The Importance of Culture
when Managing
International Projects
Mark Hehl
Hehl & Associates
Southbury, CT USA
203 982 6231
www.hehlassociates.com
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Agenda
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The Project Manager and Globalization
Cultural Mistakes – Disaster Examples
The Importance of Cultural Understanding
Why are people different?
Are you the Ugly American?
Various World Cultures
Applying Cultural Savvy
Enjoying the experience while achieving
success
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
What Cultures are you dealing
with?
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List
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Ignoring Culture Issues Consequences can be deadly!
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Cultural misunderstanding
Directing traffic
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
What Problems are you facing?
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Relative to cross culture projects
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
International Projects
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List Positives
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List Negatives / Challenges
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Globalization
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Cross Border Activity Increasing
• New players
• New cultures
• Varied perceptions
• More complicated
• Greater challenge
= Potential for enhanced
performance / conflict
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Cultural Sensitivity
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Critical to Success
My Exposure
• Growing up
• Adulthood
• Professional Success
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Timex
China
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Lack of Cultural Awareness =
Paying a Higher Price
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Asian customer – Chinese Supplier
No understanding or engagement
of Chinese culture
World recession – late 2008
Material prices dropped
significantly
Refusal to lower kit price
Reason – Cultural Difficulties
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Cultural Savvy
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Aids Communication
Establishes Immediate Rapport
Enhances Team Motivation / Buy-in
Builds Positive Relationships
Enables Cooperation
Postures the PM for Success
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Which is more accurate in most cases?
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The average American knows more
about the other culture that he/she
is dealing with or is the opposite
true?
Why?
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Testimonial
“I would definitely recommend Mark for
future projects. At the beginning of this
project, I thought that his work plan was
impossible within our required timeframe.
However, he proved me wrong. He has
phenomenal cross cultural skills and
patience in developing the relationships
which are required to get people to go the
extra mile and exceed expectations.”
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Unnecessary Confusion = Slow
Progress
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E Mail Communication
• No phone follow up
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“I told you very clearly”
Not verifying understanding and
assuming action
Duplicate requests
Overly demanding
Intellectual Property (IP) Concern
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Not the best Cultural Reaction
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Family story example
Concluded that something different
was wrong
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
On Culture
“It is not right or
wrong, good or bad,
it is just different”
Mark Hehl - March, 1996
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
American Culture
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Positive aspects
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Negative aspects
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
North American
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Legal
• The contract governs; not what is said /
promised
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Poor at negotiation
Direct
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
North American
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Not warm and friendly at the
beginning
Will not joke at the beginning
Asks direct questions
Insular
Values hard work
• Impatient with those who do not
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
North American
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Prompt and responsive
• Expects the same from others
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“Time is Money”
• They really believe this!
• Advantage
• Restaurant bill example
Wants to get down to business fast!
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
North American
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One language
Not interested in learning languages
Straightforward
Challenges authority
Assertive and forceful
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Obsolete Components
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Asian Division – US Fortune 500
Poor Performing Components
Multiple requests for Inventory
Balance
• No response
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Chinese Culture
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Positive aspects
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Negative aspects
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Chinese History
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Oldest continuous major world
civilization
Records date back 3,500-5,000 years
Advanced civilization with a common
written language
Prosperity diminished during the 19th
Century
• Social strife
• Economic Stagnation
• Explosive population growth
Chinese History
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Western penetration
• Hong Kong (Great Britain)
• Opium Wars
• The unequal treaties
• Shanghai Concessions
• Communist Government
• Hong Kong and Macau returned to
China
• China is now a World Power!
Chinese Gifts to the World
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Gunpowder
Fireworks
The compass
Paper
Natural gas used as a fuel
The seismograph
Contributions to science/mathematics
Second most popular cuisine in the world
The graduate college
The formal educational evaluation
system
Chinese Culture
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Education
• Written language memorized
• Entry competitive-exam
• High social pressure to excel
• High motivation to learn English
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Native English Speaking Teachers
• China graduates 6X as many
engineers as the USA
Languages
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Many spoken languages
Mandarin-Official
Cantonese-Hong Kong & Macau
Shanghaiese-Shanghai
Common written language?
• Traditional Characters
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Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore &
Taiwan
• Simplified characters
• Western (Arabic) number system
Confucian Precepts / Values
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Dignity
Mutual respect
Respect for authority
• Obedience
Humility
Courtesy
Deference
• Face
• Mianzi
Mianzi (Face)
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Shame
Status
Self respect
Avoid
• Insults
• Criticism
• Embarrassing
• Shouting
• Proving wrong
Guanxi
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Relationships between people
Good social relationships are a symbol of
personal ability
Develop relationships first
Enquire about family and personal life
• Expect personal questions
 Salary
Invest in this up front
• It will pay dividends
China
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Dignity
• Face
• “Mianzi”
Mutual respect
Respect for authority
• Obedience
Humility
Courtesy
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
China
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Considerate
Polite
Well-mannered
Modesty
Do not show emotion
Will not use “No”
Decisions come from the top
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
What does YES mean?
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I hear you
It may not mean
• Agreement
• Understanding
• That action will take place
How does one handle this?
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
China
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Develop relationships first
• “Guanzhi”
• Chinese do not like to do business with
strangers
Enquire about family and personal life
• Expect personal questions
Invest in relationships
• It will pay dividends
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Kegi
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Considerate
Polite
Well-mannered
Humbleness
Modesty
Do not show emotion
Using Kegi
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Avoid
• Bragging
• Embracing
• Being too carefree
• Political discussions to avoid
The Province of Taiwan
 One Child Policy
 Social unrest
 The Environment
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Yes & No???
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NO = hostile/disrespectful
• One may not hear it
Yes may not mean agreement
• Understanding
• That message was heard
• Probe
• Read between the lines
Chinese Culture
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What problems does the Chinese
respect for authority and not saying
“NO” create for Westerners trying to
implement business process
improvement?
How does one overcome these?
The First Meeting
-Introductions
-Name cards
-Personal distance
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Avoid These!
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Western gestures that are taboo in
China include:
• Pointing the index finger--use the
open hand instead
• Using the index finger to call
someone-use the hand with fingers
motioning downward as in waving
• Finger snapping
• Showing the soles of shoes
• Whistling is considered rude
Expect These!
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Chinese customs that are annoying
to Westerners:
• Belching or spitting on the street
• Lack of consideration when
smoking and failure to ask
permission to smoke
• Slurping food
• Talking while eating
• Spitting out bones while eating
• Toothpick
Chinese Culture
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Multi-lingual
Will not challenge authority
Seeks friendship
Knows Western culture
Limited resources
Humble
Mandarin
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Basic terms
• Ni Hao--Hello, Good Day, How are
you?
• Xie Xie--Thank You
• Gahn Bay-- “Dry Cup” Toast at
meals
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Do not drink alone
Be careful!
Meals / Banquets
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Chopsticks
Wait for host to seat you
• Seat position at table
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Never leave your plate clean!
Leave room for the next course
Toasting-no need to “Dry Cup”
• Drink slowly
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Good opportunity to
introduce/discuss new initiatives
China - Other Items
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Red = Good Luck
The Green Hat Story
Covering one’s face = embarrassment
or disagreement
Sticking chopsticks in rice = Death
If you do not know what a food is -ASK!
Unless you can handle the result- do
not look in tanks & cages at restaurants
China - Other Items
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Birds and fish are served with the head
Ok to do in China
• Using a toothpick at the table
• Spitting bones on a plate
• Making noises while eating
• Putting one’s elbows on table
• Reaching across the table for food
• Smoking during a meal
• Picking up a bowl of rice to one’s
mouth
Potential Problem Areas
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China
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Modified Behaviors
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China
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Protecting a Bad Design
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Western Parent Company / Asia
Division
Design not Working Properly
Re-Design in Europe
• Intentionally providing incorrect details
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Intellectual Property (IP) Issue
Lost Sales / Customer Goodwill
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Indian Culture
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Positive aspects
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Negative aspects
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Indian Head Shaking
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Agreement
• Source of confusion
Project Manager
–Faux Pas!
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
India
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Caste System
Be on time
Slow decisions
Family orientation
The boss is right
Relationship value
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
India
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Women
• Shaking Hands???
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Head Shaking
Develop Trust
Accept refreshments
Double Standard???
• On time
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Potential Problem Areas
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India
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Modified Behavior
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India
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Missed Opportunity for Cost
Savings / Sales Increase
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Latin American Supplier to a Fortune
100 Corporation
Opportunities identified /
demonstrated
• 23% productivity improvement
• Not implemented
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No follow up to ensure
implementation
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Lost Investment
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Potential New Asian Supplier
Site visit scheduled for a Friday
Government Blackout
Supplier Unwilling to Challenge
Fortune 100 Corporation
Project Cancelled
• Investment wasted
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Process Improvement?
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Asian supplier to a US Fortune 500
Enhanced process controls needed
Performed for the wrong reason
• Ineffective
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Time Reduction = Lost Sales
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US Corporation
– Chinese Suppliers
- Assembly plant in The Philippines
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Arbitrary lead time reduction
Delivery not possible
Silence from suppliers
$15 million in lost sales
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
The Philippines
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Foreign Influence
• China
• Spain
• The United States
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
The Philippines
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Positive aspects of the culture
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Negative aspects of the culture
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
The Philippines
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Warm
Friendly
Laid back
Positive outlook
• Good during a crisis
• Prevention?
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Eager to please foreigners
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
The Philippines
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Non Assertive
Eager to learn
Reluctant to use “No”
Inferiority complex
Sometimes provides too much
information
• May not be relevant
• Too much detail
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
The Philippines
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Potential Problem Areas
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Modified Behavior
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The Philippines
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Latin America
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Is the culture the same in all of
Latin America?
Is the language the same?
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Latin America
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20 Spanish Speaking Countries
• Various dialects
• Some words can be offensive is some
countries where they are not in others
The Language of Brazil is Portuguese
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Latin America
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Regionally Diverse
• Not all the same!
Warm/Friendly
• Begin with social conversation
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Tactile
• “Abrazo”
• Personal space
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Time Attitude
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Latin America
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Formality
• Señor , Ing., Lic., etc.
• Spoken
• Written
• Avoid using first names at the beginning
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Latin America
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Meet with Decision Maker
• Authority may not be delagated
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Avoid pressure tactics
Relationship Orientation
Social Conversation First
• Ask about family
• Remember details
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
No Action - No Product
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US Importer – South American
Supplier
Agreement from Purchasing
• No Action
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Communicate with Boss for action
• Autocratic environment
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Quotation Problems
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Latin America
Oral indication
Quotes not received
Issues
• Culture
• Understanding
• Competency
• Unwilling to say “NO”
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Regulatory Information
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US Fortune 100 Corporation
Asian Plastic Supplier
Material Data Required
No Response
• Communication
• IP Concern
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Additional Travel Cost
• Schedule impact
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Vague Direction from Europe
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My Client
Questions not answered directly
Read between the lines
(c) 2010 Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Communication tips
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Use clear elegant language
Verify understanding
• Follow up call
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Avoid
• Jargon
• Colloquialisms
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
MY Plan
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How I will avoid being the Ugly
American
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Other Items
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Stop, Look and Listen
Ask questions
• History
• Local Area
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Avoid pointing one’s finger
• Use an open hand
Applying Cultural Savvy
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Avoid Stereotyping
Be Genuinely Interested
• Culture
• History
• Enjoy the Experience
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Stop, Look & Listen
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Applying Cultural Savvy
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Research & Learn
• Culture
• History
• Language Basics
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Ask Questions
Communicate their way
Show Respect
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Best Investment
Cross Cultural Training
All Team Members
Both Directions
A Critical Investment!
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
Questions
Thank you for allowing
me to be of service!
Mark Hehl
Hehl & Associates
Southbury, CT USA
203 982 6231
ww.hehlassociates.com
(c) 2012, Mark Hehl, all rights reserved
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