Sunday, July 20, 2008

Japanese Odyssey Continues

Every visit to Japan you come back more humbled with the experiences you encounter in Japan about how inward focussed and complex the business environment is . The very traditional and orthodox organizations are trying to breakaway from being typecast in that mould at-least at the Leadership levels. But will the rest of the fabric support a leader with unconventional thinking is highly questionable.
Chances are that there is surely a ray of hope in organizations where substantial part of the revenues are derived from outside the domestic japanese market. Organizations such as Nissan , Sony  and Toyota are  prime examples of movement in the direction of becoming more Global in there mindset. My earlier post on the contradictions at Toyota delineates a similar point. 

The Nuances and subtleties while conducting business are so many,that at times  it is just impossible to judge and  conclude with any patterns. Very often Non japanese teams get exasperated with the japanese using   the word "problem" ( "mondai" in Japanese)at every step or at every discussion point.

Actually the nuance of the word "problem" is much stronger in English then the word "mondai" which they actually mean . Mondai just means it needs to be looked into .....

"Hai" or "Hai Wakarimashita" are words you can not get of japan with out hearing to a couple of hundred times. " Yes or Yes i Understand" signifies comprehension or it just means what has been communicated by you has been received but in no way can be interpreted as the idea or suggestion you have given is understood and accepted. 

While conducting discussions and at times in formal gatherings it is very difficult to judge who the real leader or decision maker is . The ceremonial structure or the people with bigger titles at times might have very little to do with the decision making process.  A few titles terminologies which i got to understand are "bucho" means a division manager and "Kacho" the lowest level is a section manager . Most cases the high ranking official is a director who is "toroshimariyuko", who could also be a Divisional General Manager "honbucho". Most cases the ceremonial structure could be very different from the actual power structure.

It will also be very difficult to identify the real Leader in japanese team and it is important to be able to do this because even though japanese make decisions on a group and consensus basis , the nominal leader could be some what of a "maverick" and therefore delay the progress or depending on how favorable he is to you can speeden the progress. 

Another factor to take into consideration is that leadership can swing from one member to another depending on the situation and issue at hand. At times the Leader can be very silent and at other times he might do most of the talking.

Welcome to the land of  Ambiguity !  "Japan" 

Japan is an Exonym for "Nippon or Nihon"  which means the "Land of the Rising Sun"

No comments: