March 3, 2007
This morning's Wall Street Journal's article about Sony's problems, based on Howard Stringer's interview by Yukari Iwatani Kane, is a superb article.
Wall Street Journal article (requires subscription)
My husband (who is a Japanese IT journalist) took it as a WSJ's continued pro-Stringer campaign, but I read it as a very balanced, fair article about deep-rooted problems in Sony's corporate culture, its clash with the changing market conditions, and its struggle to cope with it. It also gave me an impression that while Stringer's idea about the company direction makes perfect sense, people who criticize his style also are understandable in some ways. I can easily see that he is under an enormous pressure, and particularly in front of Japanese management and press, he gets frustrated and is not comfortable enough to open up, but that does not totally justify he flushes out his complaints to foreign press. I remember he did the similar thing shortly after he took Sony CEO position. It worries me a little bit if he can push his message across in this type of manner - if this article is his premeditated act to shock the inside resistance.
Aside from the contents of the article, I am so happy to see Yukari Iwatani Kane writes in Japan now. I met her several times in tech conferences untile a few years ago, when she moved to Tokyo, and even before I knew her in person, I had always liked her articles. While there are lots of English articles about Japan, few are actually written by Japanese writers, or at least writers who are natural in Japanese cultures. Yukari was raised and educated in the U.S., but she speaks perfect Japanese and understands it as a Japanese-background person. And she writes great articles. This article could have been a stereotype "backwards Japanese corporate culture" vs. "advanced Western management" story, with an obvious cynicism against Japanese managers, but thanks to her professional tone, I believe the article has escaped from such stereotype and focuses more on Sony's particular management and corporate strategy problems.
It certainly writes about a bad news for Sony and for Corporate Japan, but I still think it is great to have someone write about it in such a professional and fair manner in English on major international press.