Imagine it’s your first day on the job as chief operating officer of a global manufacturing company in a foreign country. You don’t speak the language, you don’t know where the company’s plants are located, and you don’t even know how to make a phone call. That’s what it was like for Carlos Ghosn when he took over at Japan’s then-floundering Nissan Motor Corp. in 1999. The cultural challenges would have been difficult enough, but Nissan was then some $20 billion in debt after 27 years of declining market share.
Adhering to cultural norms is not always the right strategy according to the head of Renault-Nissan.