All about the headquarter peoples:
It’s a reference to my previous post on the mythology in the Gaishikei.This time it refers to all special peoples we have to deal within the headquarters, aka the headquarter peoples, especially the one who are visiting the Japanese subsidiary.
To complete the introduction, I would like to precise that in general peoples visiting the Japanese subsidiary are either in management function (i.e. your direct boss), in marketing related functions (product managers, business unit managers) or even in R&D (specialist for some project, R&D manager to analyze some potential acquisition, …)
Here are few samples:
The Analytical Monster:
- Most probably someone you have to report to.
- As a headquarter people, he will visit you 3 to 4 times a year, has already a predefined agenda with most probably over 50 items that have to be prepared in advance.
- More than the result for him, the process is important (to have prepared his 50 report items).
- To show that he is from the headquarter, he might request you to have a meeting with all staffs or individual meetings with employees and him.
Hint: Satisfy him and prepare his 50 items. Show that you are a pro but make clear that you do not have time to create every time report from scratch and from now on you will submit just the same reports slightly updated.
Regarding meeting with staffs, blankly refuse. If you are the head of the subsidiary or the head of your team, you are the one in charge and have been appointed to do this job.
Chain of command should be respected and giving this occasion to your direct reports might give them the impression they can shunt the hierarchy and go directly to your boss.
At the end, it will bring no positive impact to the company as a whole.
The “my man in Japan” type:
- He is either in a marketing function or R&D function. Another guy from the headquarter peoples.
- He does not have direct authority over your team but is probably working with them regularly (part of the same business unit or so on).
- Most probably he understands your position and that you are in charge of the team or of the subsidiary, but willingly or not, he has a tendency to shunt you and go directly to your team peoples and instruct them.
- This is the “my man in Japan” syndrome.
- He/She believes that they have a unique relationship with this product manager in Japan, something that you cannot and will not understand. This will often evolves in cases where this Headquarter person will contact your employees directly (without CC you) ask them some tasks (i.e. market research or input on some product) without considering the whole strategy or priorities of the subsidiary.
- On some occasion, to consolidate their nefarious power, they might even take your colleagues to dinner to hear more about you (“I am headquarter and am willing to listen to you”) and then report what they heard or thought they heard when back in the headquarter.
Hint: BE VERY CAUTIOUS about this type.
They often have an axe to grind (no more promotion opportunity in the headquarter, other personal problem, …)
They might really bring mayhem to your subsidiary.
From the beginning, if you identify such pattern, communicate clearly with this person CC your management and be clear that all decision/requests should go through the proper routes. Document this and keep trace of it.
The Tourist aka The DIVA:
- He might see Japan more as a venue for entertainment than a place to have business done while going on business trip.
- While sometime quite low in the food chain, he might have requests such as: pick-up at the airport, no travel by train only car/driver, expects you to organize him tourist activities and “entertainment” because he is a busy guy and needs to relax.
Hint: If he acts such in front of your staff, have a quick word with him and make clear to him that this is not the kind of behavior which is expected by your colleagues from an headquarter peoples.
If he wants to get the latest electronic toy for his daughter, you might help him but outside of business hours and without your Japanese colleagues.
Also if he requests a taxi from the airport and if it is not in the company policies, make clear to him that it will be on his expenses (don’t have the subsidiary pay for this!) and make it clear to your assistants that it was explained to him like this.
The “IF IT WORKS IN EUROPE, IT SHOULD WORK IN JAPAN” type:
- Another problematic specimen. He sees Japan (and probably most of countries outside of his home base) as a very strange country, not playing by the rules he used to know.
- He might create troubles when at customer site if the customer requests some feature or specification which is not in his agenda.
- Curiously, this type is often of the “The Tourist aka The DIVA” genre…
Hint: First, be kind and try to educate him on the specificities of Japan. There might be different regulations and this you cannot (most probably) change.
If he is still insisting (and if he meets customers he is probably in a marketing position), involve your corporate Quality Assurance (QA), which will be most probably more aware of differences in regulations and requirements of other countries (as they might have seen this for US or even other European country). headquarter peoples should understand it!