As much as I complain, every day at work just gets more and more interesting. As I mentioned a week or so ago in one of my posts, the more I lay off on trying to get people to pay attention to the things done that need to be paid attention to, and think about the things that need to be thought about, the more they do it themselves. Of course everyone “knows” that Japanese people are group oriented and Americans are selfish, thinking only about the individual, but this is the first time it has ever been so evident to me in the 5 years I have spent in Japan.
Today, there was a meeting called by a co-worker who has really started to do great... he is much better at getting the Japanese people to do what needs to be done than I am. The meeting was about something that is so obvious (and to me it was so obvious a year ago that it would never get done unless I did it) that I had all but given up on it. Finally someone else realized that the presentations that we give to the clients should <gasp> look professional. No more of the power-point presentations made after only reading three chapters of Power Point for Idiots... No! The meeting today was about the fact that since we are supposed to have designers, we should have nice presentations.
I'm getting off the point though... the point is, although I tried to get the designers (I'm not supposed to be doing design) to work on the presentations over a year ago... in a last ditch effort, (I know it is probably bad management style) I took over and made an acceptable presentation, thinking that if I can't get them to understand my ideas (I had begun to doubt my ability to express my ideas in Japanese) I would lead by example. Well, that example finally came up over a year later as the “new” motivation guru used my example to do something that I would have never guessed was necessary. He called a meeting... an hour long meeting... to get a consensus that we do in fact need to have professional looking presentations. Why it would take an hour to convince people of this I have no idea... In the hour nothing in particular was decided... not the format of the presentations... not who would do it... nothing but the fact that we need it. Every day is interesting.
Rereading what I just wrote, it sounds like more complaining... it's not... I am actually excited about seeing this whole group mentality that I have only read about until now. I think everyone knew that we should make better presentations, but no one was willing to make a better one unless everyone agreed to do it. If only I had known this a year ago... Although it seemed like a waste of 50 minutes, since it should only take 10 minutes at most to agree that “yes, we need professional presentations”, if it had happened a year ago, it would have saved so much more time that was spent on half-ass work.
My only worry now is that half of our “designers” (we only have two) are really only capable of reproducing HTML that someone else has designed. It's not her fault of course... when she was hired (before I was there even) my company specialized in taking US web-sites, and reproducing them in Japanese for the Japan branch. This of course required no original design skills, and she is great at pasting Japanese text in as long as there is nothing technical to consider. When we have those jobs, she is plenty fast enough to make profit.
This is something that not too long ago I may have had a change of heart about... though I am not yet sure. I was talking with a friend (I think the fact that he is French has some baring on his view of work so I will mention it... he is French) and we were discussing what an employee's duties are, and what they aren't. My view then was that the employee should learn... strive to get better, add skills, adapt with the company. His view was that if they are hired for one thing, and the company wants the employee to change, they have to pay more. The employee is only responsible for what they were hired for. I'm not really sure where I stand now... If he is right, I think that the fact that someone is working at the company with obsolete skills is not the persons fault, and they shouldn't be punished for it. They should simply be fired. For the company to keep someone on who was hired for position A and then press them and push them to adapt to position B, without offering anything “extra” the company is actually breaking the contract, because the contract says nothing abut adapting. Of course, the person has no right to expect to keep their position if the position itself is no longer needed at the company. Perhaps to be fair to the person, they should be let go so they can find a company that does have a position for them.
I must be a jerk.
I am listening to a show on The Connection about expat life. It's amazing to me how much they mystify it and make it sound so magical... To me it is only normal. Although they are focusing on Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, everything they say is true of life in Japan as well, and probably everywhere else that an American might go to live besides America. They talk about how people get jobs they wouldn't qualify for at home and dorks get women they could never get at home... sound exactly like my life to the tee. They also mention the fact that one's circle of friends has so much variety because every foreigner there, no matter how different from each other, are closer than they are to the native inhabitants. Sure, I got a job as a techie guru despite the fact that I didn't know how to change the default home page on my browser before I started... and sure I have an amazing, driven, smart, girlfriend whom (although I deserver :-) ) it would have been difficult to meet and prove that to back home since I was not in law or medical school, but I think the greatest benefit about being here in Japan, is that I now have close friends all over the world. In addition, I have friends from so many backgrounds that I can't imagine meeting in the US... diplomats, presidents of companies (not just my own company), writers, camera-people, scientists, engineers, reporters, you name it, I probably know someone who does it.
Just got a call from Tomoe. Only one-and-a-half days left.