Japanese Approach to Project Management !

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Managing any project successfully is all about Team Work combined with years of Accrued Expertise. It is an asset to have an educational background that compliments your field of expertise but "education" without "experience" is like an "arrow" without a "bow." You can never make a perfect shot with a temporary arrow unless you have a permanent bow called: "Life's Experience." Remember, you can never teach experience but you can always teach from experience.

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I would like to share a unique experience of mine back from 2005 till 2009. I worked for around 5 years hand in hand with two of the largest Japanese Corporations (JGC:Japan Gas Company & Chiyoda). They both were clients of ours on different projects but I will tackle one of the projects in this blog.

JGC were our client / owner representative for one of the largest Gas to Liquid Projects in Qatar called: Pearl GTL Project. Frankly speaking, I learned a lot from them and this was the most outstanding management experience I have ever had. The project was >$1 Billion US, very complex and running on tight schedule. 

Over the years, I've dealt with many large international companies from different countries. They were all very professional but dealing with the Japanese took my experience to a totally different level: 

1- Team Work: Although they were the client, they worked with us hand in hand as if both are one team which resulted in significant positive added value to the project. We never felt they were clients.

2- Openness and Honesty: They built a level of comfort among everyone which resulted in openness, honesty and trust which are important values to achieve in any project. 

3- Efficiency: They were always very efficient, to the point, hard working, very loyal to their company, committed to their work.

4- Attitude: They had an outstanding positive attitude and they were very diplomatic in a positive way to the extent that if they told someone "Go to Hell, he would look forward for this trip". 

5- Precision and Accuracy: Their drawings had minimal discrepancies which obviously minimized any re-work, change orders and variations.  

6- Organizational Chart: They always respected the level of authority within their organization and ours. I've never seen them for even once, by passing anyone. 

7- Punctuality: Always punctual, from higher management going down to the inspectors and they used to be the first to report to work every morning because they believe that you have to lead by example. 

8- Humble and Smart: They were very smart, highly educated and very humble - I've learned a lot from them because when you ask them something, they do not leave you before they make sure you understand. 

9- Meetings: Their meetings were always to the point, that's why during most of our meetings with them, we used to end up with fruitful results in a very short time because they all come prepared to the meeting with one idea (I've seen other companies who would come to the meetings with each attendee having his own agenda and the meeting could take forever). They all spoke as one team, regardless whose idea was it. 

10- Sense of Ownership: If anything went wrong in the project even if it was from our side, they used to take the blame themselves and work with us immediately on finding a solution because they do have sense of ownership and this enhanced the quality on the project a lot. 

11- No Arguments: They do not argue. This is a strength because they do concentrate on being productive rather than being just busy. 

This was a very unique experience. The project went on smoothly and was delivered on time and everyone was happy and looking forward to report to work everyday - It was definitely a win-win situation.

I have high respect to the Japanese culture, their management style and for them as individuals. 

Always Remember: "Unity is Strength and when there is Teamwork and Collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved" - Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Posted on: January 19, 2016 04:35 PM | Permalink

Comments (36)

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other cultures can definitely learn from this.

@Bala: Indeed - It was a great experience.

Interesting. One would wonder what''s preventing us from behaving in the same manner...

Very true. Japanese culture has a lot to learn. Small place with big aspiration and great discipline...

@Sylvain: Many things prevent others from behaving in the same manner: Culture, Companies Nature, Commitment, Loyalty and the list goes on.

@Pankaj: You would learn s lot from their discipline. Now actually it became a big place with bigger aspiration and greater discipline.

@Rami, yes, of course, there are many things in the way. How do we get closer to their style? Or does it come only with "sacrifices" that we are not willing to make?

@Sylvain: We get closer to their style when we change our mentality and the way we look at things and when we start concentrating on what is best for the project rather on what is best for us as induviduals and being productive rather than just busy.

Check my other two blogs: Team Work Success and Be Positive ! These are core values to achieve the above.

Hi, this is a very positive experience. Most people I know likes Japan and wants to stay here forever. Congratulations on having a very successful project Rami.

@Rosalinda: Thank You ... Ive never been to Japan before though I worked in Shanghai for sometime but it is on my agenda to visit it one day.

Interesting piece. Brings out the best practices of team work, collaboration, project ownership and results orientation in a crisp manner. All stakeholders were working single mindedly for project success.Thanks for sharing.

@Murari: Thanks a lot for your input - Indeed it reflects all the values you've mentioned.

Thanks Rami for sharing the great experience with a professional organization. Definitely there is a lot to learn from this Management Culture.

@Rabi : Congratulation on your great experience. I keep telling this to my Japan colleague :
?Coming together is a beginning?????????????????
?Keeping together is progress.?????????????????
?Working together is success.??????????????????

@Syed: You're Welcome - Indeed, a lot to learn especially self discipline.


Thanks but What are all these question marks for ?

Moreover, the quote you used above, I wrote about it last week in one of my blogs. Check it out:

Team Work Success

@Rami : Owhh.. Not to sure why the question mark appear. Thanks for highlighting the blog about the quote.

It is very important that team first have a meeting internally and understand what the problem is and decide what to do and come to an agreement on "one idea".

This takes a disciplined approach, openness, humility and much more.

This need to be practiced and demonstrated by each and every member of the team.

True Balaji but this is one side of Team Work out of plenty.

Rami, I worked with Japanese 2002-2014 and share the same positive experiences. I really loved being part of that team and still have many friends there.

But their are also some behaviors you have to understand and that can hamper a project. A good start to understand these is a culture gap analysis, e,g. with the free tools of Hofstede. Japan is not a western culture.

Some examples on where to be cautious from my years:
- decision making is extremely slow
- they are very Japan centric, proud of their nation and want to stay in control, not a good start for globalization, openness and international teaming
- individual ownership and responsibility is not so common, the team/company prevails
- individual targets do not matter so much, the team target is what everybody pursues
- be careful, once you fail you are burnt forever
- be prepared for long hours after work

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