What Japan can teach us

March 15th, 2011 by Douglas McEncroe · No Comments · Liderazgo

It is impossible not to feel moved by the images coming out of Japan this last week. How can any country possibly return to normal life after such violent destruction? Who could believe in it’s future?

And yet, watching the Japanese people reacting to this tragedy I feel nothing but optimism for the country’s future. Firstly, the government, at least in the first stages of the crisis, has been efficient and transparent with its communication, even with such delicate information about the nuclear reactor. Secondly, nobody is sitting on their hands, the entire nation has launched into action pitching in to help. I also admire the stoicism of these people who with a gritty determination and a Zen like calmness deal with a desperate situation. And finally their generosity: something like a million people are working as volunteers to help the needy, even the local version of the Mafia, the “Yakuza” have lent a helping hand distributing food.

A stark contrast to how companies are dealing with the crisis

Thinking about Japan I began to compare how senior management of many companies have reacted to the economic crisis over these last two years. First of all with regards to information they keep things to themselves or if they do share something its through skilful announcements that communicate that a high percentage of people will need to leave the company or move to a different function then don’t tell their employees until six months have passed who it will actually be that will need to exit and who will have to move to another department.

Instead of acting they carry out meeting after meeting but don’t actually arrive at any meaningful decisions.

They promote or assign more power to managers with a fundamentally financial profile, who are great when all you have to do is cut costs but who often have the strategic vision of an ant at a time when what you need are new strategies that are going to increase turnover and cater for new needs with your clients.

They don’t take action to reduce their people’s anxiety but rather create an information vacuum too easily filled with rumours that have little to do with reality and a lot to do with increasing stress, a lack of management that demonstrates an incompetent indifference to their people’s suffering. And doubt not that during this recession a lot of people are suffering. They reduce or eliminate all types of development programmes just when what they need most is people developing themselves and increasing their commitment to the task at hand.

And finally they have the gall to ask their people for more engagement, to do more with less in return for more pressure and inexistent support.

How do they expect their people to react?

My suggestion

My suggestion is a timely visit to Japan, perhaps a camping trip right next to Fukushima.


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