Foreign companies in Japan are known as gaishikei (foreign capital managed) and Japanese who choose to work in them are often suspected of being “lone wolves” who are motivated by money. However recently some Japanese managers who have worked in gaishi joined Japanese companies later in their careers, such as Hikaru Adachi, recently interviewed in Diamond magazine. He was born in Austin, Texas, went to Hitotsubashi University and then worked for P&G, Booz Allen, Roland Berger etc before joining Japanese clothing company World and starting up a group called Gaishikei Leaders.
He says he decided to work for a Japanese company because he is so concerned that Japan is being marginalized on the world stage, and to counter this, economic leadership is needed, for which global minded managers are required.
He joined a gaishi initially in order to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Although he found performance reviews tricky as he would tend to be naturally humble about what he did or did not achieve, compared to the boasting from other employees about their successes, he felt that his honesty eventually won through, and people came to trust him.
Gaishi managers have experience that purely Japanese managers lack:
- Experience of having worked with foreign employees who speak a diverse group of languages, particularly English – knowing how to write emails, documents, run meetings. This cannot be achieved by only working with Japanese speakers, who are used to the non-verbal, telepathic way of Japanese corporate communication.
- To have a standpoint that is not pivoting on Japan. For example, corporate cultures or customs which work fine when it is just Japanese working together, but in a global market or working with non-Japanese, they are hard to understand, or cause major problems.
- Systems which are based from the outset on being global, such as HR, evaluations, finance and information systems. It’s not sufficient just to adjust Japan HQ systems for global use.
Japanese who have worked abroad with Japanese companies may be able to get enough experience in the first category, but for the second and third aspects, gaishikei managers will have the edge. Particularly on 3. he points out that with Japan’s particularly Japanese systems and structures, it is difficultto get experience in hiring and developing high quality non-Japanese staff.
He stresses he is not saying Japanese companies are inferior to gaishi, rather that Japanese managers lack the necessary self awareness about Japan’s history, culture, politics and economics to be able to represent it effectively in the global world.
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