If you are a business leader pursuing diversity, you are chasing the wrong goal. It is not diversity that matters, but rather excellence that counts. Diversity of people is merely a natural result.
If you have ever heard someone use the adjectives traditional Japanese to describe an uninspiring manager, the moniker is only half-true. Only by replacing the word traditional with mediocre can you accurately reflect reality. There is nothing traditional about mediocrity in Japan, just as anywhere else in the world.
The best military strategists always choose the terrain on which they will do battle, rather than allowing the enemy to choose for them. So, in business, why would you possibly allow others to define the topography of your business environment instead of choosing the topography yourself?
Yet, that is often precisely what business people do.
“Not invented here” syndrome is not unique to Japan and is one of the most common forms of passive resistance to any reasonable organizational improvement or change in organizations everywhere in the world. Make no mistake, those who warn of the dangers of “not invented here” pretend to be doing so in the best interest of the business. Yet, it is only their individual self-interest about which they care.
The success of any business rarely depends on any key manager or executive. It is only the mistaken belief in the indispensability of an executive that masks and suppresses the talent of others. Your leadership bench is often hiding in plain sight.
What if your prospects and clients have no pain points and no problems?
Presumption of damage is never a good way to start a relationship with anyone, whether in business or otherwise.
Not long ago, I was working with a sales team to help improve their capability to ask questions when meeting with prospects. Without fail, during role plays when I played the customer, each one asked me variations of “Do you have any particular problems?”
When I responded, “No, we don’t have any particular problems,” each salesperson was flustered and did not know how to respond. Each one, after a few awkward exchanges, simply withdrew and promised to call again at a later date.
Japan Rail Shinkasen’s first class is called the “Green Car.” It is the most comfortable first class of any high-speed train I have ridden, whether it’s France’s TGV or Amtrak’s Acela. Japan Rail has outdone even itself introducing a class higher than the Green Car called “GranClass” on some lines. Yet, GranClass has got to be one of the best kept secrets in Japan and I doubt this is because Japan Rail wants it that way. It’s just that Japan Rail employees act as if they do.
While I sometimes hear CEOs complain about their lack of authority in a matrix organization, the most successful CEOs I know never do. They have all mastered the matrix, wield tremendous authority, and influence their own and the business’s advantage despite the ambiguities inherent to a matrix organization. If you are the CEO of a Japanese operation of a global company, work within a matrix organization, and you feel your authority is stymied, think again. You just might have far more power and authority than you realize, if you know how to wield these right.