Have you ever heard of cars from NUMMI? It’s not surprising if you haven’t. Closed in 2010, NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.) was a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota. Toyota shared its production methods, bringing people from the plant to Japan to train. Lessons learned from the joint venture are detailed in the book, “The Toyota Way.” The methods never gained steam, either at NUMMI or GM as a whole. Why? The cultures of GM and Toyota were too different to make the transition.
It happens in joint ventures and mergers all the time. When corporate cultures are not taken into consideration, they can clash dooming long-term synergies. In the case of Toyota and GM, you not only had the different corporate cultures, but the differences in the American and Japanese cultures. These culture differences have to be taken into account when looking at how companies operate.
When a problem arises, a simple solution is to look at other companies that have had the problem and see how they solved it. However, what worked for them may not work for you. You must take culture into consideration to see if the methods can be adapted. Just because something works well in Japan does not mean it is feasible to use in the United States and vice versa. If you understand the differences in cultures, you have a better chance of making solutions work across organizations.