James will speaking on the very important career-related topic of "I'm 40 Now! Is It Really Game Over For Me In Japan's Job Market?" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on November 20th.
Among job seekers, arguably no group is more negatively affected by this brutal reality than 40+ year old job seekers.
Many 40+ year old job seekers are shocked to find this is the reality not only in the broader US economy but even in vaunted Silicon Valley which is the supposed Mecca of open-mindedness and where a meritocracy has ruled for decades.
And yet, for how bad it is in the US and even Silicon Valley, 40+ year old job seekers soon come to find that it's often much, much worse in Japan. Terrible. Impossibly frustrating. Depressing. These are words that come to mind when seeking employment in Japan as a 40+ year old candidate.
But how can this be the case in Japan, when Japan still has an economy which is the 3rd largest economy in the world and which is moving to further internationalize its businesses as rapidly as possible in the face of both falling domestic demand and a severe shortage of experienced workers.
The bottom line is this: Older, deeply experienced job seekers quickly run into 5 seemingly insurmountable brick walls..
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
Today I wanted to pose a very serious question regarding the coming failure of Abenomics (and it will fail, mark my words as economically there is no other alternative or outcome), Japan's continuing dearth of real, dynamic leadership and what it means for Japan's future.
Here we go: Has Japan's once rich, brave and bold Samurai spirit come to a crashing halt and been replaced by that of the Eunuch's?
I've deeply pondered this.
A Eunuch spirit and culture would suggest that, and evoke the feelings that, Japan's Samurai, Battlefield Culture has been replaced by something much softer and lacking in leadership.
I've written about this from various which you can find here:
Now some may be still questioning my prediction that Abenomics will fail. I guess the only debate I can see is how one define's failure and how bad the coming failure will be.
Abenomics is and has been economically untenable from the start, from when it was first announced.
And for those not overly familiar with Abenomics, here's a review of the so-called "3 arrows":
"The first arrow is an aggressive monetary policy. Abe appointed Haruhiko Kuroda, former president of the Asian Development Bank, as governor of the Bank of Japan in March. Kuroda has set a target of achieving 2% inflation and doubling the money supply within two years.
The second arrow is a proactive fiscal policy, consisting of a ¥10 trillion (US$100 billion) public works package.
The third arrow is a growth strategy. Structural reforms in Abe’s sights include everything from increasing women’s share of leadership positions to 30% by 2020 to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country free-trade agreement that should drive trade liberalization and deregulation inside Japan.
There are several things wrong with these areas and we've discussed them before. First, even if you thought all three all needed they are in the wrong order.
The first arrow should have been the biggest, heavy hitter arrow - structural reform, but given the amount of ossified, rent-seeking incumbents in Japan coupled with near complete regulatory capture in many areas, well, that just isn't going to happen.
So instead, the two simple arrow, although massive destructive arrows to the economy, will and have proceeded -- loosing monetary policy to drop the value of the yen and going on a Keynesian-spend what you don't have public works-waste the money spree to welcome inflation!
Folks, inflation is the last thing Japan needs and given the fact that Japan is oil dependent and import dependent for food and other materials, the last thing that should have been done was to drive down the yen.
In fact, it would have naturally fallen anyhow because of the current account balance for the new record oil imports.
I wrote about this in detail, what the smart play would have been:
Now back to the Eunch problem. What Japan needs is to develop more homegrown leaders - real leaders, women and men, of all ages and persuasions that are not afraid to lead -- they are out there, but often they are forced out of the game early or left on the sidelines because they frighten the status-quo management or the ossified corporate culture.
But by paving the way for more and more startups, these leaders can move to run and drive those businesses, which in turn put heavy pressure on the ossified incumbents -- sales, business models and so on.
It's a win-win for talent, for consumers, for the country.
But Abenomics is only a symptom of a Eunuch spirit and culture (as well as a self-serving incumbency) and leadership, nascent and seasoned will continue to be rare and often smothered out or crowded out of where it is most needed.
By James Santagata
Principal Consultant, SiliconEdge
Former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane has published a new book entitled, "Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs" and I'm here to posit, that without even having cracked open one page of this book she is spot on, at least with regard to her provocative title.
"But wait, what? How could she be right?"
"How could that title be right?"
"How can you, James, be such a pompous ass to think you know anything about Apple let alone judge Kane's book by its cover?"
"Doesn't Apple create magical products? It's true that Steve Jobs has passed on but the same great staff, the same great workers remain!"
And all of that is true.
However, to understand why the title of the book is right and why I'm right we need to honestly and objectively understand who Steve Jobs was and what made him so successful and Apple so successful under his leadership.
And leadership is an operative word here.
At the same time, we need to understand that competition doesn't operate in a vacuum so we must ask, "What made Apple's and Steve Jobs' competitors so timid? Why didn't they respond and counterstrike? Better yet, why didn't they create the iPhone type phone, the smartphone first?!"
And the answer is simply it goes back to the structure and dynamics of office politics and power within a company. The real shock should not be that Apple, with zero experience within the mobile phone industry, built and released the blockbuster iPhone but that none of the incumbent handset makers did!
Where was Nokia and their smart phone? In fact, where were the rest of the handset makers?
And that is the real shock. Not that Apple made a smartphone but that the 800-pound Gorillas gave them an opening and then didn't pounce and kill or even defend their territory.
However, if you've taken one of our related coaching or training sessions (How To Beat Silicon Valley's (and other) Fast-moving Startups At Their Own Game) or just intuitively understand Office Politics and Power (aka Organizational Politics & Power - OPP) this not only comes as no surprise but rather it both predicted and expected. And once you understand Office Politics and Power, you can quickly see and understand why and how Apple under Steve Jobs beat Sony to the next iteration of the Sony Walkman which became known as the Apple iPod.
It helps one also understand why and how Larry Ellison discussed the Net PC (in the mid-1990's) but Apple built it (the iMac), and why Apple could add some basic design features and colors to it to make a hit while intra-company rent-seeking behavior at the competition prevented them from responding or competing let alone getting that to market first.
OPP also explains why and how Jobs could do the same with Pixar while a former Disney employee, John Lasseter, who suggested as much years before Jobs ever thought about animation or rendering farms was let go (or summarily fired depending on the source one references) from Disney, only to have it all come full circle again with Disney acquiring Pixar.
And, of course, it explains some of the biggest daddy ball drops in history such as Xerox PARC and their full blown PC and related projects (which later became reflected in industry leaders like Apple, Adobe, SGI and 3Com) and Kodak with their digital camera years before the competition had one...that all went to waste...
I've talked about that in detail here, about the Myths About Steve Jobs and how is personality and ethos, while celebrated within Silicon Valley (and beyond) is actually completely anathema to traditional Valley ethos.
Reference: Steve Jobs: The Man Who Broke Every Myth & Meme In Silicon Valley & Become A Legend
The problem then, is that a company (any company, including a post-Steve Jobs Apple) needs a strong leader who is unafraid to break eggs to make omelettes and unafraid to slaughter sacred cows for burgers or even just for fun. They also need a leader who is not just unafraid but actually enjoys and even thrills in steamrolling the competition and taking the troops straight up the middle as Alexander the Great did to Darius during one the Macedonian-Persian wars.
As a further piece of evidence, one only needs to consider that the Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, was Steve Jobs while Steve Jobs was still in diapers. Moreover, Akio Morita was extremely aggressive, even actively counterattacking industry special interests who tried to have the courts block the Sony Betamax recorder. Morita was successful in defending this and in ultimately escalating this to the US Supreme Court with Sony (and consumers) coming out as the victor.
Tim Cook being the nice great guy and "steady, paint by number operator" he is (certainly he's the first guy that I would hire or consult with to determine what color doilies to lay out for my dinner party), shares none of those characteristics with either Steve Jobs or Akio Morita.
So now lets move on to more questions regarding Job's selection of Cook as his successor.
Can Struggling Japanese Companies Actually Beat The Snot out of Fast-moving Silicon Valley Firms? Yep. And Here's How
Over the last twenty years, and accelerating in the last 7 years, not only Japan but the entire world has begun to question Japan's ability to innovate and create as companies such as Apple and Samsung rule Japan's former stomping grounds and gleefully gorge themselves on Japanese companies' bento boxes on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, once mighty and innovative Japanese firms like Sony and Panasonic bleed red and constantly try to slough off workers while peddling a staid if uninspiring set of "me-too" and "also-ran" product lines.
How far has Sony fallen? Well, it's gotten to be so bad that if Sony founder, Akio Morita, were to magically re-appear today and venture over to the front entrance of Sony Japan, he wouldn't recognize the place. Worse, if he then decided to apply for a position, not only wouldn't they hire him, they'd most likely call security and have him escorted off the premises.
But all is not lost.
In our No Box Thinking™ (Volume 3), entitled "How Struggling Japanese Companies Can Beat Silicon Valley's Fast-moving Startups At Their Own Game" we go through exactly what has happened, what has changed and how, in a short time and by using some talent management adjustments, Japanese firms can again perform at our above that of their competitors.
A Comparison Between Japanese & Danish Work Environments & Its Influence On Work Life Balance (Part 3) (Kim Pedersen / Roukan.com)
A Comparison Between Japanese & Danish Work Environments & Its Influence On Work Life Balance, Part 3
By Kim Pedersen (Guest Blogger)
Originally, roukan.com was created in an effort to contribute to the improvement of the Japanese working environment. The reason for this is that having worked for both Japanese and Danish companies in a number of different roles I had been privy to seeing two completely different working environments and most importantly how these work environments affect a company, the workers' productivity and the workers' quality of life. I will try to describe some of the key differences between the two countries below. Please bear mind that this description obviously will include some generalizations so it will not necessarily fit nor describe all companies. That said, it does describe and compare the most common differences and I hope you find it useful.
In Denmark, there are many workers who are very happy and satisfied with their job. They are professionals and they want to make a difference for their company. Further, they are actively engaged in the company’s activities and they contribute any way they can. This also means that they may well find it necessary sometimes to express an opinion which goes against their boss's opinion if their professional knowledge tells them that it is in the interest of the company to do so. This is not only considered completely legitimate behavior, it is expected behavior in the Danish work place. This is the ethos of the Danish work environment: As a worker, you are paid to contribute to the company with all of your knowledge and you, therefore, must speak up when you have critical knowledge or information. When you do so, you will typically be respected by your co-workers and even management for sharing your honest opinions and knowledge. In general, there is a good atmosphere in the Danish work place where the interaction between employees and superiors is sound and healthy. A healthy interaction, in turn, makes it possible for the company to find critical issues in time and to develop lucrative alternatives that nobody in the management layer of the company may have thought of or previously considered. There many advantages to be gained by respecting your workers and giving them the opportunity and right to speak up as well as giving them credit for and acknowledging their contributions.
Compared to this Danish working environment, however, a lot of Japanese people tend to think that work not fun, but a necessity, a burden or duty we all bear and that we have do our best at. Of course it depends on the person you ask, but as time goes by, many Japanese tend to get settled in their present situation and think that that's just the way things are. They are very proud of their jobs, but as Westerner, sometimes you wonder, what about it is about their job that they are so proud of. Japanese companies, by and large, are known for creating “Yes-men”, meaning whatever the superior officer orders, the worker must obey and follow. The worker's professional opinion is often secondary or even totally ignored no matter the situation or the effectiveness of his opinion. This really reality can really damage a person’s pride and directly and negatively impact his degree of satisfaction with life. This dissatisfaction most often comes out on display after working hours, when Japanese workers go to an “Izakaya” (Japanese-style pub) together, and engage in shop talk and bitch sessions about their bosses. And so it goes day in and day out, month in and month out, year after year. It's a never ending story for many Japanese workers. Yet, Japanese workers seem to have accepted that this is how things work as most of them just don’t know any other way nor see any other alternatives to their present situation.
This way of working, however, does not create a healthy environment for the company as professional opinions are often suppressed in favor of the pride of "face" of the manager. Globally speaking, this is bad business but it actually still works domestically Japan, as all of the other companies are working the same way and similarly hamstrung. So in the Japanese domestic situation this kind of working environment simply lowers the workers' quality of life, lowers competitiveness and productivity across the board while it creates and maintains a continually tense atmosphere which leads to high stress levels among the employees. Unsurprisingly, such a tense atmosphere is often noticed by the firm's customers, giving the company a bad reputation as well from the customer perspective.
There are other huge differences between Japanese and Danish working environments. One of them is working hours. In Japan, it is common to have non-paid overtime, or “service overtime” (service = free in Japanese) as it is called. This is the part of your overtime work that you don’t get payment for. This would never happen in Denmark, unless you were hired for a leading position with a fairly high salary. In Japan, it is illegal to force your workers to do “service overtime”, but nevertheless it seems like everybody is doing it. Of the responses we have gotten so far at roukan.com, there are many Japanese claiming that they have more than 100 hours of non-paid or “service overtime” each month! That averages out to more than 3 hours a day and that assumes you worked Saturday and Sunday, too. And please keep in mind, this is for the ordinary workers and staff not for executives holding high ranking positions. When we look for the reasons why they work so much overtime every day, we usually find that it is not because they are unproductive but that they cannot go home before their superior officer goes home or, for instance, because they are ordered to do much more work than can be done within the time frame of their normal working hours. Such a long , grueling working day makes you tired the next day, too, before you even arrive at your work place. It further decreases the workplace productivity (and often quality) creating even more overtime which turns into a vicious cycle. When you then consider that the overtime work is couple with long commuting times, often an hour or more (each way) on an overcrowded train where most are forced to stand, then you understand that for many Japanese, life can be pretty tough.
As a comparison, in Denmark nobody really works overtime without getting properly paid as Danish unions see to that. Moreover, working frequent overtime means that you receive a higher payment at the end of the month. And if you work on Saturdays and Sundays your payment can be doubled as compensation for having less quality time with your family. So if you work one Saturday, you might in return be able to take two days off later. No wonder then that the life satisfaction degree is extremely high in Denmark while it is very low in Japan. In fact, comparing the two countries work-life balance and life satisfaction indices says it all.
In Denmark, workers are usually expected to do their job within their working hours. This means that they are usually more focused on getting the job done in time, so that they can go home at 5 o’clock or whenever they normally return home. After work, Danes go home and spend time with family and friends where as Japanese typically stay at the office late, work a bit and talk to colleagues and then go to an izakaya, coming home very late and having very little time to spend with their families. It is not uncommon for many Japanese to miss most of their children’s upbringing. What a difference!
It's actually easy for Japan to change this practice, but they are often stuck in the way they have always done things and can’t get out of it. It is a vicious cycle built on and bound by tradition.
Japan, by the way, is one of few countries in reporting separate statistics of karoshi (過労死), which literally means death-by-overwork (ka = over, rou = work, shi = death).
I think it is fair to state that the employer has a humane obligation to choose a way of leading the company which is not directly responsible for creating unhappy employees or maybe even causing death or disablement. This raises a question about ethics and morale. However, if it's obvious that improving the working environment does not necessarily cost the company a fortune, and that an improved working environment also leads to higher productivity and thus higher profits, then there would seem to be no reasons for not improving the working environment.
The interesting thing is that if you compare Japanese and Danish workers, Danish workers are far more efficient and productive than Japanese workers. Japanese workers have the worst possible working environment while also being far less productive than the Danish workers who in turn have one of the best working environments in the world. And this is the whole purpose related to working environment -- to find the right balance between working environment, cost and profit and the workers' satisfaction with both work and life.
In my next article, I will go deeper into which areas in a company that can easily be improved without costing the company anything and yet have the potential of considerably improving productivity.
Working Environment Comparisons Between Two Different Countries (Part 2) (Kim Pedersen / Roukan.com)
Working Environment Comparisons Between Two Different Countries, Part 2
By Kim Pedersen (Guest Blogger)
In my first article, I explained the overall reasons as to why a healthy working environment (WE) is so important. In this article, I will try to explain how it is possible to get an overall picture of how employees perceive their working environment, and how it is fairly easily to pinpoint the most critical WE problems which exist in the company. The ability to pinpoint the problem makes it easy for a company to take action which in turn can save a lot of money for the company (this will be explained in the next article).
Please take a moment to become familiar with the charts below. They should be easy to understand for everybody so take a few minutes to think what kind of WE these two different charts might represent:
How to read the charts:
(Please note the elements in the chart)
The chart is divided into three main categories:
Workers taking the survey are asked to rate their company with a rating from “0” to “10” where “0” is the worst rating (or an expression of the worker being very un-satisfied) while“10” is the highest rating (or an expression of the worker being most satisfied). An average is then calculated for each element in the survey, and the average is shown as this chart. Thus, the larger the orange area is the more satisfied the worker also is. Conversely, the smaller the orange area, the less satisfied the work is.
It's all very simple.
The two charts above then show two completely different perceptions of the WE seen from the workers' side. Chart 1, has a very large orange area, and as you can see, there are not many areas where there are a big difference at all. It is a picture of a very healthy and sound working environment. Only one area, namely “skill-up and education” are rated very low and may need attention. As this chart is an average, it means that most employees are really unsatisfied with the company’s policy on skill-up opportunities and employee education. This might be the area that need some immediate attention. It might be found that offering employees the opportunity to skill-ups can keep them from seeking jobs elsewhere, thus, increasing employee retention and saving your company the trouble and cost of finding and hiring new employees as well as onboarding and training them.
The second chart is completely different from the first one. First of all, the orange area is very small, telling the story of employees who are very unsatisfied with the WE in many areas. In fact, only on a very few factors, like smoking policy, discrimination, air quality, and working hours are the ratings high. The average rating of all other factors is quite low. As this is an average, it tells a story about most employees being unsatisfied with most WE factors on the working place. It's the picture, a literal picture, of a company having huge difficulties with regards to many issues. This company probably losses a lot of money because of unsatisfied employees who are not able to properly and fully engage in their work. In such cases it can be very difficult for such a company to find out where to start improving the WE. On the other hand, all areas are considered relevant by employees and just small improvements can be perceived by the workers as very positive and actually have a huge impact on the company's productivity and satisfaction. In future articles, I will address and explore what these improvements might be and what might be the most effective.
The Good News: You Don’t Need 100% Employee Satisfaction:
Some might want to look for a company with a 100% rating or as close as you can get to 100% but remember how you would rate a company if you were an employee there? Clearing the magic 50% hurdle is the key issue. 50% means that you are neither satisfied nor unsatisfied which also means that the worker does not really have any WE issues that they find critical. So, 50% is NOT a bad rating at all. No worker will ever rate a company with 100% in all categories. If he did, it wouldn’t be considered a serious rating. Of course 60% or 70% is much better than 50%, but the point of this can be boiled down to three things:
What does this actually express?
The chart is an expression of the workers' degree of satisfaction, and can not necessarily be a comparison between two actual working conditions. You cannot take this chart and, for instance, compare Japan and the US, and say,
“Oh, the US actually has a better WE than Japan”
Why is that? It's because what we measure here is each employee’s degree of satisfaction working at the company. Japanese workers might be satisfied with a lower standard of WE than US workers would or vice versa. So what we must compare is the level of the workers satisfaction.
It is also important to understand that while the chart might give you an idea of where the WE problem in your company lies, the actual qualitative comments from the employees specifies these details of these problem areas making it possible for roukan.com to advise the company on where to focus and being their improvements. The chart makes it easy to understand where the problems are while the detailed workers' comments specify what the actual problem is or problems are. You need both the quantitative and qualitative measures and details the if you are to optimize your company's WE.
Note regarding the two sample charts above:
1. First chart – a European workers WE in 5 different companies during her last 20 years of employment
2. Average of Japanese ratings we have received to date (“Human relation” and “predictability” was later added to the survey which is why on the Japanese chart these two figures are shown as a “0” rate)
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