Common mistakes

These are some key points we analyse with you during the optimization process:


  • Poor communication often leads to an Us and Them attitude. In the worst case, in a crisis-situation, the staff identify more with their Japanese customers than with the targets of the company they are working for.
  • Failure of the staff in Japan to understand the benefits of the products leads to inability to arouse interest in the customer
  • Processes are not clearly defined as this “is not the Japanese way” (untrue – defensive excuse of doubtful management)
  • Products and services really have to be adjusted to fit to Japanese customers’ expectations (at frequent intervals in some sectors)
  • „Desirable” working conditions do not necessarily transfer directly to Japan and might even hurt the performance of the organisation (consider: when in Rome…)
  • There should be no alignment of business targets between global and Japanese organisations
  • European product development and production strategy are wrong for Japan (it is often thought that what is possible in Germany must be possible in Japan; what we can sell at a low price to SAIC can also be sold to Daihatsu!)
  • Transfering of European or American Sales approaches and expectations directly to Japan – If you want to sell, you need high level contacts – vs. – if you set up correctly and have the right product and service you will get the high level contacts, which ultimately you will not need anymore)
  • Japan is too expensivefor production, we must import from China – serious misconception
  • No clear definition of targets (again often seen as an excuse – not typical for culture – not true)
  • No clear assignments between central and local functions (decentralisation does not exist)
  • Finger pointing between the headquarters and the Japanese Subsidary about who is responsible for not reaching business objectives
  • No common business targets between global and Japanese organisation
  • Capable Japanese staff leave frustrated because English language becomes a key-factor in performance evaluation rather than skill.
  • Too little consideration of how a product or service really needs to be adjusted to fit the Japanese Customer’s expectations.
  • Culture is a business factor which must be managed, not used as an excuse when failure occurs.
  • Group companies and headquarters often accept the explanation that Japan is different and either believe that patience and an understanding of the culture are the key factors for success or they try to impose their views on Japan. Both approaches lead to inappropriate strategies, product proposals and negotiation tactics.
  • A typical “gaishikei” (foreign company) structure in Japan is created. Salaries are too high, there is too little commitment to customers and to tasks. Capable Again, Japanese staff leave frustrated because English language, rather than the achievement of business goals, becomes the key-factor in performance evaluation. Many Japanese managers would prefer to work for a prestigious Japanese company. This can lead to excessive emphasis on the areas in which the parent company is “Not Japanese”.
  • Approach to handling Japanese customers is not alligned within the organisation as a global approach – where are which decisions made – where do we have to sell what – where do we need which capabilities…..

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