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Fred Bailey in Japan: An Inocent Abroad

Explain the cultural differences and design a training program for Fred Bailey.

A careful analysis of this case reveals a gross lack of cross-cultural knowledge, personality
stereotyping, miscommunication and poor decision making ability. The level of cultural awareness
shown by Fred was not high enough to identify some of the more prominent cultural challenges, which
were also consistent with the cultural dimensions showing the greatest gaps. Recent research has
shown that it is not only important to try and understand the local culture, it is also important to
identify the differences between that culture and the project manager’s own. During this process, the
manager must be fully aware of the differences with cultural dimensions of environment, action
orientation, emotion, language, space, relationships, power, thinking and time. The greatest problems
and challenges reported were associated with the four cultural dimensions of thinking, power, time
and emotion.

In terms of culture and diversity, the following factors are of great importance. They have to be
understood in great detail, must appreciate the dissimilarities and leverage them as opportunity to
build a culturally diverse team capable of achieving the project goals.

 Universalism vs. Particularism

Fred seems to share the belief that rights of the organization prevail over rights of a specific
friend. In a predominant particularistic society like Japan, the rights of a friend i.e. employees
is taken to be more important than the rights of the larger community.

 Individualism vs. Communitarism


Fred belongs to a highly individualistic culture where people are expected to make their own
decisions and to take care only of themselves and their close family whereas the Japanese
Communitarism societies are firmly integrated into groups which provide help and
protection in exchange for a strong sense of loyalty.
 Specific vs. Diffuse
Fred seems to be very specific with whom to build contacts and less explicit of what he or
she expects from the work relationship.
 Neutral vs. Affective
Fred was inadvertently neutral and reluctant to show what he felt while the Japanese being
affective prefer to show spontaneously how they feel and to act accordingly.
 Achievement vs. Ascription
Fred believes in achievement, a social status resulting from the individual´s success in
building up a life of his / her own while the Japanese believed in ascription social status
dependent on one´s descent, sex, age, or affluence.
 Time Orientation – Past, Present, Future
Japanese culture is rooted in past and bases its future on past events while Fred comes from
a culture oriented towards the future.

One of the major reasons for Fred’s lack of success was that his company sent the family to Japan
without any type of training or orientation. Fred and his family only had three weeks to prepare for
the trip. Needless to say most of this time was spent on packing and other logistical activities. The
company should have provided both Fred and his family with an orientation program that would
provide knowledge of the customs and culture of Japan. This program could have involved lectures,
films and videos, museum trips, and even a restaurant trip to familiarize the family with Japanese
food. Fred should have also been given a “realistic job preview” and the opportunity to talk with other
executives in the company who had completed an assignment in Japan. This preview should have
included information on the benefits and idiosyncrasies of an assignment in Japan. The entire family
could have benefited from some language training that would at least familiarize them with everyday
phrases. Firms that provide training for executives with overseas assignments suggest four levels of
training: Level I – focus on the impact of cultural differences and the impact on business outcomes of
these cultural differences; Level II – focus on attitudes and aim at getting participants to understand
how attitudes influence behavior; Level III – focus on factual knowledge about the country in question;
and Level IV – focus on skill building in areas like language and adjustment and adaptation skills.

Typical activities could be:

 Developing an understanding of each other’s cultural perspectives,


 Must develop consciousness of the roots of cultural differences, to assess their impact, and to
build structures, procedures and a working environment which promotes cultural synergy.
 Breakdown hierarchical management style and concentrate more on relationship building.
Avoid generalizations.
 Finding out risks to avoid and opportunities to exploit,
 Jointly defining project goals and schedule,
 Defining an organizational structure for the project that takes cultural differences into account.
 Delegation of authority, responsibility and power is central for motivating and engaging
project teams.
 Open up channels of communication, loosen control and solicit feedback from employees.
Share business values with Japanese clients – of maintaining a peace and harmony rather than
a candid exchange of opinions, arguments or confrontation. It was for this reason that the
client sent their human resources head to develop that bonding initially.
 Arrange for additional meetings two or three meetings to understand the honest opinion of
the other party. Agree up front on the rules of engagement and policies to do with managing
mutual expectations and managing changes.
 Fred was trying to implement task-driven project management style in relationship-oriented
cultures, since he was more concerned with schedules and results than creating time and
opportunity for building personal relationships with other project participants. He should
concentrate more on harmonious relationship building exercises.
 Eliminate uncertainty from employee tasks and responsibilities. Japanese prefer uncertainty
avoidance.
 Understand the different perceptions of fundamentals of project management, especially
time. Seek honest feedback about timelines and readiness before thrusting tasks on
employees.
 Establish clearly defined roles and structure. Have social interactions with employees, better
understand their preferences and perceptions deviate from individual achievement and
instead recognize group effort. Make effective use of American employee who can understand
and speak fluent Japanese.
 On the home front, he can hire some domestic help with sound English speaking skills who can
act as a language interpreter, has rich local knowledge of shopping for groceries cheaply; can
provide insight for outdoor activities and social events.
 Hire a language expert as coach who can train both Fred and his wife on Japanese language
skills, customs and generally acceptable “behavioral” skills.