Old Model Communication

The old model communication I am talking about is people working across the border with the advantage of time difference, where some decision could be relayed just slow enough that the people at the other side of the border could not affect the decision made by your side.

10 years ago, when US company based in Japan decided to move, a lot of the US headquarters wishes were not executed with the excuse that the details of the wishes did not reach the implementers in Japan in time.  The excuses could have been:  fax did not come through because the paper ran out during the evening, message on the voice mail was not clear, when Japan side tried calling during the business hours in US, the person responsible for particular matter was not at his/her desk.  These excuses could have been used to stall any action easily for 2 days, and often for 1 week.  If some holidays were involved, which happened regularly, 2 weeks to 1 month delay was common.

Although this old model communication is outdated now, majority of people from mid 30s and older who have been with foreign company based in Japan still live by this old model.  They regularly attend conference calls, write dozens of e-mails everyday, some even do IM.  They have laptop computers at home, use broadband which connects to their company intranet, mobile phone that they keep by their side 24 hours a day, and even receive e-mails on their mobile phone.  And they still live by this old model communication, thinking stalling is still a valid business tool.

What happens is such behavior only creates mistrust and frustration.  Not only that, since this old model communication no longer works and the headquarters people find out just in time to cancel the project or change the specs of interior finish or whatever, additional costs incurs from stalling the flow of commuincation.

I know this, because I have been living the change of communication speed for the past 15 years.  I’ve watched how people manupulate the communication speed to do what they wanted to do for many years, and for the past few years, manupulation is becoming more and more difficult.  The new model communication is much harder on Japan side, because the conference calls and phone calls, urgent e-mails are still done during business hours of headqurater country, and often it involves 2 or 3 time zones within US.  Also, Japanese employee’s action is still based on command and control where managers decision is simply executed.  I have not yet seen anybody officially say to their manager, I belive things are this way, and it should be done this way instead of the way you tell us to do. 

So the solution to all these is, even in this age of new model communication, visit each other’s offices, have face to face meetings at the actual place, have breakfast, lunch or dinner together to talk about personal stuff, become friends to do business.  I haven’t seen any better way of building a trusting business relationship where each party acts on best of intention other than this personal way.

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