上海的第一个办公场所是位于徐汇区衡山路和高安路交界的新华社大楼的14 楼。位于法租界,地段非常好。大楼是“国企式”的,当然不能跟当时在香港或旧金山的甲级商厦相比。我还记得在美国麦肯锡旧金山办事处工作,我们的办公室位于当地市中心的美国银行大厦的某一高层,能同时看到金门大桥和湾区大桥,特别高大上。到了BCG上海,居然来到一相当一般的办公大楼,开始时,有点惊讶。

但外表其实是不重要的。在郑力行先生的领导下,BCG 中国一方面能与国际接轨,另一方面亦非常本土化。在李大刚、钱军、张璐斌、廖天舒和其他本土团队协助了包括我在内的非内地顾问迅速了解中国的特定国情。没有这些同事的帮忙,我们肯定做不成。

还有,因为我们是“土”,我们办公室还有一个阿姨,她每天中午都为我们烧饭,是非常地道和味道非常好的上海菜。每天我们的团队都能聚在一起,一起吃饭、聊天。这对于我们建立高度的团结心和团队精神起了重要的作用。

早期的BCG中国是一个快速发展、成长的阶段,是很有激情和拼搏精神的时间、成功和令人难忘。那是中国一个新时代的开始,时代为年轻人(包括当时的我)创造了无穷的机会。那亦是一个相当朴素的年代。从今天中国物质已经这样丰富的时代回头去看,其实朴素一点还是不错的。我很感谢郑力行先生给予我的机会。饮水思源,没有郑先生,没有我的今天。

BCG亦让我明白到咨询的工作,特别在中国做咨询,并不一定要高大上,咨询公司不单要能飞(能规划和分析),亦必须要能落地(能接地气);要能“洋”,亦能“土”。BCG能掌握良好的时机进入中国,独占鳌头,是因为它的中国领导者是有全球视野、经验和联系网络,同时亦对中国有着深深的根和深入的了解和承诺。这是当年的BCG和其他国际顶尖咨询公司最大的分别,在今天仍然是咨询公司在中国要持续成功的最重要因素。可是对于外资咨询公司来说,这鸿沟今天还普遍存在着。

Nikkei Asian Review | Hong Kong Must “Deploy or Die”

Hong Kong Must “Deploy or Die”

January 11, 2016 7:30 pm JST
Edward Tse and Sunny Cheng

Hong Kong finally set up an official bureau of innovation and technology in November after several years of seeking legislative approval.

Value creation through innovation will be critical for Hong Kong to generate sustainable growth. Since its handover to China in 1997, the territory has relied on a narrow range of industries, including tourism, retail and financial services, for growth. It has become clear however that this formula cannot carry the economy forward.

Prof. Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the renowned MIT Media Lab, demonstrated that he could move an image displayed on a cathode-ray tube monitor with his finger about 30 years ago. Today, even a three-year-old can swipe and move images on a tablet but at the time, Negroponte faced the challenge of just convincing others this was possible. The lab’s motto was “demo or die.”

In 2011, Joi Ito became the director of the MIT Media Lab. Joi is an innovator and has been in and out of college, each time leaving to pursue something more interesting than a degree. When the March 2011 tsunami struck Japan, Joi was in Boston while his wife was about 200 miles away from the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture. He and many others were concerned about the environmental effects of radiation, so he and some friends jointly created an information-sharing website.

They also started scooping up Geiger counters to measure radiation. When supplies dried up, they decided to build their own. Within a month, 25 people from all over the world started working on a low-cost, innovative Geiger counter. Soon they were producing an open-source device that could fit into a lunch box. These new meters collect data and upload it to Safecast, a new web-based network to share readings. Within a year, the network had collected over 3 million data points.

The group then raised some money through funding platform Kickstarter and began making sturdy low-cost Geiger counters for the mass market. In three years, Safecast has collected over 16 million data points, making it the largest environmental monitoring network in the world. This demonstrates that when governments, nongovernmental organizations and experts are ineffective, citizen scientists can step up. In this case, such volunteers created a giant collaborative network in record time.

When Ito took up the MIT Media Lab job, he changed its motto to “deploy or die.” The Safecast radiation monitoring project is a good example of this new way of doing things. Situations can evolve too quickly for forward planning, but possessing the wherewithal to ad lib is the new way ahead.

Competition is rife today. In particular, competition with Chinese enterprises can be challenging. The Chinese government ensures that initiatives it implements are executed within the scope of official five-year plans. When the Chinese set a goal, they do whatever they must to achieve results. Chinese companies often follow the direction of change highlighted when the government issues a new five-year plan.

The latest plan for 2016-2020 highlights innovation as the engine for sustainable economic growth. Entrepreneurship has been growing in China, with 19% more new businesses formed in the first half of 2015 than a year earlier. The tech sector has significantly overtaken the industrial sector, recording 10% growth compared with the latter’s 4%.

Beyond just Alibaba Group Holding, Baidu and Tencent Holdings, China’s entrepreneurship scene is extremely dynamic, with many up-and-coming, exponentially growing players already disrupting the order set by older counterparts, which must constantly reinvent themselves to survive.

If Hong Kong doesn’t take advantage of the new five-year plan pending before the National People’s Congress, it will fall behind. Hong Kong must change rapidly and adapt. It must live by “deploy or die.”

Hong Kong politicians need to adapt to new political realities. Voters are often swayed by opinions on social media as they go viral. The government must be able to react. It can no longer afford six months to study conditions and another six months to write policy papers.

South Korea, at the forefront of technology in the Asia-Pacific region, has the world’s fastest average broadband connections, coming in at 23.6 megabits per second with Hong Kong following closely behind at 16.7 Mbps, according research by cloud computing services company Akamai.

However, on the mobile network front, Hong Kong comes in only at the sixth place in the region, with an average mobile network connection of 6.5 Mbps, behind South Korea, Japan, Singapore and others. Hong Kong is only now setting plans for fifth-generation mobile networks while South Korea already began preparations in early 2014. South Korea also has a thriving startup community with at least 10 software startups valued at more than $1 billion. Meanwhile the Japanese government is actively investing in self-driving automotive technologies in the hopes of taking the lead in the next industrial revolution.

Hong Kong policymakers are often restrained by unwritten rules and unable to think creatively. This applies to the way they approach innovation. “Crowdsourcing” is an effective way to find ideas. This has worked for South Korea and many innovative projects elsewhere, and Hong Kong must learn to adapt in the same manner.

The Australian government is a pioneer, committed to crowdsourcing with a dedicated taskforce, as well as equity crowdfunding initiatives. It is also one of the first governments to adopt Creative Commons licensing that allows open access and free licensing for intellectual property creators. The Singapore government has been engaging citizens with open public initiatives since 2010 as a cost-effective dual government-citizen approach to unlock social innovation and technological advancement.

Hong Kong must follow these examples and cut through bureaucratic walls and financial silos. Let ideas drive Hong Kong forward and cut red tape. Opportunities abound. Capturing the opportunities will require the right mindset.

Edward Tse is founder and CEO of Gao Feng Advisory, a strategy and management consulting company, and author of “China’s Disruptors” (Portfolio, 2015). Sunny Cheng is a Hong Kong-based environmental technology