Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Problem Solvers in Foreign Companies in Japan

Was your foreign corporation in Japan full of problem solvers or problem solver poseurs during the recent crisis? I'll bet you half a donut that you have a bunch of fakers in your midst....  

The March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster has most probably changed the business landscape in Japan for foreign corporations forever. Did they handle the situation well? Or did they blow it miserably? Regular readers of this blog know that I took many foreigners and foreign corporations to task for their poor handling of the situation soon after the crisis began.

Many foreigners and foreign corporations have done irreparable damage to their reputations amongst their staff and the Japanese public at large. How can they ever repair this situation? What can they do to prevent a repeat? The Toyo Keizai Newspaper has a brilliant analysis of the current and future situation in Japan concerning foreign corporations and their status in Japan.

Here's a translation of an excellent piece entitled, "Problem Solvers in Foreign Companies" that appeared in that newspaper on May 11 in Japanese (this is the English translation):  


Confusion was the dominant feature of the triple disaster within foreign companies in Japan. This is particularly due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant explosion and resulting leakage. Many headquarters and embassies ordered immediate emergency evacuation of their nationals from Japan. Indeed many foreigners took this action upon themselves even without such encouragement. Almost by definition, this meant a massive evacuation of senior management teams out of Japan.
Confused? It is what it is.

For local employees receiving word about their status, their duty to show-up at work or simply receive on-going explanations of the situation from their in-Japan/now-out-of-Japan foreign managers, this was characterized more by silence and confusion than by thought, analysis and appreciation for the situation overall.
Actually, reporting lines within Western companies are well established. For example, while employees of Japanese-subsidiary companies are handled by the local Personnel Departments on a basic level, the headquarters wields (and exercises) supreme power. Even the local CEO essentially plays the role of mere “advisor” on critical or quickly evolving issues. Some say this is natural but it is cumbersome.
In fact, success or failure of global firms frequently turns on quick and adroit handling of problems that invariable arise: Fukushima was only one such incident. Given that important authorizations are hoarded elsewhere, this requires far more than on-location business-professionals sent from the headquarters. It goes without saying that fine-tuning & dealing in nuances spells “success” in addressing evolving, quickly deteriorating situations. “How to?” is the issue.
Management of foreign corporations would do well to read this example written by a Japanese from a Japanese point of view (of course). Read the rest here. (If that link doesn't work, copy and paste this:
What do they say, "When in Rome....."

1 comment:

Marc Sheffner said...

The Langley article is very interesting. Thanks for writing this up.