How can we decentralize this world

When culture prevents decentralization - an example from Japan

Last week I had the opportunity to visit a so-called satellite office in Japan. These are branch offices of large companies outside the metropolitan areas in areas with high recreational value that they set up for several reasons:

  • Since Japan is very prone to earthquakes, attempts are being made to secure the continued existence and functionality of the company in an emergency by outsourcing business areas or parts of them. Business continuity.
  • The major demographic problem - Japanese society is on average even older than German society - has fueled competition for young talent and top performers. One tries to make jobs and one's own company more attractive to them with interesting and livable offers in lucrative areas and with modern, sometimes alternative, and definitely interesting working conditions for young people.
  • The rural area is under-populated and has to be filled with value-adding units, which in turn generate an economy.

There is therefore a large correspondence of interests between business and society, which means, for example, that the development of even remote areas with fiber optic cables is already well advanced. Good conditions for the settlement of high tech and media companies or their units.

But there is also a big problem that has to do with the Japanese work culture, as several interviewees reported to me. Traditionally, working in Japan is very hierarchical. Everything is extremely centralized and the working level is not used to making independent decisions. This turns out to be a considerable obstacle to the introduction of decentralized work and decision-making structures, which are a prerequisite for satellite offices. Specifically, it looks like this, for example, that there are large screens in front of the desks of the employees, via which the supervisor in Tokyo is permanently connected and in turn sees and controls the employees. So one cannot really speak of a real relocation of work and - above all - of decision. When asked, it was emphasized that the employees are satisfied with this arrangement, the boss in Tokyo anyway.

Japanese HR specialists know about this problem and try to qualify bosses and empower employees. But they also know that there is still an extremely long way to go. Now we can say with some justification that Germany has already come a step further in decentralizing decisions. But we really cannot rest on our laurels when we look at everyday life in many companies. There is still a lot to be done and old braids need to be cut off. Again and again, because unfortunately they grow back quite stubbornly.