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Japan and Spain: 150 years together, 10,000km apart

technology

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24 October 2018

Culture shock has always been a source of inspiration in the art’s world, giving us unforgettable storylines based on human behavior and linguistic differences. As a matter of fact many of these stories are inspired in the differences between the East and Western worlds.

If we apply this contrast between two worlds to business, we find ourselves with the great challenge that NTT DATA and everis have faced since 2014. The integration of both companies has required a lot of effort in bringing two very different corporate cultures together, 10,000 kilometers apart.

Under this premise, the Integration and Transformation Office (InTO) was founded with the aim of fostering collaboration between everis, NTT DATA and NTT Group. Recently, the InTO has evolved into a Synergies and Collaborations Office, which as it name suggests, seeks to deliver the highest added value from their mutual collaborations. This is now possible thanks to the firm connections that have been made in the past years between everis and the rest of the NTT DATA family.

We could say that the best of both sides have helped us contribute to each other’s growth. Throughout this time we have grown to know each other better and better.

Companies: what is expected of me?

In Japan, senior managers expect employees under them to have the initiative of coordinating with other departments and finding solutions to any given problem. Mid-level managers are expected to come to an agreement before providing their superiors with their solution based on the information they have received from their teams. This system, called Ringi, promotes that consensual decisions be made from the bottom upwards.  

In Spain, this concept is the opposite and it is up to senior management to offer guidelines and responsibility of resolving any potential problems their employees may encounter. In short, if anyone has a question, employees will turn to their superiors to resolve issues and be given direction.

Understanding how decisions are made in both systems is key to bringing together different ways of reaching agreements and making things happen.

Work experience is a rank

In Japanese culture, work experience is highly respected. If a work colleague began in the company before you, he is senior to you, which means you should address him or her as such, given that he or she has more experience than yourself. This philosophy has such importance that before a meeting one has to interchange business cards to know who is senior to you and behave accordingly. There is even a protocol to how one must hand over their business card. It is shown with both hands, and the writing must face the person to whom you are giving it so that it can be read easily. The senior person’s card is to be left on top.

Communication

Avoiding negative input is traditionally an unwritten rule in Japanese culture as to achieve collective happiness above one’s own happiness. One may hide their opinion if it could upset other people. Quantify and be objective.  

In Spain, the line between what one thinks and what one says is very fine because of the emotion people put into it. Qualify what you say with passion. This emotional behavior is a common trait in meetings where, in many cases, someone will interrupt you before you have finished putting across your idea. It’s not rare to see how two or three people will try to speak at the same time to express their own opinions. This is because in Spanish culture it is important to express different points of view in the right moment. In Japan it is quite the opposite, one listens to what other people have to say first and takes one’s time to fully comprehend the message before expressing his or her own opinions.

It is clear that these cultural differences are profound, but at the same time, this challenging gap makes it a great adventure to work in a company of these characteristics. Today, the NTT DATA Group has over 118,000 employees working in different countries and regions around the world. This is why we must continue to work together, to change from having a perception of “THEM AND US”, to just “US".

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