- Critical Thinking Skills (CTS101)
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- What Working for a Japanese Company Taught Me
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Your Entry to Japan. More articles by GaijinPot Blog. I tremendously enjoyed reading it, and can't wait until I can adopt it as my class text. Chapter 1: Basic Logical Concepts 1. He has taught courses at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels in logic, epistemology, and early modern philosophy.
Critical Thinking Skills (CTS101)
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No matter how long a non-Japanese works for a Japanese company, he or she is still considered an outsider. This, of course, deprives the company of the experience and knowledge that an outsider can contribute. Shadow managers play the role of informally communicating with Tokyo, often performing nemawashi, which literally translates to cutting the roots before you plant the tree. What it really means is informing Tokyo of what is going on and what requests will be made.
It is much like a lobbying effort that precedes a formal plan or proposal. I can still picture Mr. Takeuchi sitting in my office where we were planning our first demo program. I vividly remember it because it was so exciting—the first tangible indication of our success. We really had a product that the channel and the end users wanted, and we were able to do something constructive to broaden our distribution.
Approximately 50,000 downloads, basically through word of mouth
What are you going to accomplish? How much more are you going to sell next month, next quarter, next year as a result? But the more I resisted, the more he insisted that we do it. And soon we were putting numbers on the white board. And public relations and corporate citizenship programs are even harder to justify in numerical terms. The numbers force you to make estimates and to compare relative alternatives, and they give you something to measure the outcome against.
They impose a certain rigor that can help you consider different options. How many more units will dealers sell because they have the demo there? How many sales will they miss by not having them? He kept giving qualitative measures of what he wanted to accomplish. I constantly had to ask him to give me quantitative targets. This forced him to refine and justify his thinking and programs. It was a painful process. Having spent many an evening at Ginza restaurants and hostess clubs, like every business visitor to Japan, I was struck by how easily the Japanese can change gears.
During the day, they grappled intensely with heavy-duty business problems, but at night they drop the subject completely and socialize.
Reserving strictly social time forces businesspeople to get to know each other on a different and much more personal level. They get to know each other as whole people. It builds trust and makes communication much easier. I can think of a couple of situations that illustrate the point. When my first manager, Mr.
Hirai, learned that the senior manager he worked with in Tokyo was leaving for an assignment in Germany, he was very disappointed. I had the same kind of relationship with Dan Crane, my vice president of computer marketing at Toshiba. So we trusted each other and never had to waste energy wondering what the other really meant or worrying about hidden agendas. That trust was especially important during the tense time when Toshiba was ready to get back into the U. It seemed obvious to me that our division should market the computer; but the Japanese always explore the alternatives, so a task force was formed to analyze it.
I knew that the decision the task force reached would be rational. As it turns out, the decision was in favor of our division—which proves my point!
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Japanese companies are unwilling to invest in training their female employees. As a result, this highly educated part of the work force is terribly underused. Management does not consider training and development of female workers a sound investment because it expects the women to leave the workplace at an early age to marry and raise a family, as they have traditionally done.
If a woman leaves the work force when she is about 25 years old, it is difficult for her to return. The Japanese culture and infrastructure do not support women who wish to return to work after having children. There are no day-care centers or babysitting services, and such women are looked down on. Of course, there are some highly publicized exceptions where women have taken strong leadership roles in Japan.
But attitudes and institutions overwhelmingly work against the effective use of women professionals. But when we do get together outside of regular business hours, I try not to work on business problems. We talk about families and sports and other things that help us get to know each other better. It helps us get along during the business day. This issue of getting back into computers after our initial failure demonstrates the Japanese approach to decision making: try to get everyone to agree.
This is the Japanese consensus decision making we all hear about. We had been living and breathing the U. So we formed a study team, led by McKinsey, to go through the painstaking process of talking to distributors, dealers, and end users, gathering data, and deciding what we needed. Guess what the task force concluded: we needed to be IBM compatible. The purpose of the task force, of course, was to get the others to buy in, which seemed to me a royal waste of time. When the other groups bought in, they bought in with a vengeance, and their commitment more than made up for the slow decision making.
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We were the first major company to come out with a successful laptop. We lost more time in the beginning getting everybody focused, but things moved quickly after that. But I have limits about how much time I can afford to take. Sorting out the Japanese organizational structure is a challenge—job titles are not equivalent to those in the United States.
What Working for a Japanese Company Taught Me
There are many dotted lines and gray areas of responsibility. Most of my early dealings were with the president of Toshiba America. But soon after, I had a lot of communication with a group of engineers from Japan who seemed to have similar business interests. I wondered who those guys were. The ISM is highly influential and important. In fact, the president of the U.
And the general manager of the ISM reports almost directly to the president of the whole company, with maybe one person in between. The ISM is responsible for global business development outside Japan. In essence, it buys product from the Japanese and resells it to the U. When we started, the ISM had money to invest in us. But the significance of the ISM is that it focuses solely on developing business internationally and has the organizational clout to make things happen. It goes out and researches other markets, identifies existing products or product development opportunities, and then goes back to Japan and spearheads the development effort.
The ISM was on the task force that decided we wanted to be brighter blue. Then Mr. Hataya, who headed the group, led the laptop product development in Japan. That goes to show how much power the ISM has. Because of the ISM, I basically had two bosses. I reported directly to the president of Toshiba America, who approved the business plan and evaluated the fiscal period business performance. But I also had a dotted line—a very thick, black dotted line—to Mr. He was interested in long-term business development in addition to meeting the current fiscal business plan.
So each of my bosses had a different perspective. This arrangement gave me the flexibility to subordinate short-term pressures to long-term market development. If I wanted to invest current profits to expand the market instead of making a higher percentage profit, for instance, I could always make my case informally to Mr. Hataya, who could then informally influence the president. Although many U.