The Seven Commandments

The Seven Commandments

“Why are Japanese businesspeople so resistant to change?”
A buddy of mine  from business school asked me this question while we were having dinner. The company he works for recently bought a Japanese firm and he was trying to integrate his company’s “way of doing things” to the newly bought firm but experiencing difficulty.
So I decided to explain this through writing and came up with “The Seven Commandments” of a typical Japanese businessperson’s mindset to help him better deal with Japanese businesspeople. He found it very interesting so I decided to share it on this blog . This is a very  rough draft so I am open to any comments or suggestions to polish/change the these commandments.

The Seven Commandments

  1.  We will not ask you questions to clarify even though we are confused.
    1. When growing up, we were constantly told by our parents/teachers/classmates:
      “Did you look it up by yourself before asking?”
      “You don’t even know that! How embarrassing?”
    2. Having been shamed with the above question for many years, we stop asking questions and will look up by ourselves later on where we got confused.


  2. Do not interrupt us or clarify when we are explaining something. Everything will come together at the end.
    1. This is just the way of explaining. We will explain in a way that we tell the conclusion at the end, not the beginning.
    2. Remember, the rule is that no one is expected to ask clarifying questions (1-A), so be patient with us.


  3. We refuse to think out loud. That’s what children do.
    1. When explaining, we are expected to flawlessly explain without being disturbed (2-A).
    2. We consider thinking out loud is what children do, not adults.


  4. We are not allowed to speak unless the person in charge gives us permission even if we are present in meetings.
    1. Seniority is very important and what he/she is thinking is all that matters.
    2. Saying something that contradicts his/her opinion (which you may not know) in public will kill your career. He/she will take it extremely personally.


  5. Yes, we will take it personally if you object to what we say in public. If you have any objections, ask us privately.
    1. When this happens, we are extremely humiliated (3-A) so we will take it personally.
    2. You don’t have to agree with us but please tell us nicely in a private situation.


  6. Don’t ask us any questions out of the blue in public settings.
    1. It will be embarrassing if we do not have an answer. And remember, when we speak, we need to speak flawlessly (3-A). Please ask us privately after the meeting.
    2. This comes with a gift. We will not ask any questions out of the blue to you too!


  7. Thus, meetings are not where decisions are made.
    1. How can you make decisions openly in a meeting without violating the six commandments? Impossible!
    2. Now we believe you understand why we make decision behind closed doors. Meetings are just a ceremony to us AFTER the consensus is reached.


Posted by Masafumi Otsuka

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