Use of English key to ailing Nissan's revival, author says
Jan. 8, 2005

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"Shift: Inside Nissan's Historic Revival," by Carlos Ghosn and Philippe Ries (Currency/Doubleday, 256 pages, $25.95)

Although Nissan has Japanese culture and Japanese history and most of the company's executives are Japanese, all meetings of the company's executive committee are conducted in English.
Carlos Ghosn, the Brazilian-born, French-educated, Leba-nese chief executive of Nissan, underscores the significance of making English the lingua franca of the upper echelons of the Japanese company in "Shift," his account of how he spearheaded the ailing automaker's revival.
The use of English, he maintains, is crucial to that company's success in the global economy. And Ghosn, whose name is pronounced "phone," suggests that what holds for Nissan in that regard may also apply to any company with similar international business aspirations.
Imposing that requirement, he writes, was made simpler for him because he has no cultural predisposition toward English.
"All my education was in French, and French is still the language I speak best," he writes. "But we chose English because we had to be objective and acknowledge that when a Chinese person gets together with a German, a Frenchman, an American and a Japanese, there's not much chance they're going to speak French, or Chinese, or anything other than English."
In addition to the globalization dimension, English is a tool that helps people who work for the same company but come from different cultures communicate with one another.
The main thrust of "Shift" is to detail the "Nissan Revival Plan," which brought that company back to profitability in less than three years.
Under that plan, Ghosn eliminated 21,000 jobs, closed five factories, increased funding for research and disentangled Nissan from its kieretsu, a Japanese network of permanent financial, human and business relationships. Abandoning that kieretsu was crucial to the revival.