In our blog, we answer some of the questions we regularly receive during our seminars.
“I had a teleconference with my Japanese colleagues in Japan. We suggested planning for the project and they all agreed to it. However, soon after, they started questioning everything and were not doing what we had agreed they would do. It was as if the teleconference did not happen! Why can’t they stick to our agreement?”
This situation arises frequently. The problem comes from the fact that:
– Westerners are very comfortable making decisions in meetings or by teleconference.
– Westerners have more autonomy in decision-making than our Japanese colleagues.
– In Japan, decisions are rarely taken in meetings or by teleconference. They work via consensus decision-making so Japanese employees need to consult with their colleagues before making a decision. And they need the time to do that.
In this case, the most likely explanation is that the Japanese were taken by surprise. They might have agreed to the plan but still had to consult with their colleagues. After the consultation, it appeared that the plan was not feasible, hence their lack of response afterward.
What can you do to avoid this?
- Send your questions and recommendations before any meeting or teleconference you might have. That way, your Japanese colleagues will have time to consult with their colleagues and be able to give you feedback that, normally, is not going to change.
- After the meeting, write meeting minutes which you share with your Japanese colleagues. Ask them to approve the minutes to make sure there is no misunderstanding.
- You can use these approved minutes later if necessary, to remind everyone of what was agreed if there is any deviation.