Manage episode 318085161 series 2553835
Trying to explain Japan to your boss back at HQ is a real pain. HQ ideas on solutions for Japan rarely hit the mark.
One of the dubious delights of running an international business in Japan is dealing with the Mother Ship or it’s Regional Hub spin off. Trying to explain Japan to those who don’t know Japan, has always proven tremendously character building for me. Having left the corporate treadmill to work for myself, I mistakenly thought I had kissed goodbye to all that pathetic nonsense. Alas, the long arm of Japan ignorance continues to reach out and challenge me. Today, I live the frustration vicariously through my clients here in Japan, who have to deal with their version of hell - HQ or Regional Hub know nothings located outside Japan.
So a typical day in the life of the Japan rep is explaining to HQ why the Japan business is not tracking as expected when the distribution agreement was concluded. In one client’s case, the original expectations proved to be a misalignment of skill sets and targets. The Japanese side had the sales force to cover the market but, it proved, not the expertise to cover it appropriately. Sales were uninspiring, compared to the original business plan expectations.
What was the Mother Ship solution? Fly in the Americans from HQ to berate the Japanese side at the board meetings about Japan’s poor sales performance. Shame them into action to sell something. The local representative was encouraged to keep the pressure on by using these same name and shame tactics in the interim between board meetings.
Training delivered locally to those selected from within the existing sales force, was the better solution. This sounds like a logical step, but convincing HQ to do so was painstaking. The HQ view was to send in trainers from the Regional Hub to do the training. Regional Hubs in APAC usually mean Singapore or Hong Kong. Who do they choose to send to Japan? The HR team is the preferred option, which excitingly, usually means a rapid fire, fast talking Chinese team member to come to Japan and conduct the training in English.
English comprehension at between 50%-60% is the maximum we can probably expect up until lunchtime, after which it rapidly spirals down. This is not a very effective way of training local staff in Japan. Delivering the training in the mother tongue, with the cultural understanding is at least the base line. On top of that, having trainers who are highly skilled is where the leverage can really be applied.
Headquarters’ whacky ideas are often amusing, at least for the first 15 seconds of hearing them, but the “global” training approach has proven fraught with failure. Globally delivered training in English rarely produces any residual value for companies and you have to wonder why HQ keeps repeating the same mistake? It doesn’t have to be like this. Time for organisations to wise up and listen to the local rep’s advice on what works best in Japan.