Jul 192011

If you have Japanese customer then learning Japanese rules are imperative to conduct day to day operation and earn new business.

  1. Respect low tolerance for risks (Uncertainity Avoidance Index 92, refer Power Distance Index)
    1. Maintain status quo. Japanese companies promote predictability and thus like to maintain status quo. Many a times, they would stick to the same methodologies, product and services until there is no option but to move on. For example a Japanese company may choose to upgrade the version of their software only if the support for that software is expiring.
    2. Simulate the working of whole proposal before approaching Japanese customer. Japanese are hardworking individuals who not only want to know “what” and “why” of the proposal but also want to know “how” – “how will you execute the proposal”. This micro-management gives more visibility of the proposal even though it leads to lower productivity (refer to Japan’s globalization imperative).
    3. Japanese companies take decision by moving the proposal progressively up the corporate ladder and by consensus. A proposal is accepted (at least reviewed) by all peers and approved hierarchically by supervisor. Supervisor reviews, if ok accepts and then presents the proposal to his supervisor. The chain of approval goes all the way to the top management or until the higher management has authority to make a decision. An issue or proposal is thoroughly reviewed and a decision takes very long time.
  2. Speak English slowly and convey more information in picture. Many a times Japanese customers are not very fluent in speaking English.

    In 2009 Japan had the lowest score of any of the International Monetary Fund’s advanced economies on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, administered to foreign students who want to study in the United States. It had the second-lowest score among Asian nations, outperforming only Laos.

    Refer to Japan’s globalization imperative

  3. Respect hierarchy – Japanese culture is hierarchical. Employment in Japan is for lifetime and advancement is tenure based. In social context, distance between sub-ordinate and boss or vendor and customer may not be very visible, however, in office, power distance grows larger.
  4. No response is default “No”. Do not assume that if you have written “please revert in case of any concern” is sufficient. Until you hear “Noted with thanks” or “approved”, the issue is rejected or under discussion.


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