New Job in Toyko, Mistakes on the First Day at Honda: Laura Kriska

New Job in Toyko, Mistakes on the First Day at Honda: Laura Kriska


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My guest for Episode #61 is Laura Kriska. When she was just 22, Laura became the first American woman to work in the Tokyo headquarters of Honda Motor Company. 

Her experience working with thousands of middle-aged Japanese men inspired her to write her first book The Accidental Office Lady: An American Woman in Corporate Japan.

Inspired to create a ‘WE building’ revolution, Laura wrote her latest book The Business of We: The Proven Three-Step Process for Closing the Gap Between Us and Them in Your Workplace – a new approach to diversity, cultural difference, and inclusion that will increase employee retention and productivity and prevent misunderstandings that lead to lost revenue, lost time and increased legal risk.

In today's episode, Laura and host Mark Graban talk about her experiences working Japan and what she has learned about working across cultural and organizational divides.

Laura also discusses topics including:

  • How her mistake could have been avoided with one sentence
  • Failing to see how “cultural data” matters – the ways people are different
  • Why did she offend the “most important office lady”?
  • A “quality circle” project about getting rid of the women's uniforms
  • What do you mean by a “we” culture?
  • What's the connection between “we” and the Japanese word “wa” (harmony)
  • Is a “we culture”? more prevalent in Japan and other Eastern cultures?
  • What does she mean by being on “the home team” in a country or a culture?
  • Paul O'Neill as a “we builder”
  • Her article: “Covid-19 is not killing us, polarization is

Here is Laura at work on her first day:

And a short video clip:

Scroll down to find:

  • Video player
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

You can listen to or watch the episode below. A transcript also follows lower on this page. Please subscribe, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser! You can now sign up to get new episodes via email, to make sure you don't miss an episode. This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.



"My favorite mistake [on my first day working for Honda in Japan] could have been avoided with one sentence."
"My favorite mistake was failing to see that cultural data matters and that it matters all the time. Most cultural data, meaning ways that people are different, these differences are sometimes visible, but mostly invisible."
"I had this knowledge that other women didn't like the uniform. So I started a [quality] circle [group], to abolish [the blue polyester] women's uniforms."

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.