TESCO supermarket fails in Japan: Intercultural Case study


Tesco after several years of trying have decided to close their Japanese business because of disappointing sales.

Tesco has been successful in many other countries and areas, such as Eastern Europe and SE Asia.

The trend is that TESCO has done well in developing markets but not in developed markets such as the US and Japan.

Many multinationals find it easier to try and pilot new products and concepts in developing countries because they are more open to try new ideas and there is less resistence to change. Also consumers are less demanding because they have had fewer services and products to compare.

Tesco´s experience also highlights the importance for professionals and managers to develop the right set of competenices to succeed when working in international environments.

Competencies: Cultural Context

So what competencies do professionals and managers need to develop to work in International environments?

Jeremy Comfort´s “Push and Pull framework” is one of the tools we (The Practice Oiffce Group) use in our Business Training to develop these competencies for our clients.

Push and Pull Framework

“Companies need to know when to push their own approach and when to adapt or pull towards the local way. Individuals need to develop “push skills”, such as focus on goals, autonomy, resilience and some approaches to influencing, but also “pull skills”, such as active listening, rapport building, openness and acceptance” says Jeremy Comfort.

“The starting point is to consider results and relationships – what we want to achieve and how we are going to get our colleagues/partners to help us to get there. The results/relationships question needs to be asked at a strategic level – we want to set up a business in Japan with a certain return on our investment but how much do we need to invest in building the right relationships locally? It can also be asked on a micro level for a particular telephone conference or meeting. Should I push my colleagues hard to clarify objectives and drive towards the deadline or should I pull by listening to their concerns? says Jeremy Comfort.

Business Training gives professionals the Communication Skills and Business Skills they need to succeed. However without the final ingrediant of understanding how to apply these skills in the cultural context – Local Culture and Local Market – these professionals will fail.

Solution:- Language (Business English) + Business Skills + Cultural Context

In an International context, companies and professionals need to be carefull and aware of how the cultural context influences.  This does not mean they need to copy how the locals behave, but it does mean they need to observe carefully to find the right balance between Push Skills and Pull Skills.

Glocal (Global + Local): Think Global but be aware of Local when working.

Source: Jeremy Comfort and The Practice Office Group.


Leer más sobre nuestros cursos de Habilidades Interculturales para los Negocios de The Practice Offiice Group.

Leer otro post Cómo trabajar mejor con profesionales japoneses



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