Sharing a common understanding with a French partner
When we decided to form the NissanRenault alliance, in 1999, we clearly needed a deeper understanding of the differences between our cultures and business practices in Japan and France.
We built firmer foundations for the alliance.
Our attitudes and approaches changed as we expanded our knowledge of how our different cultural backgrounds affected the ways we operated. Our newfound understanding helped us reinforce the foundation for our alliance.
“Canning supported the Nissan-Renault alliance behind the scenes.”
What brought your company to use Canning’s training services?
In 2000, shortly after the alliance between Nissan and Renault was finalised, the cultural differences between our companies –one Japanese, one French– posed daunting challenges. Canning lit the way forward.
Canning provided us with two programmes: “Working with Japanese Partners” for the people at Renault, and “Working with French Partners” for our people at Nissan. The programmes helped participants from our companies to not only learn about each other’s cultures but also their own.
Can you describe some specific examples of what the participants learned?
When a passenger tells a Japanese flight attendant on a plane, “It’s cold”, you can be reasonably sure that the attendant will offer to bring a blanket. Japanese people are very good at reading between the lines. Europeans and Americans tend to take what a person says at face value. If you tell an attendant, “I’m cold”, the attendant will probably answer, “It is cold, isn’t it?”
The generally accepted approaches to a work project also differ. A Japanese person will work toward a goal step by step, only attempting what he knows he can do. He advances methodically, as if stacking up building blocks. A French person, in contrast, will establish an ideal, then experiment with different ways to accomplish it. She learns what works and pushes towards her goal through trial and error.
I would never say that one approach is better than the other. The differences between them are simply reflections of our different cultures. If you know of the differences in advance, you won’t be so quick to dismiss an approach that strays from your own idea of common sense. A deeper cultural awareness will help you find common ground by calmly seeking out areas where win-win alternatives are available.
“All of the consultants are highly skilled and motivated to improve.”
What are the strong points of the training by Canning?
The consistently strong capabilities of the consultants. All of them are highly experienced and on point. Take the case of an instructor explaining typical characteristics of the French, as an example. If one of the participants suggests that he has had a different experience, the instructor will have a knowledgeable response on hand to explain the participant’s observation. The extensive experience of the instructors is key.
Another strong point is the emphasis on dialogue. The consultants use lively dialogue to ensure that participants are actively taking part and receptive to new realisations. The momentum draws the participants in, allowing no time for their minds to stray. Every participant takes active part in the training.
What do you think of the training menu?
The constant updating of the menus is another strong point of Canning’s training. The consultants are always making improvements to the methods, the flow of explanations, and the approaches to training. Even now, after years of auditing the training, I still see something new every time. Another feature unique to Canning is the flexibility to focus on issues unique to Nissan and customise the training accordingly.
The Nissan-Renault alliance was a rare initiative, both here in Japan and internationally, and various hurdles emerged from the outset. I credit Canning for much of our success in overcoming the hurdles and forming a fruitful alliance.
“We hope Canning will provide further training to take Nissan to the next stage.”
How does your staff rate the training by Canning?
The training is always rated 4.8 or higher on a scale of 1-5. Consultants sometimes receive perfect scores. And when I show the consultants the questionnaire results, they always make improvements before their next sessions. The consultants are clearly driven by a strong motivation to improve. Their emphasis on excellence has encouraged us to keep working with them for over 15 years.
What do you expect from Canning in the future?
I’d like Canning to work with Nissan at deeper levels to help us generate even greater results. I think of our training courses so far as first steps in learning about communication between people of different cultures. Now we are beginning to need more advanced training.
One direction the training could take would be to cater to a more specific view of who we are communicating with. With Renault, for example, we could focus on communication with the employees or engineers, as opposed to French people in general. By providing training that is even more practical than the programmes they have already offered, Canning could support Nissan to forge ahead to the next stage. I hope they do.
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