October 2013   François Knuchel

Article submitted to Common Weal exploring referendum


The Common Weal has identified six transitions required to move towards its vision for Scotland. If I were asked which one of them to start with, I would begin with the last one – Democracy and Governance. The first five are about policy, but the sixth is about process, and most importantly it is about getting the whole Scottish population behind a vision. This is the participatory democracy it seeks. If there are lessons to be learned from the separatist movement of Quebec in Canada, for instance, it is that a democratic process must underpin independence, one which allows all voices to be heard. What strikes me about the Common Weal transitions is that the first five seem political in nature; not all in Scotland may necessarily agree with them; whereas democratisation is about ensuring all those views are heard, respected and considered.

But what exactly does it mean to have a participatory democracy? Participation in what and how? What is a "deeper democracy"? Allow me to muse about these questions, let me trot around the world, including back in history, and ponder how democracy and participatory leadership have been practiced in different ways here and there, in civic life as well as in business and communities. I shall first look at different shades of democracy or participatory governance in both business and governments and then explore newer and "deeper" forms of democracy for the future, including a true gem – dynamic self governance.



What are the Key Barriers to Effective Cooperation within Organisations – and how to overcome them

François Knuchel


Are you a director, manager or executive frustrated by unnecessary conflict and hurdles to effective cooperation in your organisation? Are you looking for inspiration to break through communication barriers? Do you simply want to create a team spirit across your organisation? If so, then you may find a few useful tips here. As our organisations become flatter and rely more and more on cooperation, new leaders are required who can inspire empowered cooperation, and who can therefore communicate at all levels.

Because of major restructurings, such as reorganisations, downsizing, mergers, joint ventures, or alliances, many organisations find that their people are not working coherently together. They are losing clients, losing key talent or failing to sustain competitive advantage, due to poor cross-functional communications, internal conflicts, misunderstandings and stress, or because of poor working relations across borders. Increasingly productivity demands require smoother operational workflow, so organisations have to work harmoniously together, only achievable through proper communication flow.

So what hampers communication flow? Here I look at some of the bottlenecks or hurdles that can cause poor collaboration. I also look at how organisations can generate greater cooperation and innovation across boundaries, and thereby raise productivity. Some of the benefits include reduced talent attrition, improved customer satisfaction and leverage from a diverse workforce. Here I explore:

  • 10 communication pitfalls in pan-organisational cooperation
  • 5 solutions: competencies or virtues to be promoted
  • An overview of international communication


What have we learned from the Suzuki0-GM CAMI technology transfer project in the late 1980s? * Here is a potpourri of personal reflections on the preliminary trainer-training I project-managed in Japan, seen in terms of intercultural communication and training issues.

Francois Knuchel, 2000

The Fluidity of Culture

During the CAMI TPS (Toyota Production System) transplant at Suzuki, similarly also at Toyota, Nissan & Honda, there was a vigorous debate amongst practitioners and academics as to what elements of TPS were culturally predetermined? In other words which features of TPS were practiced in Japan simply because they were part of Japanese culture and which elements were "invented" for the purpose of a more efficient manufacturing process, and were therefore more easily transferable to other parts of the world.

It was deemed that the "cultural elements" would not be transferable. Therefore Suzuki should only attempt to transfer the "invented" culture-free parts of the system. Teamwork, Teian and Kaizen, for example, were initially considered to be cultural, because they are based on collectivist consensus driven process, and would thus not be accepted or adopted easily in the West. Many Westerners took the view that if something was culturally determined there was not much point trying to transfer the concept. By contrast many Japanese took the view that by empowering the local workforce with trust and dignity they could more easily introduce newer different approaches, however alien they may seem to Western management.



This is my personal account of the CAMI technology transfer project of intercultural and training issues in aspects of project-managing the preliminary trainer-training in Japan in the late 1980s.

Francois Knuchel, 1989


CAMI Technology Transfer Project

Rationale for Suzuki Approach & Overview of Trainer Training

In the late 1980's General Motors and Suzuki set up a joint venture in Canada, CAMI. It was a green-field automotive plant to manufacture the Cultus/Swift and Samurai/Vitara cars using lean Japanese manufacturing principles, the so-called Toyota Production System, involving a massive transfer of lean manufacturing principles and know-how from Japan to North America. I was in charge of the preliminary communications (language, presentationa and cross-cultural) and trainer training program of 180 selected Japanese "trainers", from plant manager to shop floor supervisors, designed to enable them to "transfer" their know-how to 2,000 'associates' in the new CAMI Ingersoll plant in Canada.

This is a brief personal account on how we managed the training program. The details of the CAMI project are described elsewhere (pdf file). What I want to describe here is a little about the training program itself, and some of the considerations that lead to the kind of training programme we did in the first place. This project is of interest from both an industrial practice perspective as well as from an intercultural point of view.

Organising Principles - Lecture on Intercultural


 Guest article of transcript of Prof Hayashi's lecture on Organising Principles

Professor K. Hayashi, 1992 (Transcript)

SIETAR-Japan, Aoyama University, Tokyo

The subject matter which I would like to address myself to has to do both with international communication and international management. In fact my background is basically management and international marketing management, but I have been interested in intercultural communication for the past roughly twelve to thirteen years and I have been trying to combine the two areas. I have not been doing any frontier research in the area of international communication, but I have heavily borrowed from what others found, in order to help myself find more about what's going on in the area of what I call the cross-cultural interface. The cross-cultural interface means interactions between people from different cultural backgrounds, which you often see in culturally mixed organisations.

I have been doing research basically covering Japanese subsidiaries located outside of Japan. I have probably covered about 80 of them so far in North America and in Asia basically, though I have covered some other locations. I have interviewed 150 local managers working for Japanese corporations and roughly 200 or more Japanese expatriate managers separately, so that I was able to gather some good information particularly from local people. Also I have visited quite a few non Japanese firms operating in Japan and the comparison between the problems of the latter firms operating in Japan with those that I found in relation to Japanese operations out of the country is rather interesting.