Friday, March 28, 2008 is this going to be a discussion about the war?

With my adventures from the world of consulting now over, there are still some fond memories and interesting stories that I never really had time/energy to put down here, but now I have both the time and the energy so I thought I should share this with you.

This particular incident was during the "Potatoe Chips" project that I talked about earlier as long time readers of the blog might remember. A long standing joke inside the company was that when interviewees all of a sudden started to talk about WWII things were not going particularly well and most people in the company (at least the americans) always had had a couple of interviewees that wanted to talk about the war instead of the subject at hand for which we were paying them money.

The following scenario occured at a meeting with the President of the Japan office, a man in his 60's who quickly got the internal nickname "Blubber", and his biz development manager (both Japanese) with El Presidente, Luke and me participating (two americans and me). The Japanese office was clearly unhappy with the attitude of the US head office:

Blubber: Yeah and now they want us to do this? It's impossible!
El Presidente: Well, we hope to be able to work together with you to make sure we get an accurate picture of the situation so you can convince the head office.
Blubber: I don't know what they want us to do? We lost the war, ok? They won!
Us: (confused silence)
Blubber: They won the war, that's fine, that's history, but why do they keep treating us like this?!

The discussion had problems getting back on track after this outburst...

A few weeks later a preliminary presentation was held, coordinated by a foreign office of our company in which the Japan part was included together with similar research done in several other countries in which the Partner presenting clearly did not have an understanding of the Japan situation and managed to misunderstand and give wrong and misleading information. The day after I get a call from the Biz dev. manager who apparently had made up his mind that we in the Tokyo office at least were decent people and the following conversation took place:

BD Manager: Did you hear about the meeting yesterday, they completely misunderstood Japan! Why didn't you present the Japan part?
Salaryman: Well, this was part of the global study and was handled by the senior people in the office coordinating the research.
BD Manager: I think he deliberately misunderstood the Japan situation! That guy, what was his name?
Salaryman: His name is something-something I think.
BD Manager: Yeah, well I don't know what his problem is and why he hates Japan so much? Maybe his grandfather was killed by Japanese soldiers in WWII and he hates us or something?!
Salaryman: (Momentarily speechless) Eh... I'm sure he didn't do this deliberately, I'll make sure they get it right the next time...

The paranoia of those guys were pretty funny and there are quite a few more good stories that came out of that project which I might share at some later point.

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