By Sharon NG, Singaporean, NANYANG-WASEDA Double MBA Program Participant
My NANYANG-WASEDA classmates and I had the opportunity to join our Waseda peers from Tokyo during their Summer Intensive Program. The program is created with the goal to expose Waseda students to how Japanese companies are operating in a global environment. It is conducted entirely in English to expose students in an English and foreign environment, which sets the tone of the Program to come.
The intensive program spanned over five full days during the first week of August, and it even included the Singapore National Day holiday on the 9th of August, the day when Singapore became an independent republic*. Now that’s what I call intensive. There were a total of 25 students, including us from the NANYANG-WASEDA program,, and it was helmed by “Zemi-Cho” (Group Leader) Taniguchi Tatsuro-san and led by Professor Reiji Ohtaki, Director of the Nanyang-Waseda Double MBA Program. They were assisted by three very hardworking Waseda staff members: Tamada Masaki-san, Saitoh Kaz-san and Yajima Tomoko-san.
As I was doing the Nanyang-Waseda courses, I did not get to attend the first day of this Summer program because I had a full day of classes that day. On the 2nd day which I managed to attend , it was the Singapore National Day, and the group first discussed about organizational issues for Japanese companies. The session touched on how overseas branches have to deal with a consistent message on objectives and goals to align their activities with the Headquarters. A key take-away was that the Waseda students should aspire to become Global Business Leaders (GBL). This included teaching overseas branches how to fish, instead of spoon-feeding them or worse, force-feeding them. Another key issue was remuneration and promotion of local staff to senior positions. This could help manage local staff better and also motivate them to perform better with the prospect of promotion.
Next was a session by Mr. Takayanagi who leads SBI Venture Capital, the venture capital/private equity firm of the SBI Group, a listed financial services group in Japan. Mr. Takayanagi has very impressive credentials, having degrees from Oxford’s Said and Harvard’s Kennedy School. He talked about how his company operates in Singapore as a parallel to the HQ in Japan, and enjoys a high degree of independence of decision-making. He also touched on how Singapore is ideal as a business location. As a transportation hub, many people stop by Singapore en route to other destinations, and hence, it is easy to meet people. The small size of the island also makes it easy for people to get introduced to one another, as each person probably only enjoys “two degrees of separation”.
On the third day of the week-long program, we were visited by the Managing Director of Yamato Transport Singapore, Mr. Toda Naoki (Yamato Transport is Japan’s No. 1 transportation service that offers same-day service, house-to-house delivery or Ta-Q-Bin). Mr. Toda spoke in Japanese, but had an interpreter who has a distinctive Singapore-English or we what we call as ‘Singlish’ accent! Kuroneko, the delivery service of Yamato, is a well-known household name in Japan that requires no introduction. However, Mr. Toda lamented about how tough it is for the company in Singapore in the first year of operations. SingPost is a formidable competitor with well-established locations and customers, and the concept of house-to-house delivery (Ta-Q-Bin) may not be well-understood by the local market. Training and high turn-over also proves to be a problem, as it is difficult to provide good quality service without competent Service Delivery staff.
As Mr. Toda took his leave, the program continued on the theme of talent management. Prof Ohtaki (left photo) quoted a survey done by JobStreet.com (which he is a consultant for, one of Singapore’s major online job search portals ) on the issues of speed of promotions, job-hopping, work-life balance, career aspirations and expectations, and also the keen interest of Singaporeans to be their own boss one day. This is in contrast with the Japanese concept of employment, which places an emphasis on loyalty, slow promotion, a more equitable rate of compensation, and also the desire to work for a big company. Noting these differences, Prof Ohtaki urged the Waseda students to think about such issues when managing local staff, so that both the company’s expectations and staff expectations can be aligned and met. Continue reading My thoughts on spending time with Japanese MBA students during their Waseda Summer Intensive Program