CHAPTER 3

DEFINING PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES: A FOUNDATION FOR SUCCESS

FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, THE INDUSTRIAL GASES Division of BOC, a large British conglomerate, had joined the march of industrial progress serving the British Empire. Its 35,000 people worked in 15 countries to produce and deliver oxygen, nitrogen, helium, and other natural gases to a variety of users, ranging from food to steel to semiconductors.

BOC Gases maintained a steady course until 1993. Then, in a sharp break with its traditions, C. K. Chow, an aggressive, Hong Kong–based entrepreneur and head of BOC’s North Pacific region, was promoted to CEO. Chow knew that BOC Gases faced a set of emerging problems. Several of its key global customers were complaining about getting ...

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