Research Paper By Masami Kanaguri
(Business Development in/with Asia/Asian, JAPAN)
Change Risks into Chances through CMB(Culture Management on Business) Coaching
1. Culture matters on business!
Unlikely to a lifetime ago, our business environment has become a lot more global. There are thousands of multi-national companies that transact business outside of their home country. Especially a last couple of decade international transactions have rapidly increased because of popularization of internet around the world. Although it has been always a great chance to make business bigger by expanding market overseas and some of companies did succeed in making themselves grow, business people in the process of expansion have always been facing to difficulties that they hardly experienced in their home country. They are often caused by ‘’ cultural differences’’. Although greatly successful business person expertized in the industry and has excellent language skills, he or she typically struggles to build successful business results because of cultural gaps between himself/herself and partners in local regions.
According to the culture and change management survey by PwC’s strategy&, 84% of global leaders say culture is critical to business success and more than 60% of them say it is more important than corporate strategy or operation models. However, nearly 50% of them say culture is not effectively managed and need major overhaul.
There is a famous word by Peter Dracker, who is one of the most world widely acknowledged management consultant, that
what managers should do is the same across the globe but how is depending on cultures.
When I was working in Denmark, I experienced a huge culture shock which I never experienced in my home country, Japan. I was working in a Japanese manufacturing company and the company sent me to a European subsidiary in Denmark to manage the site. After a short while, I held a meeting with managers. The meeting started at 3P.M. The meeting agenda was about the European site’s middle term strategy. Taking the type of agenda into account, I anticipated the meeting would take at least more than an hour and believed all the participants were ready for it. During the first one hour, the meeting was run smoothly thanks to all the participants’ active contribution. Yet, suddenly the moment came. One of the managers cut in the discussion and told me ‘’ Wow, it’s already 5 minutes past 4P.M. I have to go now.’’. In Denmark, working hour is typically from 8A.M. to 4P.M. and so was the company. But we had not covered all agenda so I asked the manger to stay for a little while more. He told me ‘’ Sorry, I can’t. I have a plan and first of all my working hour is until 4P.M.’’
and typically people work longer than contracted hours. (Sometimes A LOT longer than contracted hours.) I had lived in such environment before therefore I never left the meeting in the middle and never expected people claim to leave even though contracted working hour was over. After the experience, I realized I should not presume they work the same way as Japanese do. It is not good or bad. It is culture and it is different from mine. Ever since then, I became more careful in terms of what time to set up a meeting. But the next problem was promoted up after a short while. Did the people in HQs understand it well? The answer is no. After that I often had conflicts with HQs in Japan especially when it required to answer something on a same day. Like I did, HQs presumed all the employees accept over hours easily. Obviously there were working culture difference between Japan and Denmark and the difference did create conflicts in the working environment. As I experienced, typically people working in global environment do experience culture shocks and in the worst case they lead business to failure. If you want to make successful international business, you have to manage culture. Culture matters! But how do we manage it?
2. Cross Culture Coaching
Now, I would like to introduce you about my coaching niche. My coaching can be defined as CMB (Culture Management on Business) Coaching. I support business people to maximize their potentials in global business environment by increasing their cross cultural awareness and competencies and help them transfer risks in global business to chances. When we offer CMB coaching, I typically go through the below 4 steps with clients.
Step 1: Understand the differences between your own and local culture.
Step 2: Clarify why differences are issues to you.
Step 3: Make communication strategies to change the problems to business chances.
Now I would like to introduce a coaching case I went through these 3 steps with my coaching client.
***** Mark is an American who has been living in Japan for 1 year. Currently he is working for a Japanese car engine maker as an engineer. Before he came to Japan he was working in the same industry in USA for 9 years. He has excellent engineering skills and knowledge and had led many projects while he was in USA. When I first met him, it was about 3 months after he was assigned as a team leader for several R&D projects. He looked quite frustrated and told me ‘’ it is very hard to work with Japanese’’. He had 4 other project members. All of them were Japanese. With his a little exhausted voice, he said, ‘’ No matter what ideas I propose, they always say something negative such as ‘’ I think we will have risks in this and that point if we take your idea.’’ . ‘’ I don’t know what management will say for this idea.’’ We can still try this and that to see if anything better comes up.’’ Mark was not surely happy with the situation. He told me ‘’ We never know if things will go well or not if we don’t try but my team members always hesitate to take actions and say how others think about it rather than how they think about it!’’ In order to find a way out for the situation, he decided to take my coaching sessions.
Step 1: Understand the differences between your own and local culture.
Firstly, I asked him to take online assessment called Culture CompassTM. Culture CompassTM is an assessment that allows you to compare the cultural values of you, your country and a country you choose based on a Dutch social phycologist, Geert Hofstede’s ‘’ cultural dimension theory’’. He describes our culture is consisted by 6 cultural values:
① Power Distance (PDI)
This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities among people. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of Power Distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low Power Distance, people strive to equalize the distribution of power and demand justification for inequalities of power.
② Individualism VS Collectivism (IDV)
The high side of this dimension, called individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families. Its opposite, collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”
③ Masculinity VS Femininity (MAS)
The Masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented. In the business context Masculinity versus Femininity is sometimes also related to as “tough versus tender” cultures.
④ Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)
The Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behavior and are intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles.
⑤ Long term orientation VS Short term normative orientation (LTO)
Every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and the future. Societies prioritize these two existential goals differently. Societies who score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
⑥ Indulgence VS Restraint (IND).
Indulgence stands for a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun. Restraint stands for a society that suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.
The assessment shows these 6 cultural values in a scale of 0 to 100 as below shown example.
For more detail about the survey, visit