Japanese companies do work through teams. When projects are accomplished, it is the work of the team that is the focus of any praise or criticism. Individual members are not singled out. Indeed, if an individual were identified in the group setting as being a reason for either success or failure, he or she would be embarrassed by the situation and feel unable to continue working within the group.
In Japan, as in other parts of business, negotiations are conducted by highly structured teams. When dealing with non-Japanese speaking counterparts, the Japanese team will have a member who speaks the counterpart’s language or they will employ a professional interpreter. In many cases, this person’s role is as a spokesperson; she or he may not be a decision.maker or wield much influence in the group.
A senior manager will attend but may not take an active role in the negotiations. In fact, the real decision maker may not even be on the negotiation team. It is important that foreign negotiating teams do not ignore or insult the senior member of the team by focusing on the spokesperson or interpreter while speaking.
While members of the negotiating team may have the responsibility for negotiating a contract, they may not have final authority to make decisions. This will require members of the team to inform others in the company and get their input and approval for key decisions. Understanding this and allowing for additional time for the negotiating process are important.