“Japanese companies must fuse traditional, foreign ways of working” – a Nikkei Asian Review article

In the article “Japanese companies must fuse traditional, foreign ways of working” published 2015, January 06, the Nikkei Asian Review suggests that “in an era of globalization, Japanese companies need to combine the strengths of their traditional business methods with those of the countries they operate in” in order to see their business succeed overseas.

Far beyond the “simple” language barrier, business leaders and managers working in a foreign country often face the difficult challenges to develop a fair understanding of the cultural differences of their local teams, clients, partners, providers… and to use this knowledge to adjust their management and business approaches, while keeping connected with their mother company values and missions.

In this post, DELTANOMIX would like to share a few ideas on how to grow cross-cultural sensibility and leverage effectively the surrounding diversity and differences in order to improve the local operations performance.

  • Get exposed, stay open

As early as possible in your career, try to get a maximum exposure to a variety of work situations and environments. Be it through short-term project assignment, international mobility or transversal global initiatives, volunteer as much as possible to opportunities  requiring to stretch outside of your regular work environment and culture. In other words, be curious and try new things that will challenge your preconceived views of the world.

When put in a new work context and culture, approach your environment open-mindedly, putting aside the stereotypes you may have. Listen and observe carefully in a first step. What does surprise you? What does shock you? What do you like? What is different from your expectations? Find what works in your new environment that would not work in your culture and vice versa. Try to understand why.

Being open to new experiences and culture is obviously not limited to your professional life! Experience openly different cultures in your personal life as well through friends, travel, community activities, student exchange…

As a manager, also ensure to offer this exposure to cultural diversity to your team members as much as you can. It should thus help them to develop a greater cross-cultural awareness as well which in return should help you to manage them.

  • Explore differences constructively

When put on an assignment in a different country as a manager and after your initial observation phase, start asking candid questions on the specific points or topics that surprise you (positively or negatively). Getting the true answers from your new teams will require you to build first a work environment based on mutual trust and understanding, an environment fostering constructive criticism but also where people are aware of their differences and respect them.

As a manager, take every opportunity (casual discussion and formal meetings) to ask for feedbacks and opinions on the on-going team activities and the way those are run; encourage your team members to do the same (depending on the culture and on the individual characteristics of your team members, this may work or not…). Put those feedbacks into perspective: how does it fit the local picture and the global one?

Discuss as well about your understanding and your teams understanding of your role. In other words, ask to your teams how, from their point of view, you can make them even more successful. Also ask them to which extent the global corporate values resonate locally.

  • Build on diversity and stay aligned

Then, based on the feedbacks and inputs you have gathered, make sure to clarify with everyone the local mission, your objectives (how you define success for yourself and your teams) as well as the teams and their members goals.

Run a transversal exercise with all your teams to translate the global corporate values into a local mission statement and work charter that everyone will feel closer to. Then ensure that everyone complies with it by clarifying the “Do and Don’t” and by clearly highlighting the promoted behaviours and banned attitudes.

Overtime, stay attuned to any new challenges or conflict,  keep fostering healthy debates within your team members while making sure that everyone stays aligned behind any final decision and behind the local mission and values. Improve and adjust your structure where and when necessary to reflect any internal or external changes.

Feel free to share your ideas or feedbacks with DELTANOMIX by sending them to deltanomix@gmail.com. DELTANOMIX also remains available if you are interested in getting deeper details on the above points.