As our global customer base continues to grow and opens up new geographies for us, we are increasingly grappling with this question on our product design and development calls. The tension comes from the critical need for operational simplicity on one side and fully catering to local requirements on the other.

The most extreme case of this tension is when trying to accommodate both north American and Japanese requirements in a single set of features and flows!

After spending a third of my working life in Japan, I know that its manufacturing success is built on operational excellence and an absolute commitment to quality – so called Kaizen. Just ask anyone that expanded their business into Japan, and they will tell you numerous stories of how they had to go to a new level of operational efficiency and quality.

I also understand the other side of this equation having also spent a lot of time working and studying in north America, so fully understand the focus on agility and the concept of good enough (let’s ship something and iron out the minor details later).

How to navigate this situation?

We have found that the best way to bridge this chasm is to act as or find an effective conduit (living bridge – “hashiwatashi” in Japanese) between the two sides that can help share insights and broker the needed consensus.

Fortunately, we have been able to finally find our perfect local business partner in Japan in the form of Orient Co. Ltd, whose CEO (Hideki Ninomiya) is well versed in doing business in north America and means that we a “hashiwatashi” on both sides.

None of this was easy for sure and means taking more time collecting and validating user personas and needs, but getting it right is so business critical that there is simply no other choice if you want to be successful straddling this divide.