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Seb Anthony

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Japanese work culture


Hope you can help. I'm doing some management development with a UK electronics company (and British delegates) however they have a lot of contact (and control) from Japan parent company. Any tips /tactics around influencing Japanese senior managers and Japanese work culture?
Happy Days!
bryan edwards

2 Responses

  1. Japan
    I don’t have personal knowledge of this but two of my colleagues have attended cultural diversity courses in business,which included a specific country focus,including Japan. The Japanese context included:-

    Control of environment
    Decision making
    Family corporate cultures
    Local cultures
    Universalism v particularism

    They are still working with the trainer and cannot breach his copyright. But I am sure I can obtain a bibliography for you. Send me your e mail and I will seek from them.
    Have you tried your local University language and/or business studies departments. You can usually obtain some free advice there?


    [email protected]

  2. Keep it real!
    My experience of working in Japan and for a Japanese-owned company goes back 20 years, and I found out that the more I thought I understood about ‘culture’ etc. the more I realised there were further, deeper layers. Many aspects of ‘their’ way of doing business are simply good practice which they have absorbed from elsewhere, refined, then re-exported to us. (That’s probably why your client is a Japanese-owned company!)

    Standards are important. If you say your course will re-start after lunch at 1pm, then make it so. Don’t keep everyone waiting to hear the straggler’s excuses, because you’re declaring that you don’t really mean what you say. Similarly, if your participants agree a course of action or targets with their bosses, then that’s what is expected to be achieved. Don’t agree low targets and exceed them, or agree impossibly high targets and fail them.

    Much of what we do in our daily round has been done before, by ourselves or others. It’s a process. The Japs are good at capturing those processes in the form of standards which define ‘the best way we know how’ of doing a job. The expectation is that we carry on doing it that way until we can define a better way. It’s a bit of a pain writing it down or mapping it out, but it makes life a lot easier in future. If the Japanese boss then asks for the 5Ws +1H of a proposed course of action, or a progress report, the answer can be shown, rather than given in the traditional ‘shooting from the hip’.

    In my experience, the very act of documenting a standard or mapping out a plan encourages attention to detail and spotting –and avoiding- potential pitfalls. Well-defined expectations and processes help to avoid surprises – but I would regard this now as simply ‘good practice’ rather than anything peculiarly Japanese.

    Please give me a call on 0191 2522505 if you have any specific queries.


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