JALD Reflections

How to conduct business in japan?

Japanese Customs / January 6, 2017

By Andrew Miller TOKYO

Below is an account from Sayaka, a reporter over at our sister site Pouch. It is an intriguing look at differences in business culture between Japan and the west. It makes one realize that there is no perfect business strategy as such but by incorporating the best parts from each culture, one can get pretty close to their own perfect business model. Moreover, Japan’s business culture has to be one of the most unique in the entire world.

Just the other day I had the privilege of liaising with several western businessmen who gave me some rather interesting views relating to differences in business customs between Japan and the West. They mentioned having recently listened to a lecture before coming to Japan on how to conduct business the Japanese way. Something that really stood out to me were their impressions of the Japanese business culture as a whole:

“Out of all the countries we’ve visited so far, Japan’s business culture has got to be the most uniquely different.”

Those who took part in the business lecture included two Frenchmen, an Englishman and an American. All four men worked in such high power roles as international manufacturing or as planning designers at construction companies. They are the type of elite that upon coming to Japan enter into managerial positions giving Japanese workers orders and undertaking transactions with other high-ranking Japanese companies. Their period of employment is usually no longer than a year and a half, after which they often shift to positions in other countries.

Below, I would like to introduce the five most interesting things from the lecture imparted to me by the foreign businessmen.

1. If a Japanese person says they can complete the job, it is best to take them on face value.

Many may think “what’s so surprising about that!?” However, looking at trends on the foreign market, a lot of workers claim to be able to complete a given task even when it clearly exceeds their capabilities. The businessman from England commented that in contrast to their foreign counterparts, the Japanese modestly accept the job at hand while delivering exceptional results.

He went on to comment: “With regard to suppliers in Japan, workers have a clear comprehension of the production scale and necessary production time. Whether it be the person who places the order from the supplier, or those who deal with the transaction thereafter, from beginning to end the level of service is consistently high. If we look at Western business culture, incompletion of a task within the designated period often sees the worker placing the blame on the boss by claiming that his directions weren’t clear. Thus, for the Western worker, one can, to some degree, avoid responsibility.

"In contrast, in Japan, if business doesn’t go according to plan, it becomes the problem of the individual undertaking the task. What’s more, the Japanese deliver a service that goes far beyond what was originally requested, leaving many customers very satisfied. The fact they carry out the job with consistency means they are easy to work with.”

Source: japantoday.com