Mar 8 2020 5 simple steps to effectively push for change management within the Japanese workplace

Flex time, remote work and personal development day are some of the work conditions that are slowly becoming integrated with today’s current work environment and culture in some of Japan’s offices. Although these have been present in western companies especially in innovative startups abroad, Japan has been known to have long and excruciating work hours because of the excessive overtime culture. In fact it has become so bad that the Japanese government had to create a legal cap on the maximum hours allowed when it comes to overtime work. 

In one of our Active Connector Live Interview Sessions, we invited organizational development manager Christian Wolfer to talk about creating and developing work environments in Japan.

Based on the session here are the 5 steps to prepare and push for change management within the company.


– The first step in change management is creating a sense of urgency. This means that you have to create a case or a business study of why something is really important, why it has to happen, and why it has to happen soon. If you don’t have a strong sense of urgency, it’s difficult to create motivation for something to happen. Remember that the same principle applies in Physics where as the biggest force you need, when you move an object is the very beginning when you start moving the object. One very effective way of creating a sense of urgency is not saying what you will gain by doing something, but stating what you will lose by not doing something. 

“Not doing something, is usually more attractive than doing something…and you need to break that!” – Christian Wolfer


2.) Gather Supporters

-It’s definitely not easy to bring a new idea to life especially since it involves a lot of work and people already have their fair share of workload. Going back to the main argument of the first step that not doing anything is easier and more attractive than ding something. So you really have to empathize and you need to understand what your coworkers or people from other department’s work looks like. One technique our speaker Christian actually did is something that is called “Shadowing” where in he sat down, observed and wrote down the tasks to be able to find a better way of improving work processes or efficiency. You need to start by finding people within the company who shares the same beliefs. When it comes to Japanese colleagues sometimes it’s better that you talk to them one on one and ask their opinions and thoughts of the ideas you are vouching for. It’s not in their culture to be very expressive or vocal when it comes to changes since they do not like complaining. Sometimes you need to be a leader and take matters in to you own hands.

“Leadership is not a title, it’s what you do and anyone can be a leader regardless of their current job title”-Christian Wolfer


3.) Create Strong Arguments

-It’s basically creating a strong business case and the foundation should answer the question “Why are you pushing for this?” You can’t have FLEX TIME just because you want it. Be creative in building your case by incorporating research, facts, theories, and of course viable data analysis of what the benefits and potential losses in terms of efficiency and profit this change will bring. 

4.) Observe Behavior

-Observe behavior (what people do) as opposed to their attitudes (what they say and think). Companies often have their written values and corporate culture but sometimes what they envision and what they do, do not always match. If you think that a certain project is within the values your company promote but is not given enough attention, you can start heading it and see how it goes. One good example that Christian gave was about “Diversity and Inclusion.” Some companies are saying they support it but what do they actually do to show their support and to shed some light on the topic in Japan?

5.) Beware of Your Ego

-There is a big difference between self-esteem and having a big ego. The main problem with having a big ego is that it makes you deaf and it makes you blind. Even if you think you are 100% right you still have to listen to others and give their ideas a fair chance. Sometimes it’s about the project and not you. Sometimes you have to step back and let others make your suggestion into a reality. It’s about the mission, not about you.

Change management is never easy nor is it comfortable in the beginning. But it’s all about continuously working on developing the company’s processes and environment towards a more innovative, efficient and all around a better place to work in.

Do you have any more tips or experience to share regarding change management in the Japanese workplace?
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