San business-writing sample

Graphic of 3 'China Project' sheets
The three sheets were designed at different heights, so they’d stagger nicely when stacked in a folder pocket.
I wrote and designed three sheets for a consulting company about the challenges of doing business in China. The sheets went into the pocket of a folder that also contained a brochure (not shown here) describing their “Fut ure Mapping” scenario-planning method.

What is The China Project?

For ten years, we have used our Fut ure Mapping® scenario- planning process (described in the enclosed brochure) to help companies map out successful business strategies in countries such as Italy, England and Japan. Now we are making it available to companies doing business in China who are considering expansion. We have set up a division of NC RI called The China Project, which can help you design the optimum strategy for identifying and managing the risks and rewards of the Chinese business environment.

The China Project combines our Fut ure Mapping process with a substantial set of human and data resources concentrated on China. These include a team of NC RI consultants who are already experienced in China business analysis; a specialized China database that we’ve developed; a world-class team of outside China experts we have on call; and, of course, the data we develop from conducting extensive interviews in your own company. Thus we combine the best aspects of carefully planned resources with case-by-case customization, to give our clients the finest China-planning analysis and advice available anywhere.

Graphic of 'What Is The China Project?' sheet

Why did we decide to set up a division of NC RI specifically for this one country? Obviously, China holds enormous economic potential for many Western companies. But beyond that, we realized that there are many factors specific to the Chinese situation that lend themselves to Fut ure Mapping analysis in a way that would greatly benefit our clients. What are some of these factors?

Uncertainty   Of the world’s developing markets, China is not only the largest, but is also arguably the most uncertain. Scenario-based planning is particularly strong in analyzing uncertain situations and of the scenario-based techniques available to business, only the Fut ure Mapping process gives recognizable guideposts along the way. It lets you know which future is happening when it starts to happen.

Complexity   China’s sheer size and complexity can be overwhelming to many businesspeople. It has enormous linguistic and cultural diversity, and there is no common set of expectations regarding market-oriented versus state-controlled economic practices from one region to the next. The Fut ure Mapping process is not only the most internally coherent of all strategic planning techniques; it also has the strongest external focusing mechanisms for making sense out of a seemingly chaotic situation.

Fragmentation   Many companies have isolated pockets of knowledge about China, with no mechanism for bringing this knowledge together. In some cases, this is analogous to the way they may be doing business in China as a series of separate operations, with no way to pool their influence over the Chinese government (which is often crucial for doing business there). Fut ure Mapping is the most integrative scenario analysis technique, and has the best shot of any analytical technique for developing an integrated knowledge base, strategy, and public face for a company doing business in China.

Newness   From the business point of view, China is such a new environment that companies often have less useful information about it than they would have about most investment environments. Although not its primary purpose, we have found that Fut ure Mapping can function as an educational tool about the specifics of the Chinese situation.

China is changing faster than any other major emerging market on earth. The furious pace of physical construction along China’s Gold Coast, and the approaching integration of Hong Kong, can serve as metaphors for the explosive transformation of the entire region. In such a tumultuous environment, businesses need the best specific guideposts and overall map available. The Fut ure Mapping process provides this strategic map, and that’s why NC RI created The China Project.

Case Study from the Tarim Basin

Graphic of 'Case Study from the Tarim Basin' sheet

The Takla Makan is a parched and ancient desert, winding through one of the most isolated regions on earth in northwestern China. Along its northern edge flows the Tarim River, fed by meltwater from the snow-capped mountains that surround it.… On a scorching day in the Tarim Basin, a handful of Western oil geologists were exploring, poking in the dirt, and imagining the future. They might not have realized that the dusty oases they traveled between were once the fabled Silk Road that carried the luxuries of the East on camel-back to the ancient Roman empire; but they did realize that beneath their feet might lie one of the world’s greatest oil reserves.

The uncertainty of the geologists, however, was nothing compared to the uncertainty of the executives they worked for. Half a world away in their corporate offices, they pondered the future of the Tarim. There is no transportation there: how could they bring out the oil? Was it worth the massive investment to explore, and possibly build a pipeline, given the unknown economic and political future of China? And whom should they partner with to spread the risk?

Being executives of one of the world’s great oil companies, they didn’t waste much time in vague speculation. What they did do was to call in NC RI. This was a logical move because we had already demonstrated the power of Fut ure Mapping by helping this company successfully plan for uncertainty in other parts of the world. In addition to the Fut ure Mapping process, we had our specialized China database, a team of outstanding China experts to call on, and a staff already attuned to these issues. In other words, we had The China Project.

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The China Project immediately began interviewing over seventy-five experts in the United States, China, and Hong Kong. These included specialists from The Brookings Institution, Harvard, MIT, the US-China Business Council, the World Bank, the US Department of Agriculture, the Congressional Research Service, the International Finance Corporation, and many other world-class institutions. It also interviewed people within the oil company itself, to pool the knowledge of China that already existed there but had never been focused to a single analytical purpose.

The China Project applied the Fut ure Mapping process to the information it had gathered, and developed a series of “endstates” possible outcomes for China that would be relevant to the oil company’s situation. Unlike other scenario-analysis techniques, the goal was not to define which endstates were most likely, but to develop guidelines for action so that the oil company could win in almost any of the possible endstates. The China Project consultants set up a Fut ure Mapping workshop, in which the oil company’s executives underwent three days of brainstorming but brainstorming within a focused and proven structure, with clearly defined goals and procedures, and based on solid prior research. There was no attempt to predict the future, which is impossible; but the process resulted in a series of recognizable guideposts for detecting which future is happening, and a series of preplanned goals and actions for each possible scenario, which could be put into effect immediately. Finally, The China Project set up a corporate “War Room,” a monitoring and control facility for implementing the Fut ure Mapping results.

The oil company still doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the Tarim Basin. But unlike the ancient merchants perched on their camels, they aren’t groping blindly into the future either. Whatever happens there, they will be ready.

Graphic of 'China Scenarios' sheet

China Scenarios

We believe in tightly customizing our approach for each client, so we’d like to talk with you about how your company can best plan for its future in China. In the meantime, let’s take a look at how The China Project is designed to address the specific needs of individual industries and companies. Imagine yourself in one of the following scenarios:

Telecommunications   Your company is negotiating with the multiple levels of government bureaucracy that dominate Chinese telecommunications. There are risks implied by China’s new policy of reasserting government control over communications, plus its history of restrictions on direct foreign investment. You’re unclear on how to balance these risks against the rewards implied by a rapidly expanding economy in which less than two percent of the population has even acquired a telephone. The China Project has the technical background to help your company plan for the range of possible outcomes, and win in most of them.

Writer’s Note

Despite my strange last name, I’m not Asian; and although I’m a history buff and once took a course in the Chinese Empire, I have no deep knowl­edge of China. What I do know is how to obtain raw information from a client and trans­form it into text that’s clear and (when appro­priate) dramatic.

Construction   Your major construction firm has limited foreign experience. China is enticing you to introduce more technically advanced methods of power-plant construction; but once the knowledge is transferred, will the Chinese government decide it doesn’t need you any more? Also, how should you deal with shortages of temporary construction workers, modern transportation, and specific raw materials? The China Project can initiate the needed research, and help you plan alternative courses of action by building a strategic map so that you can start building power plants.

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Computing   Your successful data-processing company has realized that the rules of the game are different in China. Data storage is frequently disorganized or in inconsistent formats, and the same Chinese organizations that request computerization seem to resist making their data more accessible. The use of Chinese characters on essentially Western computers is also a stumbling block. Even a ‘simple’ thing like shipping delicate items takes on new complexity. Luckily, The China Project has a solid background in computer-industry issues, and can help your company develop guidelines for its future success in China.

Targeted precisely to your company   NC RI is used to working with many industries around the world, with an emphasis on capital-intensive and technology-oriented companies. Banking, energy, electronics…it isn’t possible to categorize here every kind of company that NC RI has helped. For that matter, each assignment we’ve had was in a real sense unique. We look forward to talking with you about the unique problems your company faces in China.

We can’t make China into a simple business environment. What we can do is help you manage risk and make optimum strategic decisions, by building a map of your possible future outcomes complete with recognizable guideposts and the specific actions they imply a practical map that’s tailored to your exact needs.