Steven's Blog

Japan, Rotten to the Core? No.

When you hear of malfeasance in American companies like Equifax, Wells Fargo, Valeant, Countrywide Financial and Washington Mutual of subprime mortgage crisis infamy, and even Enron, no one questions whether or not something is rotten in the whole of American corporate culture.

So, why should we think differently when it comes to corporate malfeasance in Japan?

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Kobe Steel vs. Japanese Culture

Bloomberg invited me to discuss the current situation with Kobe Steel and my take on Japanese culture and the role it plays (or does not) with respect to what is happening inside of corporations in Japan.  

If you’d prefer to read this interview, the following transcript has been provided by Bloomberg:

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Leader Versus Minion Behaviors

Who on your staff is leadership material, and who is…perhaps not?

Forget personality profiling and engagement survey results. None of these tests have ever been scientifically validated, and can tell you as much about a candidate for a higher level of leadership as reading the entrails of a slaughtered chicken.

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Change First, Culture Later

If you are a leader seeking rapid change in your company, forget about culture. Culture will take care of itself. Focus on new ways of doing things. The genesis of a new culture results from a change in behavior, not the other way around. Change the way people do things. Culture change follows as a result.

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Strategy? Forget All You Know!

Below are seven pieces of advice I give to business leaders based on strategy practices of the most successful ones I know. Whenever I discuss these in an open forum, there is always pushback from at least a few people, particularly in Japan. Some people are even offended! That’s OK.

If I am doing my job correctly, at least some people should be made to feel uncomfortable.

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Incentive Pay Doesn’t Work

If I offered you more money for results, would you change anything that you are doing now?

I have asked this very question to numerous successful CEOs, and invariably the answer is no. I suspect yours is as well.

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Big Consequences of Tolerating Small Infractions

Illicit and unethical behavior should never be tolerated, even if the impact is small. For example, if a manager is padding company expenses for personal gain, you really have no choice but to fire the manager, even if it is for less than a few hundred dollars per year. That can be a hard decision to make when the manager’s performance is high, such as a top salesperson, but it is the right decision.

It is a matter of judgement and leadership of the manager rather than a cost-benefit analysis of the infraction.

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No Path to Excellence in Market Price

Saving pennies should never justify forgoing dollars of income.

The most successful business people I know never consider cost, and only consider ROI, particularly when hiring people and engaging services.

There is no path to excellence through paying market price. A consistent ROI focus results in rapid growth and success.

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