Don’t be a Japanologist

Japan-fatigue is real and can be fatal to your success and career. Don’t try to explain how Japan is different to executives in your head office. While such conversations are great for dinner parties, talks with students, and war stories with friends, unless executives in your head office are interested in Japanology as a hobby, it’s best to leave Japanology to academics. Executives will find discussions only frustrating and tedious.

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Fear Misplaced

Risk and risk perception are rarely equivalent, but if you lead an organization, yours must be one and the same.

I write this as worldwide cases of coronavirus surpass 10,000, most of which are in China, and are certain to rise. While a frightening pathogen to be sure, the fears that coronavirus has provoked in people in other countries are beyond rational, as are the changes in their behavior.

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Your Own Worst Enemy

Businesses can be their own worst enemies when business process supplants business thinking.

The CEO of a large industrial American company in Japan told me of difficulties he faces in buying from a division of a large Japanese industrial company, not because of a lack of will to sell on their part, but rather unnecessary and burdensome bureaucratic processes that were designed to meet Japanese government procurement requirements, the division’s primary customer. Quality control processes at the Japanese seller company were impractical and far beyond what the American company required, while lead-times and costs were excessive. Adherence to process, no matter how inappropriate, dominated thinking.

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Authority Isn’t Empowerment

Empowerment is like breathing. We all recognize its need but we’re rarely aware of it until something is wrong. Passivity in business is the most common symptom of lack of empowerment. Continue reading

Ownership Trumps Buy-In

New methods can appear threatening to some managers who have never had to change in order to be successful.

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Start With Strategic Absolutes

Any business, in any situation, in any market always has multiple options for a strategic direction that are all good. It is a terrific boon to buy-in when your leadership team can come up with a strategic direction that matches yours without you having to tell them what your vision is.

However, that rarely happens on its own.

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The Acumen of Gender Diversity

Most global companies outside of Japan have targets for increasing numbers of women employees, particularly in management. And even in Japan where women are often given short shrift, more global companies now have such targets as well. However, the leaders of the most successful companies I know achieve their objective by doing things right that have nothing to do with women at all, and their businesses and all staff, both men and women, are better off as a result.

If you are the leader of a business in Japan or anywhere else, whether your business is subject to diversity targets or not, below is what I advise.

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