According to a speech made by Morris Chang in Arizona, transcribed at https://interconnect.substack.com/p/globalization-is-dead-and-no-one

When I started TSMC back in 1987, I had a dream. Probably because of my background, which up to that point, was primarily America. Probably because of my background, my dream was to build fabs in the United States.

So, eight years from our start up, we started in 1987, and in 1995, we broke ground in a town called Camas, which is in the state of Washington, just on the border of Oregon, In fact, it's very close to Portland, Oregon.

We called it Wafertech. It was a well-conceived semiconductor factory. Its technology was completely up to date at that time. It was, I thought, a dream fulfilled. However, we ran into cost problems. We ran into people problems. We ran into cultural problems. And before long, the dream fulfilled became a nightmare fulfilled. [nervous laughter from the crowd]

It took up several years to untangle ourselves from the nightmare. And I decided that I needed to postpone the dream, just postpone, just postpone it…

What exactly were the 'people problems... cultural problems' that proved so severe and intractable as to doom the facility?


1 Answer 1


I'm not so sure if this is really retro computing or even computer related. It seems to be rather about the usual problems when opening a subsidiary in a foreign country. I believe we all know typical stories about that. Like that dilemma between German boss and English employee and vice versa about some power point presentation:

  • English employee sends a presentation to be held to her German boss, he cites her into the office and straight out explains what he thinks is bad and tells exactly and detailed what is to be changed. She walks out numb, corrects everything as told and for next few days she's expecting a redundancy letter whenever checking her mail.

  • German employee presents the prepared slides and his English boss who starts to go about how great that presentation is and how much success tomorrows meeting will be, thanks to it. In the follow he points out some 'minor details' that have potential for improvement, but not giving exactly how he wants to have these passages modified - or if at all. Closing with them really being only minor and maybe another mentioning how great the presentation is. The German employee will walk back to his desk, get a coffee and tell everyone how great his product is - which will be delivered for tomorrows meeting without even the slightest change - after all, it was great, wasn't it?

Given, this is a bit exaggerated, but happens every day - I did experience those situations myself in both roles. And that's between two neighbouring European countries, so now extrapolate what difference Westen vs. Eastern and US vs. Taiwan may hold ready. And all during a critical phase of creating a complete new company with a tight schedule and pressure due the substantial investment involved.

  • 2
    Having had some interactions with Wafertech in that time frame - that was a good analogy. Definite cultural clashes…
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 14:52
  • 2
    I once worked in France at the parent startup of the American subsidiary that employed me - and it didn't take me long to learn that when the French call their company's leader "Directeur-General" they mean it! Doesn't matter what your job is or what you thought your job is or what your manager told you to do ... when the Directeur-General stops by your desk and tells you to jump you'd better already be in the air before you manage to ask "à quelle hauteur?"
    – davidbak
    Commented Jan 6, 2023 at 20:33
  • @davidbak Boy am I happy to be an employee in a company, where it is both accepted and expected that my relationship with my bosses is more of a partnership where I get plenty leeway in choosing how to achieve the company goals and have input in my bosses' decision-making! The downside is sometimes I have to be very proactive in making sure I understand what those goals are, but that's a price I'm willing to pay for being able to tell my boss "no" to a request I find unreasonable.
    – moonwalker
    Commented Jan 7, 2023 at 22:38
  • @moonwalker Above is not so much about "company culture" but cultural differences between nations. Do not confuse a clear hierarchical system with missing freedom to say no or to do your thing. It works by different rules, rules one has to understand. A 'Director General' will of course take your input and acct accordingly - just etiquette in different cultures to manage this work different. After all, companies live in a shark tank of competition (well, most), and ones not being flexible, not using all resources will be eaten soon.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Jan 7, 2023 at 23:33
  • @Raffzahn I guess I meant that in my situation the etiquette of it is I can say my "no" bluntly, in a matter-of-fact manner in the middle of a big meeting involving other bosses and lower rank employees with no negative consequences, so long as I am able to back it up with a valid reason when challenged. Usually afterwards a negotiation ensues to figure out an alternative to which both my bosses and myself can agree to. And this was my experience with every company I've ever been employed at in my current country.
    – moonwalker
    Commented Jan 7, 2023 at 23:44

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .