Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Economic Recovery Alert: What American Companies Can Learn From Japanese Global Businesses

Global Business Leadership Consultant, Kimberly Wiefling, announces the release of the Japanese translation of her popular book, "Scrappy Project Management - The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces" by Nikkei Business Press, the premier business publisher in Japan. Over 60 people attended the recent festivities, which were held in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, on the 19th floor of a building overlooking both the emperor's palace and the prime minister's residence.

Through her collaboration with ALC's Global Management Consulting Division, Wiefling, based in Silicon Valley, California, USA, has provided business leadership and project management consulting for mid to senior level executives for many global companies headquartered in Japan. In between frequent trips to Japan, which included running the H1N1 screening gauntlet earlier this year, Wiefling's work enables American companies to master what Japanese business leaders have already learned - how to make real changes within their company culture to achieve what seems impossible, but is merely difficult.

Pointing to the success of Honda and Toyota over GM and Chrysler, Wiefling advises American business leaders to model themselves after their Japanese counterparts, whose behaviors, goals, and values helped transform Japan from being known as the mass producer of cheaply made products to the premier quality manufacturer in the global marketplace over the last half century.

Wiefling boldly proclaims, "Why do I admire Japanese global business leaders? They are willing to take big risks and 'fail forward' in order to achieve success. They favor the good of their company over personal gain and care about leaving a legacy bigger than their own ego. They are not driven primarily by status or position within the corporate hierarchy, and they are not raiding the corporate till by collecting huge executive compensation packages to feather their pockets before they retire."

While fondling a large rubber chicken, a standard in her global leadership toolkit, Wiefling questions how U.S companies can compete and survive in the long term against such devotion. "In the U.S., a CEO might make 100,000 times what the lowest paid worker is making, while in Japan, the executive compensation ratio from the highest to the least paid employee is much lower," she states.

Even though the economy has been in a downward spiral, Wiefling notes that Japanese business leaders continue to look for opportunities hidden within the chaos. She says "Instead of waiting for the economy to improve, they are looking to take advantage of this chance, expand globally and penetrate new markets not previously considered."

As Japanese businesses continue to exceed the success of companies in the United States, it is Wiefling's hope that American CEOs will realize that they must behave more like courageous leaders who people will admire, rather than business managers. She encourages American CEOs to take risks, commit themselves to big goals, and to be passionate and committed to making a positive difference for their people, their company, and the world. "This requires that they have the discipline to do what they know is right regardless of pressures to compromise on fundamentals and best practices," she tells anyone who will listen.

Wiefling firmly believes that if American companies continue to navigate based on short-term perspectives and selfish motives, Japan is going to dominate the world economically. For example, during the economic crisis many American organizations have stopped offering professional development, while many global Japanese companies consider it vital even now, and a good investment to spend money developing their leaders during tough economic times. Fortunately for all of us, Wiefling advises, Japan's global businesses are intent on solving global problems profitably, problems that concern all of us, such as sustainable power, reducing carbon emissions, improving healthcare, and providing clean drinking water worldwide. US companies will reap the benefits of solving these global problems only to the extent that they contribute long-term value, she says.

Wiefling's favorite saying these days is "Everything seems impossible until your competitor does it; then it's just difficult." She further advises "Let's focus on what needs to be done and commit to an outcome that we don't know how to achieve. Let's move the ball forward toward the goal. Even failure moves the ball forward."

She concludes "Everything the experts in the U.S. told me about Japanese business people is absolutely wrong, according to my experience with global Japanese businesses over the past 4 years. They are passionate and expressive. They are risk takers who are willing to do anything, including incurring personal risk, in order to do the right thing for their company. They value hard work and are committed to excellence. They are devoted to their team and toward working for the greatest good. If corporate leaders in the U.S. don't start modeling these kinds of values en masse they are going to find the Japanese cleaning their clock again in this century."

For more information, email consulting (at) wiefling (dot) com.

Kimberly Wiefling enables American and international Japanese companies who are committed to becoming truly global to acquire the ability to achieve "what seems impossible, but is merely difficult." She is the co-founder, along with Yuko Shibata, of the "Global Management Consulting Division," under the umbrella of ALC Education, Inc., the largest and most successful company helping Japanese business people learn business English.

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